G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • KID
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • US March 1992
Score: 75%

This review was published on 01/28/2017.

G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by KID and published by Capcom for the Nintendo Entertainment System exclusively in North America in March 1992. This is the sequel to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero for the NES, which was also developed by KID and came out in North America in January 1991. Taxan published the previous game, but the company shut down not long after that, so Capcom bought the publishing rights to the second game. As their titles imply, both of these games are based on the G.I. Joe franchise that was at the peak of its popularity in the 1980s. Over the course of the 1980s, G.I. Joe had action figures, comics, an animated television series, and even an animated film. Like most popular properties, licensed video games were made based on it, the two most prominent ones being the aforementioned NES titles. Unlike most licensed games, however, the two G.I. Joe NES games are actually pretty good. While it's not quite as good as the previous game, G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor is still fairly solid.

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Generally, the premise of G.I. Joe is that it's the codename for an elite strike force consisting of personnel from all branches of the U.S. military. Their main mission is to fight an evil terrorist organization known as COBRA, led by the nefarious Cobra Commander, who wishes to conquer the world. One year ago, at the end of the previous NES game, the Joe team finally defeated Cobra Commander and destroyed his main base on an uncharted island in the Atlantic. Unknown to anyone at the time, however, that island was all that remained of the lost continent of Atlantis. After their defeat, the COBRA organization unearthed an ancient power source, and they discovered that they could use it to revive Cobra Commander! Upon revival, Cobra Commander tapped into the ancient power source to cause the lost continent of Atlantis to rise. He's now using it as a base of operations, rebuilding his forces in another attempt to conquer the world. Once again, it's up to the Joe team to stop him.

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Like the previous title, this game features a cast of characters taken directly from the G.I. Joe franchise. Members of the Joe team are referred to as "Joes," and each one has a unique codename. Some Joes return from the previous game, like General Hawk, Duke, and the ever popular Snake Eyes, but there are some new faces, such as the Navy SEAL Wet Suit, popular heavy machine gunner Roadblock, and the alliance switching ninja Storm Shadow, who typically works for COBRA, but occasionally assists the Joe team. You've also got Gung-Ho, Spirit, and Big Bear in supporting roles. Since Hawk does field duty in this game, your mission briefings are now handled by Stalker. A couple of prominent COBRA villains are also present, like Overkill, Cesspool, Firefly, Major Bludd, Destro, and of course, Cobra Commander himself. If you're a hardcore G.I. Joe fan, then this should be a boon for you, though you might not always recognize them due to the imprecise 8-bit visuals.

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Controlling a Joe out on the field is simple: you press left or right on the d-pad to walk left or right, down to duck, the A button to jump, and the B button to attack. You can switch between weapons, like hand-to-hand attacks, swords, and different guns by pressing the select button. This is like the previous game, but unlike before, you can't normally fire guns up or down. Also unlike the previous game, nobody can throw grenades anymore. Another big change this game brings about is the addition of multiple weapons. You start off with a simple machinegun, but will obtain new weapons after completing certain areas, such as a laser gun, pulse rifle, and missile launcher. All firearms do still have limited ammo, which is usually dropped by fallen enemies. While all firearms use ammo from the same pool, each one uses a different amount, like how the pulse rifle uses two rounds per shot, and the missile launcher uses four. Additionally, you can switch between certain special items by holding up and pressing select, and use them by holding down and pressing select. These special items include an orb thing that'll rotate around your character, damaging enemies until it gets destroyed.

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You only start with one playable Joe, but you can get more as you progress through the game. Whenever you complete certain areas, a new Joe will join your team. In addition to having life meters of varying lengths and different jumping heights, each playable Joe will have special abilities or attributes. For example, Wet Suit can dive and walk around underwater without losing life, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are the only two characters that can use swords, Roadblock can crawl under certain narrow passageways, and Duke is the only character in the game that can shoot up or down. Prior to starting stages, you're able to assemble a three member squad with any of the Joes that are currently on your team. While inside stages, you can switch between the three Joes by pressing start. There are also a couple of non-playable Joes that can join your team and will do something special when called via the radio, such as Spirit fully healing a Joe, Gung-Ho giving you 100 ammo, and Big Bear reviving a fallen comrade. However, radios get used up when you call for support, and they're limited.

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As with the last game, each character's gun skills can be leveled up to a maximum of level four by collecting power-ups. There are meters to show you how close you are to gaining a level this time, and they fill up by one tick every time you grab a "Pow." Since there are multiple guns this time around, you have to level up each gun skill individually. Leveling up a character's gun abilities will upgrade their gun attacks, such as making the machinegun do a Contra-like spread shot. Unlike the last game, a character's hand-to-hand abilities can now also be leveled up separately. Doing so not only increases damage output, but also allows your Joe to do new hand-to-hand moves, like uppercuts, standing kicks, flying kicks, and knee drops. These martial arts moves are all reminiscent of another KID developed NES game called KickMaster, which is likely where the inspiration came from. This also applies to the sword abilities of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. On top of all that, each Joe's life bar can be permanently extended by grabbing certain rare power-ups.

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Upon completing the initial area, you're able to select where you want to go next on a map. This is totally unlike the previous game, which had you do missions in a strict order. The map functions rather similarly to the NES Bionic Commando game made by Capcom in 1988. Everything on the map is divided into "routes" and "bases." Routes are extremely short, linear stages where you simply must fight your way through a bunch of enemy soldiers to get to the end, where you'll usually acquire a radio. Bases, on the other hand, have different objectives. One such objective, the one where you place bombs in marked spots, returns from the previous game. All the other objectives are new, however, like rescuing hostages, finding a keycard, and so on. Some of these bases are frustrating, though, like the ones where entering the wrong door sends you backwards, or the ones with confusing mazes. Routes and bases must only be beaten once; after that, you can go back and forth between them without playing them again. You don't have to completely clear the map to beat the game, but doing so will result in many rewards, so it's worth it.

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In the three man squad you've assembled, each Joe will have a separate life bar. If a Joe dies during a mission, you'll get sent back to the nearest checkpoint, where you'll be forced to try again with another Joe. Once all three of your Joes are down, it's Game Over. You can continue an unlimited amount of times, though, and you even retain all of your levels. However, you do lose all your radios and ammo. There are also passwords, but they're far more complicated this time around, so they're a major pain to use. Like with nearly all of KID's games, beating this game will take you to the next difficulty, for up to three times. You only get the best ending after beating the game a third time, but that's hardly worth it.

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Mechanically, this game is a lot more polished than the previous one, featuring multiple weapons, a better leveling system, and more objectives. The graphics and music are quite good, too, which is typical for a KID developed game. However, the stages and bosses are a step down. The regular stages are too flat and lacking in any discernible features, whereas the base stages get quite irritating later in the game with their maze-like designs. Some of the later stages are also recycled from earlier in the game. Also, once you get the laser gun, most of the bosses become a joke, even on the hardest difficulty. Despite those shortcomings, this is still a decent NES game, and is worth checking out even if you aren't a G.I. Joe fan.

Word Count: 1,592

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