When thinking of the Justice League, the most popular characters people think of are Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Batman has had his share of video games with games like Batman Begins, Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, and Batman Vengeance. Superman hasn’t had many video games, but the track record of the games featuring the Man of Steel has been abysmal. Wonder Woman has only recently been in Justice League Heroes, but with a Wonder Woman movie in the works, it’s likely she’ll get her due soon.
Instead of trying to recreate a similar experience as its home console counterparts, Warner Brothers took a different direction with the GBA. They decided to create an entirely new experience focused on one character. The result is Justice League Heroes: The Flash.
The GBA doesn’t have as much horsepower as any of the other systems currently on the market, so the graphics aren’t going to be that impressive. The graphics for The Flash are still impressive for the system. The costume is recreated accurately, down to the wings over the ears and the lightning bolt on the chest. When the Flash moves regularly, he runs at a normal speed. You can see him swing his arms to punch and raise his leg to kick. When the Flash moves in hyperspeed mode between multiple enemies in a pinball-like attack, a trail of red follows behind him. The further away the trail is, the more faded the red is. While this doesn’t sound like a huge deal, it really gives you a sense of how fast the Flash is moving.
The Flash does have a separate power that makes him move incredibly fast, causing time around him to slow down and get in a large number of punches and kicks. During this time, the screen shakes a bit, giving you an impression of how Flash sees time when moving faster than a regular mortal.
The graphics are varied from level to level. While you might be fighting in a city for one level, you’ll find yourself fighting off different enemies on Themyscira, the home island of Wonder Woman. While some of the enemies are the exact same model with different color scheme, the numbers are varied enough between levels that you don’t mind how generic the characters look on the same level.
The enemies aren’t as well animated, but they still look good for a GBA game. When in the shaking mode, you can see how the characters are animated frame-by-frame. It might have been nice to have a few more frames for the enemies to get a better idea of how quickly the Flash is moving, but during normal movements the frames are adequate.
The music in The Flash is heroic like you might expect. The tempo is upbeat and does a good job setting up the feel for the game, just like a heroic theme should. Bosses have a bit of mystery behind them, so the music shifts to a more mysterious tone then.
The sound effects do their job. When swinging punches or landing kicks you hear each hit. The different flame attacks burn. Lightning attacks sizzle. They aren’t anything really new, but they do their job well to convey the attacks.
What’s most impressive about the sound is the number of phrases you can actually hear said by the Flash. When starting a new mission briefing you hear him say “Flash here.” He also makes comments while fighting and running around. He does repeat the same phrases at different times, but they never get so repetitive that they get annoying.
Moving the Flash could be difficult because of how fast he can move around. The developers have done a good job in making the Flash easy to control. Movement is handled with the D-pad. Holding A and moving the D-pad locks onto an enemy. Continuously holding down the A while moving the D-pad gives the Flash a pinball-like attack. Pushing B jumps while hitting A and B performs a jump kick. Holding down B and then moving Up then Down on the D-pad performs a Ground Pound, and holding B and moving in a full circle on the D-pad performs a whirlwind around the enemy. Hitting R enters and exits the Flash’s Speed mode. All of these moves are easy to pull off except for the Ground Pound, even with the D-pad. Still, there are times when it’s hard to get lined up in just the right position to hit an enemy, causing you to lose your window of opportunity to attack.
While the game focuses on the Flash, you aren’t alone in your super hero duties. Hitting the L button summons help from one of your fellow Justice League members like Superman or the Green Arrow. This gives you one screen-clearing attack. You do need to time it well so the attack is effective though.
The Flash is reminiscent of old side-scrollers where you moved slowly through a level defeating enemies and facing a boss at the end. While The Flash follows a similar formula, several differences help to differentiate The Flash from older side-scrollers.
Before each level, you see a short three or four cell comic-style mission summary. In the summary you usually see the Flash interacting with another character. The text is displayed at the bottom of the screen. When moving from one scene to the next the cells move into position, giving the game a true comic book feel.
The maps that you have are all varied, and you are able to move just about any place on the map. There are times when you won’t be able to move forward on the map until you have defeated enemies in that area. This can mean you fight against enemies that aren’t on the screen. Most of the time the enemies are visible on screen though.
Most of the enemies you fight only have melee attacks, but some actually have ranged attacks. When you get close enough to one you can continue hitting them, but they can fight back while you are hitting them. A few enemies can only be hit at specific times, so you need to plan your attacks of those enemies wisely.
The enemies do have a pack mentality in the game. They work to gang up around the Flash. You won’t have too much of an issue dispatching them most of the time, but that doesn’t mean that the levels are easy. However, going up against the bosses in the game are much more difficult than the other sections. It would have been nicer for some of the difficulty to be a bit more gradual.
The biggest differentiation from other games like this is the super powers. For instance, in the Speed Mode time slows down and the Flash is able to perform moves faster than normal. Whirlwinds trap a single enemy where they stand and perform multiple attacks. Locking onto an enemy and attacking from the length of the screen away or bouncing from one enemy to another in rapid succession are great abilities for the Flash to have. All of these cost energy though, and energy replenishes slowly unless you find an icon to fully replenish it. You find these by breaking objects on the level. These powers really give the game a unique twist that helps to make the game much more fun than other beat-‘em-up games.
Also, calling in the other members of the Justice League can give you an upper hand. They include Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, and Black Canary. You can’t control their actions, but they can give you the upper hand when you find yourself in trouble.
Since this is a GBA game, you’ll find it to be cheaper than the Nintendo DS games on the shelf. While the game isn’t long, it does provide a good challenge and it will take some effort to complete the game. Still, it will take quite a few gaming sessions to complete the game.
There isn’t any kind of multiplayer aspect of the game. While it might have been nice to hook up two GBAs together and have a second player join the fight, it would have been difficult to concentrate on the single-player game on the GBA.While the number of new games on the GBA is diminishing quickly, Justice League Heroes: The Flash is a great addition to the GBA library. While it doesn’t have the graphics of the DS or PSP, it has a lot of fun gameplay in its favor. You also have the fact that it’s a little less expensive than DS or PSP games and that you can play it on your Nintendo DS. While some of the other super hero games have fallen far short, you might be surprised by what The Flash has to offer.