They say that knowing is half the battle, but should Konami have known when to quit? Well, they seemed to think now is the perfect time.
No license seemed to be without Konami's mitts on it back in the glory days, and along came the inevitable G.I. Joe arcade game. Based on the cartoon and toy range that captured the attention of children (and eBay resellers) everywhere, "G.I. Joe — A Real American Hero", this game contains three large levels and would have pulled players in with its impressive graphics... but as they say, presentation is half the package.
The game begins with giant white text on a black screen, "TERRORISM". Well, shit. Looks like we found Dubya's favourite video game, after which Cobra Commander does his best to channel the spirit of Michael Jackson by dancing like somebody shoved a cattle prod up his arse. "INVASION"! Cobra Command's airship bursts through the clouds. "ASSAULT". This is starting to sound like the last three things I went to court for. Are you sure this isn't a game about my personal life? Just kidding, I have never caused such "DEVASTATION!"
Either way, things look bad for the Joes. Luckily, "PEACE" is on hand, as we see Conrad "Duke" Hauser fire a laser rifle and scream "Joe!" loudly. "BRAVERY" rears its ugly head as Shana "Scarlett" O'Hara makes her presence known. "RIGHTEOUSNESS" is the main course today because Marvin "Roadblock" Hinton is here to smash some heads. And, last but not least, "FREEDOM" to kick ass in the form of Snake-Eyes, the man, the mystery, the mystery man of much mystery, mysterious, wow.
G.I. Joe is a run-and-gun game with loads of enemies and the slowest weapon known to mankind: a laser bazooka that might as well be a toy foam sword. You can play as four different Joes but they all play exactly the same — what gives? You can play as Snake-Eyes, the resident Ninja, but he doesn't even use his ninja abilities. Snake-Eyes using only a bazooka is Snake-Eyes participating in only half of the battle. And with all these endless swarms of enemies and large aircraft and vehicles to destroy, one can easily miss the astounding use of scaling as the location in the background becomes more and more detailed on approach. Sprite scaling is hard to do right, but G.I. Joe does it even better than just doing it right.
You know what they say... screenshots are half the battle.
The titular unit first have to take down the Chemical Plant, misspelled "Chmical Plant". It immediately becomes apparent what kind of game this is: a rushed one. Either that, or their E key broke. After you conquer the first three areas, and make a large dent in Cobra's illicit plans, you take on their secret jungle base, and eventually, the massive airship. Each location is visually varied and stunning, but the gameplay never really changes, which is a shame. All the effort in this game seems to have gone squarely on the presentation and nothing else.
Being a product of its time, the sound design is great. It lacks the catchiness factor of other Konami arcade games, but makes up for it with lots of wonderful digitized speech. "Yo Joe!" indeed. What music there is sets the scene well, but as I said, not memorable in the slightest. So yes, this would have drawn players in from across the arcades, but as I play the game now, that nostalgic yearn I once felt for G.I.Joe is gone. In its place, a shocking realization that the game just ain't the big ol' bag of fun dust it was.
It is pretty much point and shoot. You do get missiles to use which cause greater damage, and you really should use them because it is far too easy to max them out at 9. Enemies mostly just run at you, serving only the purpose of laser gun fodder. Lasers, by the way? American heroes don't use lasers; they use a goddamn Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army Revolver.
The general consensus online is that this is the one and only good G.I. Joe game ever made, but I personally feel that the wondrous Rise of the Cobra for Nintendo Wii is much better. If you can stomach that it is based on the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson starring film franchise, of course. This certainly isn't a bad game in the slightest, but it is fairly uninspired. If it ever hit a download service such as Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, I'd probably still buy it.