Marvel’s Midnight Suns explores similar themes, characters, and territory as the forgotten PlayStation 2 game, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a noted departure from the franchise’s recent string of blockbuster action titles in favor of a grim, supernatural tactics game. From its diverse cast of characters to its unique gameplay, Midnight Suns leans away from the action-packed brawls of games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and instead finds its voice in the mystical side of the Marvel gaming catalog.
While Midnight Suns is a unique sidestep from what audiences typically expect, this isn’t the first time a Marvel video game has departed from the norm for something more experimental. Released in 2005 for PlayStation 2, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects was a collaboration between Electronic Arts and Marvel. It is a 1v1 fighting game with a surprisingly dark campaign story mode featuring a roster of major Marvel icons and introducing the “Imperfects,” a team of twisted original characters for the game. With their focus on less featured characters, remixing traditional gaming genres, and a dark twist on the Marvel heroes, both Midnight Suns and Marvel Nemesis tread surprisingly common ground.
Midnight Suns & Rise of the Imperfects’ Heroes Contrast the Traditional Roster
Midnight Suns and Marvel Nemesis both feature an unusual character roster. While the franchise stalwarts of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Wolverine feature in both, each game also has a more diverse lineup than comic fans can often hope for. With its story focused on the supernatural side of Marvel, Midnight Suns boasts a mystical cast featuring the X-Men’s Magik, The Runaways’ Nico Minoru, and the Robbie Reyes incarnation of Ghost Rider. With their film presence lacking, it’s exciting to see these magically powerful characters given the chance to shine to a broader gaming audience. Midnight Suns even introduces an original player character, The Hunter, serving as the gateway into this broader world of Marvel’s magical side. While the Hunter’s backstory is unique to the game and tied to the lore of its main villain, they thematically propel the greater Marvel heroes into this mystical setting.
Marvel Nemesis took this concept one step further, featuring eight original characters to fight against the classic Marvel Champions. Dubbed “The Imperfects,” these characters were failed experiments created to serve as warriors in a battle against an invading extraterrestrial force. These broken individuals had backstories that were explored through hybrid live action and animated cutscenes in the game. For instance, Faultzone was a Russian ballerina involved in a horrible accident who was rebuilt with the ability to generate earthquakes, while Brigade was a hulking monstrosity stitched together from the bodies of several fallen soldiers. These examples show how Imperfects serve as unique foils to the traditional Marvel roster.
Difficult Decisions Propel Both Marvel Games’ Narratives
Dark stories of difficult choices lie at the center of both games’ narratives. Midnight Suns focuses on the machinations of the evil Lilith and her attempt to corrupt and conquer the world. The Marvel heroes and the Hunter are forced to make difficult decisions in dealing with these powerful forces, often leading to a choice of the dark or the light. With allies like the Hulk and Scarlet Witch becoming Fallen enemies because of Lilith’s magic, it places the characters in a tough position to fight against their teammates.
The story of the Marvel Nemesis campaign opens with an alien invasion of New York City and the presumed deaths of Captain America, Hulk, and Punisher in the process. The gameplay then alternates between the roster of known surviving Marvel characters and the new Imperfects. When playing as the Imperfects, the player’s goal is often to terminate the known Marvel hero. While this leads to some exciting clashes for the player, it also creates the uneasy scenario of effectively killing off a beloved character. The level select zone even allowed the player to choose which hero they would target. While The Fantastic Four’s Thing serves as the tutorial’s playable character, only a few levels later, the player is tasked with hunting him as the vicious Imperfect Faultzone.
Experimental Gameplay Creates a Unique Legacy for Both Titles
While Midnight Suns remixes the tactics of games like XCOM or Fire Emblem with a superheroic twist, Marvel Nemesis sought to be a three-dimensional alternative to the flat side-scrolling fighters of the time. Both serve as unique experiments, trying out new modes of play while maintaining the legacy of the heroes at its center. Whether either is successful or not varies on the preferences of the players.
Both Midnight Suns and Rise of the Imperfects demonstrate what can be done when Marvel chooses to get weird. By breaking away from how these characters are presented in other popular games or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these alternative stories deepen what can be done with these heroes.