The Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight, The World's Greatest Detective: that's right, it's time for Bruce Wayne to slip into something a little less comfortable and become The Batman, just so that I can have a quick look at some sprites from various Batman videogames. What a selfish person I am.

Batman, 1989, NES, Sunsoft
An early Batman sprite, looking like he'd fit right in in Castlevania. I'm sure even the Belmonts would admit that Batman could do a better job of sealing Dracula away. With Batman on the case, I doubt he'd be rising once every hundred years, when the moon is in the eighth house... hang on, that's Count Duckula. With his blue and purple colouring, Batman rather reminds me of Skeletor here. Skeletor vs Batman: now there's a comic I'd like to see. After the battling mighty supervillains like the Joker and Mr. Freeze, I'm sure Skeletor's utter incompetence would be a welcome change of pace for the Dark Knight.

Batman - Return of the Joker , 1991, NES, Sunsoft

A game with some thoroughly excellent (by NES standards) graphics and music, ROTJ also has one of my favourite Batman sprites. Clad in an unusual electric blue colour pallette, Batman looks like he means business, even if he does appear to be wearing some rather feminine thigh-length boots. Not shown here: his very nicely animated cape.

Batman 3, 1993, NES, Sunsoft

A bit of a backward step from ROTJ, Bats has gained a curiously conical head, perhaps designed to afford him a greater aerodynamic profile as he glides through the night and kicks a goon in the back of the head.
Batman, 1991, Arcade, Atari

At last, a Batman who is, well, Batman coloured. He does walk around with his cape held close in a Phantom of the Opera manner, however; a walk that is not so much menacing as it is foppish. I can only assume he walks this way to conceal his clenched fist behind the cape. They'll never see it coming.
Batman, 1991, Megadrive, Sunsoft

Oh dear. It's all gone wrong for Batman here, as one of his many enemies appear to have swapped his legs with those of an elephant. His cape looks less like a nanotech-infused, bulletproof gliding aid and more like a binbag, and he appears to have lost his hands. How unfortunate.
Adventures of Batman and Robin, 1995, Megadrive, Sega

A sprite in the style of Batman: The Animated Series here, which is, as everybody should know, the best version of Batman in any media. His sprite looks good too, standing in a boxing "put up your dukes" pose and having the body shape of a 1930's strongman. My only worry is the state of his ankles: they're so thin they're liable to snap, and just look at the way his right calf is squeezing into his boot. That can't be good for his circulation.
Batman - Revenge of the Joker, 1992, SNES, Sunsoft

This isn't Batman. It looks more like someone pretending to be Batman, wearing a pretty naff costume. Not enough muscle mass, that's his problem, and the shape of his eyes give him a kind of fearful expression.

Batman Returns, 1993, SNES, Konami

Now we're talking. You could always rely on Konami for good sprites, and this Batman is definitely the pick of the bunch. It sounds like a simple thing, but it's best feature is the fact that all his proportions are right and, even on the tiny scale of SNES sprites, they've managed to make him look as though he's grimacing in a very Batman way. Even the shading of the cape is done very simply, yet it give the cape a satisfying solidness. All in all, top marks to Konami.

And that's it for today. I'm sure that I will be doing more Batman-related articles in the future. Will they be at the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel? Who knows.



Have you ever wanted to punch a giant, deformed baby head right in the eye? Of course you have, and here's your chance with Namco's 1988 arcade classic Splatterhouse.

I have something of a love-hate relationship with the Splatterhouse series. I love the pure out-and-out gruesomeness, I love the music, I love punching giant baby heads. However, the difficulty level is such that a mere mortal like myself stands next to no chance of getting anywhere with any of the games. Every so often, though, I go back and try again. This time I'm even writing about it!
In case you missed out on Splatterhouse's bloody charms, it's an age old story: Young lovers Rick and Jennifer take refuge from a storm in an abandoned mansion, where they are attacked by ungodly monsters. Jennifer is kidnapped, and Rick is dying until an evil hockey mask whispers that Rick should try him on. The mask turns him into a beefcake, and he sets off through the house to rescue his beloved. It's essentially the same story as almost every Super Mario game, except Mario doesn't clobber zombies with a two-by-four.
The game itself is a simple scrolling action game. You move left to right (there's no up-down plane) punching things, every so often using a weapon like a plank of wood or, erm, a rock, and occasionally jumping over something. It's pretty basic, but its main draw is the gore and the horror-movie theme, a route which surprisingly few games have taken. Rick starts the game in the dungeon of the house, and the game makes its intentions to revolt and disgust clear from the off. Mangled corpses litter the stage and zombies trundle around, waiting to be punched until goo flies out or they're decapitated with a meat cleaver. There are women in cages in the background: women which Rick doesn't even so much as glance at. I'm sure Jennifer would be touched by his devotion. The caged women, one assumes, are still there at the end of the game, which is unfortunate for them, as we shall see later. Monsters hang from the ceiling and vomit on the floor, until you hit them with the meat cleaver, which makes a rather satisfying "hitting a baseball" sound effect. Soon you come to a room that it full of meat - there's gore everywhere, piled up in the corners of the room, from which a host of monsters that look like the chestburster from Alien jump out and try to eat you. This serves as the boss of the first stage, and you can deal with them best by rotating on the spot whilst mashing low kick. Soon they're all dead, and it's so far so good in terms of the difficulty level.

Rick progresses further into the house, mostly with the same enemies. When you kill the hanging
corpses, their intestines spill out in a nicely-animated pile, something which I'm sure you'll all appreciate as much as I do. You venture into the sewers of the house, which for some reason are filled with spiked balls that look like marine mines. I can't think why they'd be in there, unless their constant movement scrapes all the dried-on corpse meat off the walls. It would certainly be difficult to get down there for maintenance, what with the swamp-monsters who keep jumping up and who seem very reluctant to be punched. Jump-kicking sorts them out well enough though, and it's onto the boss of stage two. This time it's a haunted poltergeist room: a chair flies at you, some knives fly at you, and then the painting of an eyeball flies at you. They all just need a thorough punching to put them back in their place, although Rick should think himself lucky the ghost wasn't haunting those sewers. I don't think punching the spiked iron balls would have been so easy. The first time I beat the poltergeist, I didn't realise that the chandelier falls down. If you're standing underneath it, it hurts you. This is a pretty embarrasing way to lose a life.
For stage three, Rick steps outside. The music gets real nice here, although the Splatterhouse 2
soundtrack is much superior. You have your first encounter with zombie dogs here; crouching down and kicking them in the face works wonders. Soon after, the aforementioned mutant baby head makes an appearance, all pink and gooey and pretty darn creepy, although to his credit Rick doesn't seem surprised. There's a shotgun nearby, but I recommend saving it for the level's main event: the boss fight with Biggy Man (no, that's really his name). Biggy is one of my all-time favourite videogame enemies: he's a large, lumpy, red fella with a bag on his head (like Jason Voorhees in Friday 13th Part 2) and chainsaws for hands. Not in his hands, chainsaws for hands. That is some serious hardware sticking out of those stumps. It must make him very frustrated, not being able to touch anything without chopping it into tiny pieces. You know, I kind of feel sorry for him. Oh no, wait, he's trying to slice my arms off. Any goodwill I had towards him has evaporated, and I have a shotgun. Soon he's full of lead, and I can move on to the next stage. A couple of things I noticed about Biggy: one, he bears quite a resemblance to the chainsaw-wielding, head-bag-wearing Dr. Salvador from Resident Evil 4, and two, he looks to me a little
like he's made of raspberry jam. Delicious.

It's back into the house for the nest stage, and whoever owns this place must be a keen fisherman. Of whales. Look at all them harpoons! Of course, harpoons are just as effective at skewering zombies as they are butchering the gentle titans of the sea, which is useful. The baby-head returns, still as pink, waxy and creepy as John Prescott after climbing some steep stairs. Whirling blades spin at ankle-height, which, having seen Pet Semetary and its abuse of the Achilles, made me a little anxious. Once they are traversed, there's a hallway of mirrors from which, you guessed it, an (even more) evil version of Rick appears, and he's pretty tough, too. Once a few more have been dispatched, you arrive at a church. A spooooky church, that is, complete with and upside-down cross surrounded by floating severed heads who acts as the stage's boss. He's an irritating prospect, constantly firing disembodied heads at you while you try and smash him with an axe that someone conveniently left in the aisle. Once he's defeated, Rick takes a moment to contemplate the altar before Jennifer's screams get him moving again.

Stage five starts off with a short, frustrating platforming section across some sloped floor sections, inbetween which beckoning hands try and grab you. If you're a fan of puns, you could say I defeated them in hand-to-hand combat, but that's a really bad joke and I wouldn't laugh at it if I were you. Beyond them, you get a choice of routes. They all lead to the same place, so here's a quick rundown of the rooms: a small sewer section, followed by a room full of corpses (quelle surprise) in which zombie attack you. These are no ordinary zombies, however, because a little necromancer chap flies around and brings them back to life by shouting what sounds like "Underhoover!". Once he's dealt with, there's some more zombie dogs who, in a nice touch, start eating the corpses of the zombies. There are also some cutesy ghost-girls who drop skulls on you head and then laugh at your lack of skill in getting out of the way. If you go the other way, there are more skull-droppers and some haunted paintings that fire faces at you. Further on there are some more mirror Ricks in a dressing room, followed by another meat room full of the chestburstery boreworms. Low kicking is still effective. Then you reach the boss room, where Jennifer lies surrounded by monsters. The monsters vamoose, Jennifer says "oh, my darling!" and then transforms into a rotting corpse-monster. Notice how I didn't make a cheap joke about women's moods there, mostly because I don't know anything about women. This boss fight is, apart from Biggy Man, my favourite thing in the game. Jennimonster jumps around and tries to claw you with her extending Wolverine talons, and after you've kicked her enough times, she transforms back into Jennifer and begs you to help her, and then back into the monster version. Once you've given your lady friend enough of a kicking, she sadly dies and turns to dust. Strangely, even though Rick's sprite doesn't change or anything, you can see that he's really pissed off. So pissed off, in fact, that he jumps into a gaping bloody hole in the floor and into the squishy bowels of the house for stage six.

This stage. Dear fucking Christ, this stage. Jack Bauer could get a lot of use out of this stage: it could be used as torture, it's so frustrating. Floating eggs spawn randomly around the level and fly towards you. This is bad enough, because they hurt you when they touch you. That's okay, though, because they die in one punch. Soon there are what seem like hundreds of the things, and because Rick's so bulky, there's very little place to hide. It gets worse, though. After a while they hatch, and the little foetus-monsters jump onto you and latch on, draining your health. There are lots of them. Lots and lots. At this point, the game has stopped being fun and become a perverse lesson in masochism. It makes you want to hunt down the developers and slowly push knitting needles into their tear ducts. Slowly, slowly you crawl through the level until you reach the boss, which is a wall with a tumour on it that's constantly giving birth to these eggs. I can't even imagine how many times I tried to kill this thing, and when you die, (and you will die,) it sends you back to the start of the goddamn level. I nearly punched myself in the throat the first time that happened: I can see this stage being responsible for a lot of smashed arcade cabinets. If you have the god-like perseverance required, it eventually goes down, and as it dies it shoots out some acid which can kill you. Fortunately I avoided this, but if it was to kill you, I think you would have reasonable grounds for murdering the nearest person to you.
Once that's done, the final stage awaits, and it's back outside while the mansion burns in the background. Some (apparently sentient) flaming logs hover toward you, and the zombies have been set on fire and bound around the level, generally being a nuisance. It's a short stage, and soon you're at the boss. He's a giant rotting head that pops out of the ground, and apparently Rick has some kind of dirt allergy, because the soil he knocks into the air will hurt you if you touch it. After the last stage, this boss is almost embarrassingly easy: you punch the head whilst avoiding its big rotten hands until it dies, and that's the end of the game. The mask explodes while Rick, looking a little stunned, stands in front of the burning mansion. If those women are still caged up in there, then they're crispy-fried now thanks to Rick's sociopathy. Rick wanders away, confused now that there's nothing left to punch; there's an evil laugh, and the mask reforms itself. The End.

So, Splatterhouse, then; A triumph of style over substance. The actual gameplay is, frankly, a bit ropey. It's all very samey, there's some wonky collision detection and there's that goddamn embryo stage, but in the end, I still love it because of the atmosphere, the setting, the music, Biggy Man and Jennimonster, and, of course, punching a giant deformed baby head right in the eye. Who could ask for more?

Gameplay footage:

West Mansion, a great site for all your Splatterhouse needs.



There are certain games that, once every year or so, I pull out of whichever box under my bed they were "tidied away" in and play through them all over again. Games like Marvel vs Capcom 2, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, F-Zero GX and the subject of this little article, WaveRace 64. Just typing it makes me feel young again!

I knew it was time for WaveRace, because of my near-constant humming of the title theme. Just like swellings in the groin for the plague, humming the theme tune is the first symptom of a full-blow case of WaveRace. I have a cycle where I think "Oh, it's just nostalgia that keeps bringing me back," and I have to admit that nostalgia is involved. I remember being at my friends house just after he'd received a Nintendo 64 (on release day, the lucky sod). After being blown away by Super Mario 64, (as you bloody well should have been, back then,) we put WaveRace on and I instantly loved it. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that when his mother insisted we go outside in the sun, we took the television, the N64 and an extension cable into the garden and played it there. That's some fine videogamin' right there, I can tell you.
But why do I love it so much? I know some people who just find the whole thing a bit dull. Well, there are a few reasons. Some of it is the sheer Nintendo-ness of the whole game: the Big N's spirit shines through the entire thing like an atom bomb inside a particularly thin-skinned puppy. The fonts, the sound effects; there's just an overwhelming lack of cynicism about the whole affair. Then there's the announcer. If you've read pretty much any of the other articles on this blog, you'll know that I have a bit of an obsession with voices, announcers and sampled speech in games. Well, the WaveRace announcer is a particular favourite, a genial fellow who sounds genuinely happy for you when you're doing well, as well as shouting "BAN-ZAI!" like a madman when you win. The music is excellent, with the title theme sticking in your head like a harpoon made of glue. The biggest plus point for me, though, is the sea.

Yes, as you might have guessed from the title, WaveRace revolves around racing around on the sea: on jetskis, to be specific. And what a sea it is. It was, and probably still is, the most accurate simulation of the sea in any game. Waves crash in, the tides go in and out, floating crates get right in your god-damn way and the whole thing just works perfectly. The racing is as you would expect, you know, get to the finish first, with a few additions. There are buoys on the water, and you have to drive (do you drive a jetski? Sail it? Who knows.) on the specified side of the buoy. You can tell which way you have to go around them by their colour, and the letter L or R written on them, or even by the big flashing arrow above them: they really want you to know which way to go here. For every buoy you navigate correctly, a segment of your power bar fills, and when it's full your top speed is increased. Miss a buoy and you lose all your power bar: miss five and it's game over. The thing that make it that bit special is the way the sea affects your racing.

Waves might jump you into the air, making it difficult to turn, for example. The water changes as the races go on, too, so you might start a race at high tide, meaning that you have to go around a pier, but by the third lap the tide has gone out, and you can drive/sail under the pier. Add to this the fact that, as anyone who has sailed a boat on Grand Theft Auto can tell you, driving on water is very different from driving on solid ground, and only being able to turn while accelerating takes some getting used to. It's very rewarding once you nail a slalom through the buoys, and it's this unique take on racing that makes it a personal favourite. There's even a stunt mode where you literally have to jump through hoops to do well, all whilst some nosy dolphins look on.

Obviously, it's not without it's problems: there aren't that many courses, and there are only four racers, two average fellas, a skinny girl and a fat guy, although one of the average guys does look a bit like Albert Wesker when he takes his helmet off, and that's always a plus. Actually, now I look at that sentence I've realised that is, for me at least, the game's only flaw: there just isn't enough of it. A cartridge goes for as little as 99 pence on eBay, so do yourself a favour and pick it up, and soon you too will be shouting "MAXIMUM POWER!" at your nearest and dearest. While you're at it, use some Google-Fu and get the soundtrack from Galbadia Hotel and feel the Nintendo magic.



Few phrases are likely to excite me quite as much as "side scrolling beat-em-up", and if you add "by Capcom" at the end of that sentence, well, the only other phrase likely elicit a similar response is "look, all Christina Ricci's clothes fell off," or possibly "Lemon Drizzle Cakes: 1/2 Price!” With that in mind, let's have a look at Capcom's 1993 arcade punchathon, The Punisher.

If you don't know who The Punisher is, he is Marvel Comics' most anti of anti-heroes: Frank Castle, former U.S. Marine and Vietnam (or Gulf War) veteran is having a picnic with his family when they accidentally witness a Mafia execution. The Mob kills Frank's family, he goes BATSHIT CRAZY and becomes, you guessed it, The Punisher, dedicated to taking down crime where ever he finds it, mostly by shooting it. You can't help but feel that the villains could have avoided this turn of events had they not chosen to hold their execution in Central Park in the middle of the afternoon, but even mobsters like green grass and fresh air. The game explains all this during the attract mode in a surprisingly eloquent manner, (although Frank's son looks like a deformed, leering, conjoined twin,) and Frank leaves us with the motto "If you're guilty, you're dead". He is not a believer in rehabilitation, this one.
Coins inserted, the character select screen appears. You can also play as Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., as he appeared in the time before he turned into Samuel L. Jackson, but this is The Punisher, so I'm going to play as The Punisher, goddamnit. Things are off to a good start when, upon being selected, The Punisher lets out a terrifying roar of digitized speech before saying... something. I listened to this something several times, and after about twenty repetitions I came to the conclusion that the garbled noise is him shouting "SAY YOUR PRAYERS." Here's a .wav - see what you think. Personally, I think it's quite beautiful.
The first stage starts in a wonderfully-drawn bar, and it quickly becomes apparent that you can break pretty much everything. Chairs, barrels, arcade machines, the lot, and most of them can be used as weapons, too. The few punks in the bar are quickly dealt with, because Frank's got the moves: the standard punch combo, a grab, an almost Guile-esque flash kick, a room-clearing spin attack and a glorious maneuver straight out of Tecmo World Wrestling where he grabs them by the feet and spins them around. Also, grenades. Frank continues the battle on the streets outside, where the gameplay changes slightly and Frank gets a gun. It's a nice change of pace, even if it does just come down to mashing fire as quickly as possible. After the shootout, The Punisher pursues his target, Bruno the mob boss, onto a school bus. Any American reader might be able to help me out here: do school buses there usually have smiley faces on all the seats? Anyway, Bruno summons his henchman Scully to serve as the level's boss. My first action was to hit him with a baseball bat, which seemed quite effective, so I did it some more. Scully likes to run around a lot, and he's pretty fast for a big lad, but the baseball bat wins through in the end. Frank "interrogates" Scully, gets the information he needs, and then promptly shoots his. The shooting was removed for the (not very good) Megadrive port, unsurprisingly.

A nice little cut-scene of The Punisher swimming up a pool vent precedes stage two, which takes place in the mansion attached to said pool, and as soon as he's out of the water he's being attacked by some sexy ninja ladies who can, rather terrifyingly, contort themselves into crab-like postures and scuttle around after you, making sex-noises when you punch them. If sexy crab ninjas are your fetish, then I suggest you play this: I doubt your needs will be catered for in many other places. Inside the mansion itself its all plush carpets, large staircases and goons with flamethrowers. There's another shooting section, and you are attacked by a guy in a trenchcoat carrying a tommygun who is identified on his health bar as "Cool". This raises a question: how does The Punisher (or any main character in this sort of thing) know what these guys are called? Do they shout out their names as they enter? The alternative, and this is what I choose to believe is true, is that the main character chooses a name for them when he sees them. Hence, Frank sees this guy, thinks he looks cool and therefore names him "Cool." What a wonderful scenario. Either way, you can beat him to death. There are some doors nearby, and upon opening them a grateful woman runs out and gives Frank a hug. He is unmoved by this, and chases Bruno into a bedroom where he (Bruno) is promptly incinerated by a giant robot. Poor Bruno: of all the rooms in the mansion, he has to run into the one with the giant death-bot in it. The Guardroid tells Frank the Kingpin has programmed him to terminate The Punisher: the two giant sunfish in the background look on impassively. The Guardroid gradually breaks apart as you batter him, and there are plenty of weapons lying around with which to do so: axes, swords and, oddly, a boomerang. Soon the robot is exploding all over the place, and you move on to stage three.
Frank spies on some goons at the harbour, and he promises to "Blow them out of the water". Geddit? Harbour, water. Well, he is The Pun-isher. Fighting your way along the docks, you can blow up a car which leaves behind the frame and the gruesome sight of the driver's charred skeleton sitting in the drivers seat, which I thought was a nice touch. The game got a little bit more special for me here when a robot with a human head turned up. His health bar names him as "Pretty Boy" which, if you subscribe to my theory of enemy naming outlined above, says something about The Punisher's mental state. You smack Pretty Boy around, and his head melts, leaving a T-800-style head: beat him some more and he dies, dropping his robot head which can then be picked up and used as a weapon. This is the kind of thing I feel is sadly lacking in videogames now, you know. Oh, and he drops pudding when he dies. Soon you reach the boss, a human torso attached to a tank called BoneBreaker who orders you to "Die in your own blood, baby!", although dying in someone else's blood is probably more The Punisher's style. He looks like he should be licking a knife somewhere in Fist of the North Star, but instead he trundles around firing missiles out of his backside and trying to run you down: this time I used hammer to clobber him.

Between levels three and four, you get to participate in the Street Fighter 2 barrel-smashing minigame. It's pretty much the same, except instead of using Ken's axe kick, you shoot them. It has the same timer, too, which I thought was a nice touch. Stage four takes place in a poppy field in a cave, and then it's all aboard the drug train, a section of the game which affords you the very rare opportunity to beat a man to death with a bag of fertilizer. If anyone knows of any other game in which this is possible, please let me know so I can once again sample the delights of bashing someone's skull in with concentrated horse manure. At the front of the train is probably the most luxurious driver's area ever, kitted out with a suit of armour, a leopard-skin rug and a fireplace, making it 1000% more classy than any house I've ever lived in. Of course, you can wreck it all, and the armour drops a lance that you can use, which is useful because the boss is here too. He's a large fellow called Bushwacker who can turn his arm into a gun; not in a cool Megaman way, but in more of a hideous, fleshy, Tetsuo from Akira manner. I managed to lance him good, though, and the drug train rumbles on toward the next level.
Before the stage starts, the Kingpin appears and restates his desire to see you in a shallow grave. Looking at the picture of him, I think he's supposed to be leaning forward, but he sure does look like he's flying out of the screen at you. The stage starts in a sewer and then moves into a forest, with a whole bunch of enemies after you. The crab-ninjas appear once more, now with the ability to summon tornadoes, a traditional power of the crab people. A kung fu warrior attacks you with nunchakus, and given the plethora of weapons in the game, I assumed he would drop them; sadly, they flashed and disappeared along with their owner, gone far away to wherever things go when they flash and disappear. Some rolling barrels try to crush you, exacting their revenge for the bonus stage. Eventually you reach a log cabin and the boss, Guardroid 2. At first I thought that this was just laziness, but I'll cut Capcom a little slack: it's not as if The Punisher has a huge amount of recurring foes. The battle is pretty much the same, except he's red now, and then he's dead and it's time for the final stage.

The Punisher spies the Kingpin's hotel, points a bazooka at it, and then he's inside the building, a sequence of events I didn't really understand until I figured out he must have fired himself out of the bazooka and into the hotel. Yeah, that's it. Along the plush corridors, all the enemies you've fought before come back and you get to smack them around all over again. I personally made great use of the spinning throw to hit them with their own comrades, a move I never get tired of performing. Scully, the first boss, returns somehow, having recovered from his fatal gunshot wound. Maybe Scully is his surname and they were twins. Once he's dealt with, you climb onto a lift which enemies throw dynamite at you. Anybody scared of lifts should be comforted to know that they are very strong, strong enough to withstand enough explosives to blast the Bismarck out of the ocean and sink it all over again. Once you survive that onslaught, it's time for the final battle with the Kingpin himself. Oh, and about one thousand goons. Kingpin fights rather like an angry girl, all slapping, as well as blowing cigar smoke in your face. Frank must have asthma or something, because that smoke sure does hurt. Looking at the size of Kingpin and the amount he smokes, Frank could probably have defeated him more easily by trapping him on a treadmill until the inevitable massive coronary, but I suppose he wanted to put on a show for the benefit of the other crime lords. He's pretty tough, and quite difficult to hit despite his vast bulk, and you'll probably die a lot. Dying does mean you get to see the rather nice continue screen where a doctor tries to revive Frank as his heartbeat fades; apparently the only thing that can revive him is an endless supply of coins. The Kingpin is eventually done for, and will have to be buried in a piano crate. No time for that now, though, and The Punisher and Nick Fury leap out of the window and destroy the building, killing at least 291 people (seriously, the ending tells you this). Some (again rather eloquent for a mid-nineties arcade game) scrolling text informs us that The Punisher will not rest, and then he and Nick Fury shoot the crap out of the credits.

The Punisher, then. I love it, I really do, as I love most games like this produced by Capcom in the early-to-mid nineties. Akiman was involved, and as always his involvement seems to have added that extra touch of class. The graphics are great, the digitized speech is indecipherable and the gameplay is a little more in-depth than most side-scrolling beat-em-ups of the era, and that's the way it should be. Here's to The Punisher's inclusion in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. See you next time, and remember to SAY YOUR PRAYERS!



What? Your Pokemon is evolving! Yes, the words that all Pokemon trainers (and men in their late twenties who really should know better by now) long to hear. Sometimes, though, Mother Nature has no bloody clue what she’s doing, and should leave well alone: with that in mind, here’s a few Pokemon that should be left as you found them, before you forced them to engage in brutal combat with other children and their imprisoned animals.

Haunter to Gengar
The ghostly Haunter looks like, well, a ghost. Disembodied floating hands are always creepy, (just look at Rayman,) especially when accented with a red glow that may well be the blood of the last trainer who tried to cram them in a Pokeball. He looks like he enjoys terrorizing people. It is unfortunate, then, that rather than evolving he simply gains weight and his hands reattach themselves. If you ask me, hands that are attached are a backward step from hands that can float around and fetch things from the next room without you having to get up. Gengar has the appearance of a spoilt child, the kind of brat who pitches a tantrum in the supermarket over a bag of sweets, knowing his mother can’t beat him because they’re in public. You’re a lardy son of a bitch, Gengar.

Oddish to Gloom
I love Oddish. Look how cheerful he is! He’s one of my favourite Pokemon, in terms of appearance at least, although I do sometimes look at him and wonder if he tastes good. You know, like a shallot or something. I bet he does. Gloom, however, does not look tasty. Far from it. He looks like an Oddish that has been lobotomised and forced to wear a ginger wig, (difficult to know which of those is worse,) leaving him a drooling, retarded, non-delicious mess.

Magnemite to Magneton"Look, son, I’m goddamn Professor Oak, the goddamn Pokemon Professor. Did you really think you could fool me by gluing three of the same Pokemon together? Get out of my goddamn sight!"

Dratini / Dragonair to Dragonite

Looking at the first two forms of this evolution, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were going to end up with some kind of awesome Chinese-style dragon, flying around and eating the sun and whatnot. Instead you get Dragonite, the Pokemon universe’s version of Barney the Dinosaur. He looks like Charizard’s older brother, the one who was a promising high-school athlete and the coolest guy in town until he graduated, couldn’t get a decent job because he’d spent all his time having Pokemon battles with the prom queen instead of studying and ended up working at a used car showroom. You’re a disappointment to us all, Dragonite.

Bellsprout to Weepinbell

Two reasons: It loses its legs when it evolves, which seems a little harsh, and the name "Weepinbell" sounds like a truly revolting venereal disease.

Koffing to Weezing
To me, this really exemplifies the horrors inflicted on the poor, unsuspecting Pokemon by their "trainers." On the left we have Koffing: look at his happy, beaming face. I doubt I’ve ever been as happy as that Koffing: one can only wonder what events have brought him such joy. On the right we have Weezing. Poor, poor Weezing. The look of delight has been forever wiped from his face, replaced with the visage of a creature crushed under the weight of untold miseries. Tumours have appeared all over him, and he’s grown a second head. That’s pretty severe, and probably very, very painful. To boil it down, you took a creature infused with a natural sense of joy and forced it to battle until it developed cancer, grew a second head and had its spirit broken, just so you could win some shiny gym badges? You’re a real bastard, you know that?

And there you go. Do nature a favour: let these Pokemon be.

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