The Punisher (1993 video game)
U.S. flyer for the arcade game
Sculptured Software (port)
Marvel Entertainment and Capcom USA (port)
April 22, 1993
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up|
|Mode(s)||Single-player, 2-player co-op|
|Arcade system||CPS-1 + QSound|
|Display||Raster, 384 x 224 pixels (horizontal), 4096 colors|
The Punisher (パニッシャー) is a 1993 beat 'em up arcade game developed and released by Capcom. The game stars the Marvel Comics' anti-hero and ruthless vigilante the Punisher and co-stars S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury as the second player's character as they embark on a mission to kill the crime lord the Kingpin and bring down his global organization. Along the way, they engage on various foes and stage bosses in brutal melee combat.
The Punisher gained a significant popularity in the arcades and was acclaimed by critics, being often regarded as one of the best titles in the beat 'em genre. A Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) version was developed by Sculptured Software and published by Capcom USA and Marvel Entertainment in 1994.
The game follows the same side-scrolling beat'em up formula Capcom established in Final Fight. Much in the same way that Capcom's Cadillacs and Dinosaurs did when released that same month (April 1993), the game distinguishes itself by the frequent use of several firearms (the Ingram submachine gun, the M16 rifle and an improvised flamethrower), along with the traditional melee and thrown weapons (including baseball bats, hammers, knives, Japanese swords and shuriken), as well as improvised weapons (such as lead pipes and car tires).
Unlike in Final Fight, the Punisher and Nick Fury's size, abilities, and tactics are essentially interchangeable; they both use the same punch, kick, throw, and special piledriver and "megacrush" attacks. There are also several sections of the game in which the characters draw their handguns enabling the player to shoot the enemies. The game is presented in a comic book-like style, including featuring on-screen onomatopoeias such as "BLAM!" for gunshots.
Plot and characters
The game begins in an illegal casino and the streets of the New York City, with the Punisher (optionally partnered with Nick Fury) in a pursuit of the Mafia enforcer Bruno Costa; the chase ends with a fight against Chester Scully (a minor villain from the comics). Still on track of Bruno, the Punisher infiltrates the mob's Pantaberde resort via a water duct and breaks into a hotel where he finally corners Bruno, who is then killed during a boss battle with Doctor Doom-provided robot Guardroid.
The Punisher then conducts a raid on a major drug smuggling ring at a harbor, which ends in a fight against Bonebreaker in a waterfront warehouse. After that, the Punisher attacks the Kingpin's poppy field in an underground cave in Arizona, where he boards and destroys the freight train that is commanded by Bushwhacker.
At that point, the Kingpin decides that he has lost enough of his henchmen and "businesses" to the Punisher's actions. He issues a big price for the Punisher's head, who then needs to escape from his hideout through a forest, pursued by assassins. After defeating another Guardroid, the Punisher in turn assaults the King Building skyscraper and fights his way to the final showdown against the Kingpin himself. After the Kingpin is defeated, the entire tower collapses, but his body is not found among the many dead criminals in the rubble.
Besides the protagonists and the bosses, the game features a collection of other characters. Common villains the players confront during the course of the game range from street punk thugs, to the Tommygun-wielding mobsters and machinegun-toting mercenaries, to the kunoichi ninja women with special powers and color-coded costumes (like in Mortal Kombat II). Marvel Comics characters Pretty Boy and Jigsaw are included among the strong regular enemies (as a cyborg and a gunman). The Punisher's aide in the game is Microchip, while Nick Fury is aided by Alexander Pierce and Kate Neville. The Ryu-like karateka enemy Yan Lee's name is a tribute to the Marvel comic artist Stan Lee.
Development and release
The Punisher was directed by Noritaka Funamizu (credited as "Poo") and co-designed by Akira Yasuda, better known as "Akiman". Yoko Shimomura wrote the majority of its music score, with contributions from Isao Abe. The game was released in the Japanese arcades in April 1993. Its ROM contains an unfinished bonus stage aboard an airplane, along with some other unused resources such as Bruno's fight sprites. Music from the game was included on the soundtrack CD Tenchi wo Kurau II -The Battle of Red Wall- ~ G.S.M. Capcom 7, released by Pony Canyon in 1993.
A home port of The Punisher was released for the gaming console Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) in North America in 1994 and for the PAL region Mega Drive in 1995. This version, while published by Capcom, was developed by Sculptured Software. In addition to the worse graphics and sound, lesser variety of enemies, and a smaller amount of objects on screen than in the original, many of the previously breakable background objects were rendered unbreakable due to the limitations of the Genesis' hardware. There is also some content censorship in this version (it includes the animation of cigar smoking by Fury being removed from the game, female ninja enemies with skimpy armor becoming fully clothed, and the first level's boss character Scully not being shot following his interrogation but instead just thrown off screen).
HonestGamers gave the arcade game a review score of 9/10, stating: "Packing an extraordinary amount of cheesy, comic book flair, The Punisher is brimming with brutality, exuding of machismo, and yet quirky enough to keep everything from reaching too serious a note." According to a more critical review in Game Stalker, the game managed to surpass the Streets of Rage series in some aspects, like diversity of items and some boss battles, but overally did not reached the quality that the series be able to achieve. Reacting to the news of it being included in the 2012 art book Marvel vs. Capcom: Official Complete Works, Patrick Macias wrote: "I’ll confess my heart skipped a beat when I read 'The Punisher arcade game', the legacy of a misspent youth and countless tokens whittled away at Chuck E. Cheese."
Over the years and decades, the arcade version of The Punisher was included in numerous video game top lists by various publications. This "ridiculously over the top brawler" was ranked as the fifth best 1980s/1990s coin-op classic arcade beat 'em up by RetroCollect and as number one retro beat 'em up game by Arcade Sushi, who stated that "in terms of pure enjoyment, ingenuity, control, and graphics, The Punisher is the Best Retro Beat 'Em Up of all time," as well included among the best looking beat 'em up games from the 16-bit era by Kotaku Australia. It was also ranked as the tenth top greatest superhero game ever by IGN in 2010, who noted it "was pretty brutal for its time," and as the fifth top Marvel arcade game by iFanboy that same year. In 2011, WhatCulture! rated it as number one best comic book arcade game, calling it "above and beyond all other arcade adaptations of comic books and their heroes." In 2013, Heavy.com listed among the top beat 'em up games of all time, stating: "Thank the gaming gods that Capcom handled the creation of this one."
As of August 2013, the Genesis port of The Punisher holds an averaged rating of 73.33% at GameRankings, including the review scores of 6/10 from Electronic Gaming Monthly and 7/10 from HonestGamers. VideoGames gave the game their review rating of 7/10, calling it "a decent exercise in vigilante mayhem" that is "surprisingly fun, yet fairly standard game." Retro Game Age awarded it six stars out of ten, opining that "Capcom did a decent job of porting the game" but "could have done better, especially considering the work done on Super Street Fighter 2."
- "The Punisher". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 06OCT2013.
- Black Belt July 1995 (page 99).
- "Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine: Gameplay". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "The Punisher || Items". Arcadequartermaster.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "The Punisher review (Miscellaneous) by Winston Wolf". Honestgamers.com. 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine: Characters". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "The Punisher || Characters". Arcadequartermaster.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "The Punisher || Stages & Bosses". Arcadequartermaster.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "the punisher (cp-s no. 26) video game, capcom co., ltd. (1993)". Arcade-history.com. 1993-08-20. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "Return to the War/First Strike -Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Raid on Pantaberde/Assault on Pantaberde -Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Waterfront Warfare/Tricks and Traps -Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Death on Rails/Next Stop, Destruction -Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Kingpin's Wrath/The Wrath and the Fury -Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Final Punishment/Final Verdict -Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "The Punisher: videojuego arcade (1993)". Siguealconejoblanco.com. 2013-07-13. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Crossover: The Punisher Arcade Game". GayGamer.net. 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "The Punisher || Enemies". Arcadequartermaster.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine: FAQ". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "The Punisher (Arcade) -Rage Quitter 87's Prototype Pages". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "Game Music :: Tenchi wo Kurau II The Battle of Red Wall ~ G.S.M. Capcom 7 :: Album Information". Squareenixmusic.com. 1993-08-20. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Rage Quitter 87's Punisher shrine: SEGA Genesis Version". Rq87.flyingomelette.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Josh Richardson. "Top Five Marvel Arcade Games". iFanboy. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Gerald Wurm (2012-01-26). "Punisher, The (Comparison: SEGA Genesis Version - Arcade CPS Version)". Movie-Censorship.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Damen, Pepijn (2013-05-22). "Klapper Woensdag – The Punisher". Gamestalker.nl. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- Patrick Macias (2012-07-10). ""Marvel vs. Capcom: Official Complete Works" Book to Debut at San Diego Comic-Con". Crunchyroll. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Barrie Wilmot (2012-09-05). "5 Of The Best 80’s & 90’s Coin-Op Classic Arcade Beat ‘Em Ups". RetroCollect. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Jon Ledford (2013-05-30). "10 Best Retro Beat ‘Em Ups". Arcadesushi.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- Gergo Vas (2013-03-13). "The Best Looking Beat ‘em Up Games From The 16-Bit Era | Kotaku Australia". Kotaku.com.au. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- News & Features Team (May 15, 2007). "Top 10 Tuesdays: Greatest Superhero Games - IGN". Uk.ign.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- David Hawkins (2011-09-04). "10 Top Comic Book Arcade Games". Whatculture.com. Retrieved 2013-10-15.
- "The Top 25 Beat 'Em Up Video Games - Part 2". HEAVY. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "The Punisher for Genesis". GameRankings. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Video Games The Ultimate Gaming Magazine 77 (June 1995) page 84.
- Sayewonn. "The Punisher review". Retrogameage.com. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- The Punisher at MobyGames
- The Punisher at GameFAQs
- The Punisher entry at Marvel.com
- The Punisher fan site (arcadequartermaster.com)
- The Punisher fan site (flyingomelette.com)