Despite the popularity of Marvel Comics characters when I was around the age of 10-16, Captain America and the Avengers for the NES/Famicom wasn’t popular in my circles. Only one of my friends had this in his game collection and when I tried it, I had a hard time playing it. So I completely forgot that this existed, only remembering the arcade version and it’s ports.
So when I was scouring NES game lists for superhero-themed titles that I could play, I was surprised to see this. Since I’m a big Avengers fan, I decided to give this game another shot.
Captain America and the Avengers is an action platformer game wherein you get to play as Captain America and Hawkeye. The game starts with cutscenes depicting the Mandarin attacking and capturing Iron Man and the Vision – a convenient in-game reason why these characters aren’t playable. Your main objective is to rescue the captured pair of Avengers and stop the villains from taking over the world.
You start the game as Captain America but later on, you will have the option to swap between the two. Once you beat a stage where one is present with the other character, you will have the option swap between the two at any point. Each character has different abilities, and you will use all of them to be able to progress in the game.
When you get knocked out, the Avenger you are controlling gets “captured”. Your other Avenger will need to attempt a rescue. Depending on when this happens, this can be a minor inconvenience or a major setback because you’ll be required to backtrack between one to five stages to attempt the rescue. So it’s important to manage the health of your Avengers and swap between them as needed.
Finally, the game has a character upgrade system that involves collecting crystal power ups. Each character has his separate count, and whenever one character gets a hundred crystals, he gets more health, higher damage, and his attacks change.
Captain America’s Moves and Abilities
Captain America can throw his shield while standing. This passes through enemies and platforms. Unfortunately, he can only toss it forward and can’t do it while jumping or crouching. He can also do this once – he needs to catch the shield before he can use it again. Cap can block some enemy fire. By default he has the shield up, ready to block from the front. He can also block some shots from above if you press the Up button. The hitbox is a little small, and some ammo types will still get through the shield so this isn’t reliable. Pressing Down in the middle of a jump will aim his shield downward. This can protect Cap from spikes and chemical hazards.
While crouching or in the middle of a shield toss, Cap punches. In the air, Cap attacks via a flying kick that has decent range. These aren’t as strong as his shield and puts you within reach of enemies, so you’ll want to use his shield most of the time. Cap has a dashing attack wherein he charges shield first into enemies. He can also use this to avoid some obstacles and hazards. Finally, Cap has the ability to cling to pipes or chains with his free arm. Some stages will have areas that you can only reach with Captain America.
Once upgraded, Captain America’s shield toss becomes more powerful. Instead of just going forward, the shield travels back once before returning to Cap. This damages enemies behind Cap and is a great attack whenever he is surrounded at all sides.
Hawkeye’s Moves and Abilities
Hawkeye’s specialty is shooting arrows. Unlike Captain America, he can do this standing up, while crouching, or in the air. He can also shoot straight up or diagonally upwards, even in the middle of a jump. He can only shoot one arrow at a time, but these travel fast and Hawkeye can shoot another one as soon as the initial arrow leaves the screen. On the ground, Hawkeye is able to punch in case you need to attack immediately after shooting an arrow.
This versatility on offense comes with drawbacks. Hawkeye’s arrows do not go through stage obstacles like walls, and they are much weaker than Cap’s shield. He also cannot grab unto pipes, so there will be areas that won’t be accessible with Hawkeye alone. Hawkeye’s upgrade gives him explosive arrows which increases their damage. But his arrows are still weaker compared to Cap’s shield throw attack at the same level.
Visuals and Sound
When I started up Captain America and the Avengers, I was immediately impressed with the game’s graphics. For a NES title, this game looked really good. All the sprites were quite detailed and I could easily recognize those that depicted real comic book characters. It’s always a treat for me when I’m playing a comic book video game, and I see characters that I know.
The stages looked good too, even if they were just generic areas. It helped that the developers did a palette swap for some stages, showing different times of the day. Despite the generic locations and some repetition, there is enough variety in the levels that you explore. There are forests that are flat stages, city areas that expand upwards, and indoor bases that go all the way around.
In terms of sounds, Captain America and the Avengers is limited to a handful of background music. I like the main stage theme so I didn’t mind it playing the majority of the time I was playing this game. But I do see how it can get repetitive and tiresome for others.
My Experience with the Game
I enjoyed playing Captain America and the Avengers a lot. Both characters feel properly depicted and work well within the limitations of the NES platform. Swapping between the two Avengers reminds me of Double Dragon III or the first TMNT game, but in this game there is more purpose behind changing characters. However, this game isn’t perfect and I do have some complaints.
My first issue with this game is it’s lack of game saves or a password system. This game becomes Nintendo hard in later stages and without a password system, it will be hard for anyone to beat this game. If you play via emulation, you’ll have the benefit of save states – I did, so I wasn’t bothered as much. Regarding the game’s difficulty, there are some sequences that don’t feel fair for me, especially those one-hit kill force fields that are scattered across the levels. Some of the later boss battles can be really difficult. This game isn’t Ninja Gaiden hard but some sections can be discouraging for people.
In between stages, Wasp gives helpful gameplay tips or provides story narrative to explain the next stage or mission. In the middle of the game, she starts becoming repetitive, going back to tips she had already mentioned prior. It can get a little annoying especially since you’ll need to beat this game in one sitting. So these Wasp sequences are just adding to the delays.
These are minor issues individually, but when taken together it can be a tough experience for a kid. I can see why this game isn’t as renowned as its contemporaries.
Captain America and the Avengers is a solid game that has some flaws. It’s biggest flaw, the combination of high difficulty and the lack of a password system, is mitigated if you play via emulation. This would be a good game to play if it were included in game collections ala Nintendo’s NES Online service, as most collection releases have a save feature.
I liked this game a lot despite its flaws, especially once I was able to understand its “upgrade” system. In some ways, I prefer this over its arcade counterpart as this one requires a little more strategy in how you approach it. I’m glad I gave this game another shot and I can see myself playing this again in the future.