Fantastic Four (PS1) Review

This was an odd one, as I remembered quite liking this when I brought it at the time, and I know I at least played through it once with a friend, but then when I started looking at this retrospectively the online opinion of the game was rather harshly negative, including appearing on some “worst games ever” lists. So, now in 2020, do my opinion match up to the general consensus, or do I have some sort of blind spot for this game? Let’s find out!

Background:

The Thing punches…. someTHING in the air… hahaha?

Fantastic Four was released in 1997, September 30th specifically in the US, no more concrete details elsewhere (beyond the fact that I played it around that year in the UK, so it definitely got a release here!)

A Sega Saturn version was planned, but cancelled, either due to the Saturn’s notoriously hard-to-program-for software, or because of this game’s poor scoring and sales…

Gameplay:

An example of exciting four play gameplay! … Plus some unspeakable horror lurking in the background!

Although the graphics are rendered in 3D, the action is still very much on a 2D plain, with controls that match up to a lot of the games I’ve covered on this weekly feature. You have punches and kicks, the ability to jump and the ability to throw enemies and objects across the screen, plus a few special moves unique to each of the five characters (The titular Fantastic Four and She-Hulk), though the moves are powered via a meter next to the health bar rather than draining your health when you use them. There are of course health pick-ups as well as “Force Power” pick-ups (that’s the energy for the special moves) and that’s your lot!

It does have to be said though that the actual combat lacks any feeling of impact or force. You know when I’ve used the word “satisfying” in these reviews in the past? Well, this is the opposite, everything feels … floaty and very unsatisfying… Quite a few of the bosses and sub-bosses are the large, “looming in the background and thump the floor” kind of bosses as well, which isn’t the most exciting thing, and in general most of the people you face are generic henchmen, robots and other comic-y stuff, but just… really bland looking.

So much so that there isn’t much to say of the cliché-o-meter, thanks to the enemies not being of regular type. There isn’t even a lift level! You go up on a lift at the start of one stage, but that’s about it… This game is cliché-less, really, beyond the control style, obviously…

Graphics and Sound:

Wow, that’s quite some face texture there… look at those eyes!

The graphics are, erm… “rough”, to put it politely. Undetailed, blocky and the backgrounds are mostly murky and dull. I do remember thinking even at the time that it “looked a bit crap”, so there you go… Time hasn’t been its friend in that regard, that’s for sure.

Music is actually fun, from the opening level’s porno-jazz to the later levels’ attempt to be big and bombastic. Voices and sound effects are pretty bog standard, on the other hand…

Story:

The rock-like Thing fights a black rock creature in a cave full of rocks… That’s a lot of similar textures for a single screen…

Doctor Doom has finally figured out a way to deal with his enemies in the Fantastic Four: use a special device to teleport them into dangerous places until they die. From the streets of New York to the depths of Atlantis and even space, the Family 4 (and She-Hulk) beat back several major foes until Mr. Fantastic manages to create a machine that teleports them straight into Castle Doom itself. There they join forces and defeat Doom, saving themselves and probably saving the world in some form or fashion at the same time. It works well enough as a reason to give the player a nice variety of places and enemies to fight.

Thoughts Then:

Oh no! It’s…. erm… that, uh, that villain. You know. Him.

At the time I was just happy to have a new scrolling beat ‘em up, and I remember enjoying playing through it with a friend. While it was rough around the edges and therefore I didn’t play it much after that, I was happy to see one of my favourite genres hadn’t died completely…

Thoughts Now:

Thought I’d better get a screenshot with someone other than The Thing, so here’s She-Hulk randomly kicking in front of “Homer’s Bar”.

Now? Yikes. I mean, I still don’t think it’s the “1/10 worst game ever” that some make it out to be, but it’s very basic, the combat doesn’t feel all that impactful and the visuals are… Well, “badly dated” to put it nicely. I wouldn’t recommend playing it, but I wouldn’t add it to a list of worst ever either, it’s just… there, and a bit shit, especially in 2020…

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