Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects, Electronic Arts' new fighting game, has already appeared on the Xbox, PS2, GameCube, and PSP. Next up for the Nemesis treatment is the Nintendo DS, a portable system with very different capabilities from those other four platforms. The DS's touch screen and voice-recognition features present a lot of interesting gameplay opportunities, which, if used correctly, can more than make up for the portable's lack of graphical horsepower and analog control. Alas, that isn't at all the case here. Instead, Marvel Nemesis on the DS makes very poor use of the unique abilities of the hardware, and the unfortunates who decide to rent or buy this game will be stuck with nothing more than a filthy, horribly buggy version of an already middling game.
On the DS, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects' story goes from heavily garbled to completely incomprehensible. There are a few cartoon panels between each mission, but they never consist of more than two sentences of grammatically incorrect text. The basic facts are that The Imperfects, six superpowered thugs in the employ of evil genius Niles Van Roekel, are out to cause trouble in New York City so the boss can get his hands on a heavily guarded suit of alien armor...or something along those lines. In any case, there's ample excuse for Marvel's superheroes, led by crowd favorites Spider-Man, Iron Man, Elektra, and The Thing, to go up against the nasty ol' Imperfects in a series of one-on-one battles. The battles take place in fully destructible environments that are heavily seeded with objects you can turn into convenient missiles or bludgeons, all at the touch of a button.
It's a chore to wring any kind of entertainment out of Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects. This is partly because you must play through the game's arcade mode endlessly to unlock content. You only start with two playable characters: Wolverine and The Human Torch. All other content--including characters, concept art, arenas, and alternate costumes--cost "battle points," which you earn by trashing one CPU-controlled opponent after another as fast as you can. Occasionally the game will offer you a chance to wager battle points on an upcoming fight, but you never know when you'll get this opportunity, and you can only bet a maximum of 500 points on a battle, which is a fairly trivial amount. Unlocking Daredevil, for instance, costs 8,000 battle points. It's also possible to wager points during a multiplayer battle.
Marvel Nemesis' gameplay doesn't compare favorably to any of the other versions of the game, let alone any competing games on the Nintendo DS. The controls have gone from simplistic to cretinous. You can toggle auto-aim using the left shoulder button, but there's no reason to ever take it off, because there's no point to free-running around the level to pick up and throw objects. Furthermore, the game's environmental attacks have gone from somewhat overpowered to completely useless. Furthermore, your lock-on function reacts far too slowly to your opponent's movement. If you're in the middle of an attack and your enemy shifts to your left or right, your character won't adjust accordingly, as it takes a heavy fraction of a second for him or her to awkwardly pivot in place to face the right direction again.
The touch screen's primary use is to activate your character's motion and flight powers, which have no real use in this game, even on the multitiered levels. This is because you can fall any distance without suffering any damage, and your opponent will follow you wherever you go. Sometimes one of the characters will fall off a tall building, causing the game to pause for a few seconds before simply resetting the battle on the roof. Usually, all you need to do to win is maneuver the bad guy in to a corner so you can beat him to a pulp using your regular combo attack. You can also use the touch screen to perform your character's single finishing move by tapping in an elementary combo at the end of a match.
It's quite obvious that Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects didn't receive adequate play testing before its release. It's simply riddled with graphical, artificial-intelligence, and hit-detection glitches. Yes, most of the walls and floors are destructible, but they also have a nasty habit of disappearing at odd times so that your character appears to be standing on thin air. The CPU isn't much good at attacking you in any fashion, but every once in a while, CPU opponents will just start attacking a corner of the screen, even if you're standing in the middle of it. At a few points, we were even able to toss an enemy through a solid wall, or out of the screen entirely (the match went another 50 seconds before we won by default).
Marvel Nemesis is not a good-looking game by the standards of the Nintendo DS. Most of the neat lighting tricks from the other versions have been dispensed with, as have a large portion of the character animations. What's left is a blurry hash of strange-looking combat, weak explosions, smoke and particle effects, and bland skeletal environments. Whatever visual élan and comic-book styling this game possessed on other platforms is gone. The sound is very mediocre for this type of game, and the effects are perhaps even a little understated. In any case, they're a pretty quotidian collection of beat-'em-up thumps, bashes, and breaking glass.
Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects shouldn't have been made for the Nintendo DS. The system doesn't have the capabilities to display the other versions' main strengths, which lie in their graphics and online multiplayer modes. Add this to the fact that this game is clearly an unfinished product (that still costs $35), and you've got a real lemon on your hands. Don't buy, rent, or otherwise play this game. You'll regret it.