Genre: Fighting Developer: Sunsoft Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1995
Justice League: Task Force is the epitome of exactly what was wrong with so many of the “me-too” fighters of the early to mid 90s. It lacks any sense of imagination or originality, and is plagued by many destructive problems. Like many of the console-centric fighters of the day, and unlike many of the arcade games that found home ports, no attempt has been made at actually constructing a decent fighting game. If nothing else, most of the “me-too” early ’90s fighters at least played well. Sure, they may not have known innovation if it bit them in the ass, but daggummit, they were at least fun. Rather than go this route, Acclaim (or Sunsoft, whoever developed this mess) went with copying the trend, rather than trying and put their own spin on it.
All of the console-centric fighter downfalls are here, from copycat gameplay and horrid control, to bland moves, and saints be praised, they’re out in full force. Now, a good roster could have masked this problem to some degree, as folks might be willing to play a bad game if it had a dream roster, but that isn’t the case here. After you get through the A list folks like Superman, Batman, and Aqua Man, you’re left with D-grade folks like Cheetah and Darkseid to fill out the hollow roster. So not only do you now have a product that fails as a fighting game, but it doesn’t even do justice to the license on top of that. When a five cent gameplay and a ten cent roster are the most notable things about your game, it MIGHT have problems.
Now don’t get me wrong, this game CAN be fun to play. When you’ve got two human players going at it, you’ll be on equal footing, which beats the hell out of the cheap CPU (another hallmark of 2D fighters – enemies can do things that you simply can’t do.) This might not make up for all of the game’s shortcomings, but it at least prevents this one from factoring into things. Plus, the game does actually have a nice pace to it, too. It’s not too slow, it’s not too fast, it just moves at a brisk pace. Sadly, this pace is hampered by the controls, which are so unresponsive that you’ll be fumbling to rattle off one Batarang while your foe goes for about a dozen in three seconds. These control problems only highlight the crippling CPU issues, and certainly don’t make for a game that is fun to play, especially when dealing with the cheapness.
The visuals turn things around a bit, until you’re forced to actually fight a match, and the flaws just radiate. The sharp sprites that look so alluring in screen shots suddenly become jerky, unrealistic hell spawns sent to Earth to bring about illness and famine. The animation here consists of about three frames of something vaguely resembling the action it’s supposed to represent. It’s essentially Pit Fighter-level animation, only now with collision detection. Unlike that game, this game isn’t so bad it’s good, it’s just bad. It’s really a shame with the visuals (and the game as a whole), since the sprites themselves look great, and the game would be redeemed in some ways if the animation was up to par with them. The backdrops are the same way, they look great in still shots, and they can be quite colorful, but they’re just lifeless. Like pretty much every other part of the game, the potential for greatness was there, and never acted upon.
Surprisingly, the audio is pretty sharp. You’ve got some good music to listen to while you play this atrocity, which certainly drowns some of the sorrows. And heck, even the sound effects work well. Superman’s eye lasers actually sound like lasers, and the Batarang shots have a nice “omph” to them. The punch and kick sound effects are vicious, it sounds like bones are being shattered with every single shot. You can’t ask for much more than that with a fighting game’s sound effects. I’m rather shocked that out of all the things that could have gone well with Task Force, this is the sole element that actually lives up to its potential.
I’m tempted to call Justice League: Task Force a spectacular failure, along the lines of Pit Fighter (which would be fitting in some respects). Sadly, since nothing is done that makes it comically bad, that simply can’t happen. This leaves us with a game that, barring the good audio, is simply… bad, tragically so, due to the potential that was there. Of course, this isn’t an uncommon, or even unexpected event, given that it’s a licensed Acclaim game, but it’s still sad to see. There is some justice to be had though, we should be thankful that we never saw a sequel to this mess.
As an aside, the game does work well on the Nomad. The colors are brought out nicely, and the audio is crystal clear, with the sound effects really shining when you use headphones. The blurry screen doesn’t cause much of a problem, barring the Superman eye blasts, that are just too quick to really block or avoid anyway, let alone when their size is messed up due to blurring making them appear larger than they are. This game isn’t a shining beacon for either the Genesis or the Nomad, but at least the Nomad doesn’t make it all that much worse than it already is.
SCORE: 4 out of 10