G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor

 

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Genre: Action

Publisher: Capcom

Total time played: 3 hours

Short review: The sequel to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero that features more complex gameplay mechanics and level structure and never quite captures the magic of the original


Interesting links related to G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor


My History

Like most kids who grew up in the 1980’s I lived and breathed G.I. Joe for a few years. I used to watch the cartoon (along with The Real Ghostbusters) every morning before school. I had dozens of the action figures and would take them to friends houses and play with them every weekend. I even turned my room into an obstacle course full of zip lines made of yarn at one point. But then, I out grew G.I. Joe and ended up selling all my action figures at a yard sale for probably a quarter each.

The original NES game has always been one of my favorites and I even prefer G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero to Contra. I also find that the original has some of the best music on the system, so much so that I once recorded the music on a cassette tape by holding a cheap microphone to my TV so I could listen to the music while I was out on my paper route.

Fast forward to 2003, it was my senior year of college and I moved into a house with 5 roommates, 4 of which I had been friends with for years and one guy i had never met who was a classmate of one of my other roommates. His name was Wes, and living with him exposed me to two NES related things I had never seen before.

  1. Wes owned a top loader NES which was the first one I had ever seen. In fact, to this day, I still don’t own one.
  2. He had the sequel to one of my all-time favorite games, a sequel I didn’t know existed, G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor.

I remember being so excited I couldn’t contain myself. I immediately popped the game into Wes’ top loader and turned it on. I played the first level and it seemed like the game was going to be just as awesome as the original. That is until I got to the mini-boss with the sledge hammer about 2 minutes into the game.  No matter what I did I couldn’t beat him.  Keep in mine this was pre-YouTube so I couldn’t watch others play the game. After a dozen or so attempts I gave up and decided that the sequel was too hard.

After a year of living together Wes and I parted ways for a few years until he ended up moving in with me post college for a bit. This time, when he moved out to get married he gave me his copy of this game and that is the copy I played today.

How to Play

The game is pretty straight forward. Choose a stage, reach the end and fight a boss or collect a radio. When you defeat a boss you earn another playable character. If you find a radio you earn the ability to call a sub-character to either revive a dead character, re-fill ammo or re-fill your health.

Each character starts off with a punch and a gun. You can alternate between them by pressing the Select button.  When you defeat an enemy they will usually drop an item that may include:

POW – collect 4 of these to level up the selected weapon. Each weapon maxes out at level 4, meaning 16 POW blocks will max out your weapon.

Bullet – refills ammo

K – refills a bit of health

Chevron – extends your life bar and refills your health.

As you progress through the game you earn new weapons including missiles, laser and other guns. Each of these can be leveled up as well. The strongest weapon in the game is the laser, but it uses 4 bullets per time fired meaning it doesn’t last long.

The levels are fairly varied, the most common being the “move left to right, fight a mini boss and then fight the boss”. Other stages have you rescuing hostages or placing bombs.  Some stages do not have a boss, and when you reach the end you collect a radio. Watch out, if you get a game over you lose all of your collected radios and you can’t go back and collect them again meaning you can’t call your sub-character to help you out.

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Map screen with helpful numbers added

The above image is the map screen where you select your path to victory.  The path I took was 1 – 2 – 6 – 11 -13 -16.

By the end of the game I had amassed 3 radios and 3 playable characters (General Hawk, Wet Suit and Duke).  I got Duke pretty close to the end and he wasn’t leveled up at all. Both Hawk and Wet Suit were close to max level on every weapon and had the maximum amount of health. My strategy was using Wet Suit throughout each stage and switching to General Hawk for the mini-boss/boss fights as he would have a full health bar.

One of my issues with the game was that I didn’t even see half of it. Since I took the shortest path to the end I had no reason to play through the other stages. By playing those unneeded stages I risked getting game overs and using my radios prematurely.  I almost wish the game was linear making me play through each stage. But, I understand the developers were just trying to make a game that gave the player more choices.

Another issue is that several stages had a large under water part that only Wet Suit could explore. I discovered this by accident by falling into the water. I was disappointed that this was optional and not at all needed to complete the game meaning I usually never explored.

Difficulty

The first stage is a nightmare, it took me 13 years to play the game a second time because of how hard the first level was. Honestly, it is just the mini-boss that is so hard. Strange thing is, there are 4 different mini-bosses you fight multiple times throughout the game and the hardest one whose pattern I could never quite get down is the one you fight right at the beginning of stage one.

As you progress through the game and start maxing out your weapons and collecting other playable characters the games difficult goes from “extremely hard” to “slightly harder than average”.

I also found the character select screen shown before each stage to be needlessly confusing. I played for a while before realizing that hitting “decide” allowed me to change the playable characters.

Visuals and Music

The graphics look no better than the original and the music, while enjoyable, doesn’t have the same classic feel as the original.

Verdict

The game developers took some chances to make the gameplay different than the original. But, too much of the game didn’t need to be played to reach the end. The ending says “to be continued” and there was never another sequel which is very disappointing. I would have been happy with a “The End” or “Congratulations”. It is a great game, but if you only play one G.I. Joe game, make it the original.

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