G.I. Joe The Arcade Game
G.I. Joe The Arcade Game. KONAMI. RELEASED 1992.
Today’s arcade review is G.I Joe The Arcade Game, released by Konami in 1992, based on Hasbro’s toy and cartoon franchise
Now, as a fan of retro toys and having read somewhat into the background and boardroom tactics used by toy companies, I understand how important marketing was to toy companies in this period, particularly as G.I Joe was competing in an arena with some of the greatest toy franchises ever created. G.I. Joe The Arcade Game was released in 1992 and was the last in several franchised G.I Joe games to be released on consoles and home computers of the time. I believe this place in the history of G.I Joe video games and its release time in the franchise explains why this game functions as it does.
Firstly, in terms of characterisation and storyline the game does justice to the toy line it was spawned from. By this time the line had been about for ten years and the game refreshes the mind to some of the best figures, toys and playsets released. You can play as four major characters (Duke, Scarlet, Roadblock and Snake Eyes) who play similarly but do have individual voices, sprite movement and targets that add some individuality. The game works through three main missions culminating in a showdown with Cobra Commander. On the way you encounter a plethora of G.I Joe vehicles and characters. F.A.N.G. helicopters blast you from the air as Destro launches missiles at you from the Cobra Water Moccasin. Every stage and mission ends in a showdown with a G.I. Joe villain in one of the toy line’s many vehicles. It is a G.I. Joe fanboy’s dream.
Or it would be if not for the gameplay. This is probably a contender for one of the weirdest executions in a game. For some reason the player is behind the character, as in games like Outrun or Afterburner. This works well when in a linear driving game, but you are not, you are playing as a human character. The player is concurrently moving the character from left to right to avoid being hit while also moving a crosshair for shooting around the top of the screen. This is all with one joystick. This proves troublesome.
Weirdly, your character also just constantly runs forward into anything that comes at them. Explosions, missiles, Cobra Henchman, whatever you see. You just run at them. Don’t worry if a battalion of Cobra troopers are running at you either. If they hit the bottom of your screen and you have not shot them, they just vanish. The destructible terrain is a really nice touch as your can blast down pretty much anything in your way. However, the odd execution means that if you run into something not previously destroyed, it just falls down.
It is unclear why the game format was a rail gunner. At this time Konami also released games like Bucky O’Hare and Asterix that were 2-D scrolling side shooters. I believe this would have been a better choice of format. However, it may have been that this simply allowed more inclusivity for the toy line. In the game you encounter vehicles based on water, air and land and it may have been hard to lock these into a ground-based format like a 2-D side scroller. One option could have been to vary the sub levels, putting the player in control of the G.I. Joe vehicles. On my first play I thought this was going to happen but it never did. All I had was disappointment with the prospect of another mission based around running at stuff.
In summary, G.I Joe The Arcade Game is a great nostalgia trip if you are a fan of the toy line and grew up with the cartoon. I was not a massive fan but even I thought the characters and vehicles were cool as I went through the missions. However, the game itself is lacklustre, confusing and repetitive. The original arcade cabinet allowed for four players at once and I shudder to think how confusing it must be to navigate the controls and epileptic action on screen with four of you playing at once.
Worth thirty minutes of your time, more if you are a G.I Joe fan.
Many thanks to the following sources for images and help with dates. Also a big thanks to my trusty cabinet for letting me play one lazy Saturday morning.
If you are a G.I. Joe fan also check out episode 4 of Netflix documentary ‘The Toys That Made Us’ for a fascinating history on G.I. Joe