As you may know, Injustice: Gods Among Us released recently, pitting super heroes and villains from the DC Comics universe into a side-scrolling fighting game. Some may compare it to Mortal Kombat, but with a lot more flashy moves and finer mechanisms, it really is its own game. We wrote an enthusiastic review about it here.
One of the key elements in the game is the story campaign that lets players take on a series of characters, both good and bad, in an epic tale that spans over multiple universes. In it, one of the pivotal characters is Aquaman. That’s right; the guy who is known to talk to fish is a playable character, a mandatory one even. It doesn’t sound like much. However, fish communication is the furthest thing on the mind of this game. The underwater hero travels to his own kingdom of Atlantis and when all the chips are down, he commands attention; demands autonomy against an oppressive regime. Later, he’ll conjure even bigger feats to prove his worth.
Furthermore, the man himself looks impressive; threatening to a degree even. His sharply spiked gear gets complimented with scaled armor, resting on his broad shoulders. More so, he is the holder of a powerful trident and a mean death stare. This is a stark contrast of other popular media where the king is painted as a wimp. In Injustice, Aquaman is a man to be feared. A mainstream game is just what the doctor ordered.
Other mainstream projects have made our fisherman the fool. Anyone who has picked up on reference heavy shows has probably seen one or more episode of Family Guy where the man is ridiculed. Often in this series, he is depicted as being a lazy, passive person with no real memorable skill. Either he is of no contribution whatsoever or he just talks to fishes or he is even mocked by other heroes. In one unsavory rape joke, a helpless Aquaman stays in the sea and throws starfishes at a man forcing a woman on the beach.
Mockery is even more frequent in the comic, nerd culture reference reel Robot Chicken. Here, depicted with classic action figures, Aquaman is the butt of every joke as voice overs provided by Seth Green and pals play heroic elitism among their favorite heroes. He is given an effeminate voice to expose his weaker, whinier side. Even in Robot Chicken’s DC Special, where Aquaman plays a central theme, he is on the losing side for the gross majority of the time.
That isn’t to say that all media represents him pejoratively. In the DC Comics realm itself, Aquaman is a character with a long tradition and many depictions, some bolder than the other. For instance, some of his most rugged appearances include slimy swashbuckler looks or even a version where one of his hands is replaced with a stabbing hook. That’s without the illustrations of him with beards and bulky muscles. However, even if some of these characters appear on Cartoon Network on shows like Justice League Unlimited, they do have a limited outreach.
That’s where Injustice: Gods Among Us comes in. It’s a DC inspired world, certainly, but the main theme here is punching each other in the face and that’s something any console owner can enjoy. At the very least, it will attract people that enjoy punching, but don’t necessarily enjoy comic books. It’s in this broadened appeal that DC has cleverly turned Aquaman into a juggernaut with clever gameplay elements to boot. His power comes from a balance between two styles that benefit the player immensely. On one hand, his move set is small, with only half a dozen moves to remember. This lets players pick up and play with the man of water much faster than those convoluted schemes. On the other side, each of his moves pack an incredible punch, eating tons of damage with each blow. So, not only are there not a lot of moves to get used to, but every mastered skill devastates the competition.
Lastly, while perhaps not an absolute favorite for just anyone, Aquaman’s super move is both incredibly brutal and effective. As he uses his trident to pick up his opponent, he then sends forth a huge shark to gobble up his enemy. He literally feeds his pet shark with a fork, except the food is a super hero. Not only that, but the animation doesn’t take a million years like others. Its payoff is immediate and grand. That, combined with his already strong appeal and confident stance in the storyline, makes Aquaman a fighter who will quickly climb ranks in players' esteem. Perhaps it will even break the stigma of his limited ability, which does present itself in the story as well, to bring to the forefront what makes him a legacy in the comics. If his Marvel counterpart Namor can pull that off, then there’s no reason he can’t as well. Injustice: Gods Among Us is the first step to a better life for Aquaman. All hail the ruler of Atlantis!