Of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 1 heroes, Captain America is my favorite. So I was both excited and anxious about Captain America: Super Soldier. Would it be an enjoyable experience or is this game going to be a soulless cash-grab like most of licensed games that got released during this time period?
Let’s talk about my experience with this game today!
The Nintendo DS version of Captain America: Super Soldier is an action platformer that was developed by Griptonite Games and published by Sega. Based on the film Captain America: The First Avenger, the game comprises of events that take place in the middle of the film. If you’ve seen the film, maybe you’ll remember that Cap had a lot of missions offscreen, summarized via a quick montage. When I was playing this game, I felt that this game could have been those missions.
While largely an action platformer, this game employs beat ’em up mechanics. Enemies can soak up a lot of damage before they get knocked out. Cap can chain his attacks to form multi-hit combos, and can even throw enemies against each other. And in addition to the standard action stages, this game also has stealth stages where getting caught will require you to start over, as well as side scrolling runner stages.
Following a more modern approach of game design, this game doesn’t use a lives or continue system. When you die, you can just keep continuing the game from the stage you died in. Sometimes, a stage will have save points, and you’ll continue from there. Cap does have a health meter, so he can sustain multiple hits before dying. The game also uses a save system with three save slots.
Moves and Abilities
Cap has plenty of moves at his disposal in Captain America: Super Soldier. The Y button is for attacking. Cap has different attacks for when he’s standing, walking, crouched, or in the air. He’s even got a launcher that will let you do air combinations on enemies. The B button is for jumping, and the X button is used for grabbing and throwing enemies. The enemies in this game are actually quite tough, ganging up on you and not hesitating to attack even if you’re occupied. You’ll have to use all the moves at your disposal to succeed.
The A button is for throwing Cap’s shield. You can change the direction with the D-Pad and even throw the shield in mid-air. His shield can deal damage to enemies, hit multiple enemies at the same time, and can hit objects in the stages too. Some puzzles will require you to throw your shield.
The R button will do a shield block. Most projectiles and some melee attacks can be blocked this way. You can simply hold the R button down, but if you time it right, you can even deflect enemy projectiles back at them. To beat this game, you’ll have to learn how to use the shield block. In later stages, enemies will be sporting automatic rifles that’ll drain your health bar quick if you don’t block.
Finally, Cap has a combo meter that fills up as he attacks enemies and gets depleted when he gets hit. Pressing L when this meter is more than half-full will do a special screen clearing attack. If you press it when completely full, Cap will temporarily go into super soldier mode wherein he can deal more damage.
Captain America: Super Soldier makes decent use of the touchscreen of the Nintendo DS. During cutscenes, it will display dialogue and headshots of the characters speaking. In the game, it has several functions. There’s an enemy detection system which will tell you where they are relative to your position. It also has indicators that can tell you if there are any collectibles in the level you’re currently in.
Collectibles come in the form of hostages, dossiers, and upgrades. Collecting hostages will unlock different Captain America skins, letting you play as different versions of the character. Dossiers appear as file folder icons and unlock flavor text that expand on the game’s storyline. Upgrades can either be shield icons which make Cap’s shield attacks deal more damage, or health vials that can increase his health bar.
I’m actually glad that the game shows you if a collectible is hidden in a level because the game does not have any level selection feature that will allow you to go back for ones that you missed. This is the reason why I never bothered completing the dossiers or the hostages. The upgrades are absolutely vital though, so make sure that you don’t miss any of them.
Occasionally, you will need to use the touchscreen for some minigames. There are three types – needing to spin your stylus around, swiping it up, and touching circles at the right moments. Obviously thrown in to make use of the touchscreen feature of the DS, they are an unwelcome addition but don’t do too much damage to ruin the game.
Boss battles can make or break an action game, and it’s a lot truer for superhero games. Thankfully, Captain America: Super Soldier did not disappoint. Despite being based on Captain America: The First Avenger, the developers were able to work around the limitations and use characters who weren’t in the film but are in the comic books. This removes the game from being canon, but at least it feels like a Captain America game.
The version of Baron Strucker you’ll face is based on the comic book version. He’ll fight you with his Satan Claw. You’ll face him more than once, and in your final battle, he’ll have Hydra agents joining in.
Iron Cross is another boss based on a character from the comics. He’s a soldier inside mechanical armor that predates Iron Man. As expected, he’ll fight you with different types of projectile weapons.
The most memorable boss fight of this game is the one with Madame Hydra. I wish I didn’t have to spoil it but this is an old game so I’ll talk about it anyway. You don’t fight her directly, she’s actually trying to escape. You have to get past her security defenses until you finally get to her. It’s simple when I describe it, but actually playing the battle is quite fun.
This is not a boss fight but I have to talk about the game’s final sequence. Taken from the comic books, the final stage involves Captain America grabbing on to a large missile that’s headed straight for America. You have to make your way to the front of the missile and disable it’s targeting system. In the comic books, this was his and Bucky’s final mission for the Allies. The movie changed how Cap ends up in ice, so it’s great to see this sequence in this game.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
I normally don’t like 3D polygon graphics from this era, but I found the graphics of Captain America: Super Solder to be okay. I still would have preferred pixel art, but the characters in this game are small enough that I don’t notice the blocky models. Although when the camera zooms in, you can really see it. Still, Cap’s 3D model looked great, especially with the colors and lighting effects. Enemies looked great too, and there were enough variety with the normal enemies. Environments did get a bit repetitive but not too much for me to get sick of the game.
What surprised me about this game is the sound. This game’s themes are actually very good and fit well with the movie. There are only a handful so the music will repeat, but there’s enough variety so I didn’t get tired of them. But the voice acting is top notch. All lines of dialogue are voice acted, and the voices are very close to how they actually speak in the film. As I was playing the game, it felt like I was playing an extension of the movie.
The presentation of this game is also really good. Menus look like dog tags, and you’ll see a lot of folders representing mission objectives and other elements. The motion detector looks like a radar screen from the 1940s. Cutscenes used art that looked similar to the likenesses of the actors who portrayed these characters in the movie. This is a well polished game.
I said a lot of positive things about Captain America: Super Soldier, but it fell a little short of what I wanted from it. Not having a level select or a New Game + option made collecting all the collectibles a chore (you can’t backtrack when you miss one). And even though the main game was fun, this title missed having bonus features or additional game modes. Having extra play modes would have added a lot of value to this game.
I had fun playing Captain America: Super Soldier. It’s a lot better than what I expected. But if you compare it with video games that are really good, this falls short. You’re better off playing other video games if you’re not a big Marvel fan. If you’re a fan of Marvel superheroes, and especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this game might be worth checking out.