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(W)in Quarantine – Wii Will RoC You

In case you haven’t heard, Hasbro put all five parts of each of the first three GI Joe: A Real American Hero Sunbow miniseries up on YouTube.

To decode that, this is the best known GI Joe cartoon. The “knowing is half the battle” cartoon, the “he fights for freedom wherever there’s trouble, GI Joe is there” cartoon. I say that because there have been half a dozen GI Joe animated series over the years. Also, no, Hasbro didn’t put up the entire series, that would be 100 episodes, counting the when the 1987 G.I. Joe: The Movie was broken up into its own 5-part mini-series. This is the first 15 episodes. Released over three years as two miniseries and the 5-part opening of the first season of the animated series. 

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I know all this because I’m a big GI Joe fan. This is also why I was personally tagged in or directly sent links to various news sites talking about Hasbro releasing GI Joe cartoons.

Rise of Cobra

Which brings me to The Rise Of Cobra. Not the 2009 movie of that name, but the video game that was released on all major platforms. 

As I mentioned yesterday,  my copy is for the Wii. Surprisingly, this was the first console video game that my 5 year old, Scarlett, was able to play and keep up with. She’s watched a little GI Joe here and there, but she mostly knows it as all of the toys in my office and that it has something to do with where she got her name. Still, she was willing to give it a try even after games that I thought would hold her attention -Lego Batman and Bubble Bobble, mainly- didn’t. 

This game was murdered by the critics when it came out. Which is unfortunate, because I loved it. This is my second time playing through it and 11 years did nothing to hurt how fun I find it. 

RoC For Kids

First of all, that 16+ classification on the package is a joke. Yes, it’s beginning to end a game about shooting, but there’s no dismemberment or blood, and death is basic video game stuff. You shoot bad guys who are unphased by it until they can’t get shot anymore. Then they fall down and disappear. Saying this game is 16+ for violence is like if it was 16+ for language because Duke does say “damn” pretty early on. 

GI JOE characters list for the The Rise of Cobra game - Video ...

The game play is extremely simple. Joystick moves. Trigger shoots. The Casual difficulty has autotarget on. So all my daughter had to do was hold the trigger to get the feeling that she was accomplishing something. Shacking the Wiimote is a melee attack. That let me slowly introduce new buttons to her as the game introduced new mechanics. Cover. Special attacks. Vehicles were tough for her, but they only show up occasionally. 

There’s constantly something to do, it’s always clear what to do and where to go. The visual and sound effects are engaging and satisfying. This might be the best voice cast GI Joe has seen since the 80s. The graphics haven’t aged, but this is the Wii. Even at its height, it was the console that deprioritized graphics. She didn’t seem to mind.

RoC For A Fan

One of the reviews that was especially harsh on Rise of Cobra ended saying they feel bad for GI Joe fans who saw their first real shot at a good game miss. I do not understand what motivated that conclusion, because this game is a love letter to GI Joe. 

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RoC interpretation of the classic SNAKE Armour

The soundtrack is lifted from the Sunbow series. Not just the theme song, but the full soundtrack. Nothing tickled my nostalgia like levels concluding with the dramatic beat normally accompanied by “And now back to GI Joe”.

The Rise of Cobra game succeeds in so many areas I felt the movie failed. One of the strengths of GI Joe to me was the depth of the cast of characters. The GI Joe cartoon held the record for most unique characters to have a speaking role in more than one episode until The Simpsons, and it took The Simpsons a few more seasons to do what GI Joe did in four. So for the movie to focus on so few Joes was a disappointment, as was the blandness of the designs. Here’s a page from a Rise of Cobra colouring book, side-by-side with only the tiles that are neither meant to be black or left uncoloured. 

In the game, the black armour is supplemented with green or grey camo, greater contrast to the armour plates, and accessories. Every character has a distinct silhouette, is easier to recognize at a glance, and just looks better than they did in the movie. If they were in the movie. A bunch of characters from across the decades of the Real American Hero line are incorporated, with classic characters like Shipwreck and Gung Ho next to then new characters like Kamakura and Helix. Conspicuously absent are Roadblock, Flint, and Lady Jaye, the three main characters of GI Joe Retaliation. I think it’s safe to assume these characters were purposely left out because there were plans for them in the sequel movie and they didn’t want to derail continuity so flagrantly. 

G.I. Joe Rise Of Cobra Video Game Extras Preview -
Filecards for the playable characters and excessive number of cameos that make the Joes feel like not just a team, but a familiar team for fans.

Speaking of continuity, the game is a sequel to the movie, but to an earlier version of the movie’s ending. If you don’t remember, Rise of Cobra ends with Duke and Baroness squaring off against Cobra Commander, who says “you and what army?” in reply to Duke’s threat to stop him. To a soldier. Whose army is currently destroying his base. In an earlier draft (the only that was used for the novelization as well, I believe), the Baroness never changes sides and Cobra Commander gets away. So the game starts with Baroness escaping from the Joes’ custody. How? Using the MASS Device, the teleportation device/mcguffin at the heart of the original animated miniseries (available to watch for free on Hasbro’s youTube, if you haven’t heard).

RoC For You

This is not a game I expect people to rush out and get for themselves, but it’s one I enjoyed at the time, still enjoy, and love that I now have something GI Joe to share with my daughter. 2020 is still looking like a big year for GI Joe, with well-reviewed new toys coming out, a movie still scheduled for October, and a lot of buzz around access to the cartoon at a time when people need home entertainment. If you have a Wii lying around (and a bunch of spare AA batteries), I recommend you bust it out for a little nostalgia and variety. And if you happen to have Rise of Cobra, throw that in and see if it’s better than you remember.