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Double Take: Punisher

I first played this Capcom beat-’em-up arcade game based on the gun-toting muscle-bulging super hero in a local comic shop nearby my house, ever since they got it in a few years back, and needless to say I enjoyed playing it. So recently I picked up the rare Genesis port of The Punisher for very cheap ($1), and figured “hey, why not give it a try and see how this port really is?” Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed, and the review score for the game here on Sega-16 is a 9, even in the reader comments! So after playing this game chock fool of mediocrity, I had to bring the truth to Sega-16! I’m here to give you the real nitty-gritty on The Punisher!

First off, The Punisher’s gameplay is almost identical to Final Fight. The only additions are an auto-aiming handgun and a grenade, along with a larger focus on weapons (and there are PLENTY of them!). But that doesn’t sound bad, right? After all, Final Fight was the pinnacle of the beat-’em-up genre in the ’90s. You’ve got tons of different weapons, and a bunch of thugs coming at you ready to kill you, and you can choose a variety of ways to maim them in the process. Not to mention you can play with a friend, as the equally as badass Nick Fury from S.H.I.E.L.D. Sound good so far, right?

Time to Get Punished

Well here’s where things take a turn for the worse. Whoever programmed this game really did not know what they were doing, because most of the enemies in this game do not fight back due to a lack of flinch time for enemies to recover after being hit. So aside from the bosses at the end of each level, and the enemies with throwing knives, none of the thugs in the game put up any real fight. Once you start hitting them, they simply turn limp. Sure, they fall on the ground after so many hits, but once they get right back up you can start pounding right into them again, there’s simply no kickback or flinch time whatsoever. This is a vital element of beat-’em-up games, as it maintains the balance between ridiculously cheap, such as TMNT II on the NES, or ridiculous easy.

Click to see all the stages!

So what ends up happening is that during the game you will be CONSTANTLY mashing the A button. You don’t need any of the special moves, or even the jump for that matter, because the main punch the heroes have does all the work for you. And when your enemies have guns, you whip your gun right out and just start mashing A even more, because the gun simply aims itself! And since there’s no invincibility time from flinching in this game, the enemies literally can’t fight back. Punisher practically plays itself, and all you have to do is move up and down the screen to get in front of your enemies and start mashing that attack button like there’s no tomorrow!

And then there’s the fact some of the enemies take a long time to kill, plus the fact that the Punisher himself also has a very sizable health bar. You can go through dozens of enemies, or even entire levels without losing a life. Without a challenge, the game just becomes a real bore.

Shooting Blanks?

But that’s not all that’s wrong with this port. The graphics are simply atrocious. This game came out in 1994, and they look about as good as Space Harrier II’s graphics from 1989, and that was a launch title! Enemies lack animation when they get hit, and the Punisher practically glides across the floor when you jump. Also, the sprites are small, and the color palette about as varied as Dick Tracy’s (from 1990). This game suffered from some really shoddy programming, and it shows! YM2 these guys sure weren’t! And what’s even stranger is how great some of Capcom’s other releases on the Genesis from the time look, likeĀ Great Circus Mystery, which look about as good as SNES games!

Click to see all the bosses!

The audio isn’t anything special either unfortunately. The music is highly forgettable, and the sounds consist of a dull “THWACK!” sound and a dying voice effect that is extremely annoying, and scratchy to boot! You’ll get to hear some crummy techno track all throughout the game, and this annoying “Ahh!” every two seconds. If you value your sanity and your ears, mute the television and put on some nice music. Personally, I like to listen to Hall and Oates or Earth, Wind, and Fire while I play The Punisher.

But despite my overall negative outlook on The Punisher in this Double Take, I will say it does have a couple of redeeming qualities. If you just have one of those days where you get so agitated that you want to start punching people, this is your game. You can take out all your aggression on your Genesis controller as you smash through hordes of enemies with no problem at all. Enemies fall one by one as you mash on that A button harder than a Hudson Soft 16 Shot! Not to mention this is one of those titles that kids can really enjoy. You know this is one of those games you would really enjoy back in the day when you had your best friend over after school, and you were looking for something to do. This has it all for ’90s youth. You’ve got two of the most badass super heroes in the Marvel Universe, plus every weapon imaginable, including axes, handguns, machine guns, samurai swords, throwing knifes, baseball bats, pipes, barrels, and anything else that’s lethal that you can think of. Throw in a splatter of blood, and you’ve got a winner of a game.

If You’re Poorly Ported, You’re Dead

Overall, The Punisher is a really lazy port of a great arcade game, which in the end, understandably makes it seem rather mediocre to many people. The developers managed to screw up pretty much everything imaginable in this game, and yet somehow it’s still playable and still fun. Hell, I even like playing it for a few levels myself. So if you’ve got some anger to take out, or have a young nephew that’s looking for a cool game for Christmas maybe, this is a decent game. Be warned though, Punisher is rare and pricey ($20-30), so don’t expect to find it anywhere for a cheap price. But if you’re part of the casual audience looking for a good arcade port, don’t waste your money on this.

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