Justice League: Task Force (SEGA Genesis)

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A fighting game with DC Comics characters.

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Image source: mobygames.com

Analysis

  • A Development Mystery

    'Justice League: Task Force' is a DC Comics fighting game for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo, a spiritual predecessor to Injustice: Gods Among Us, if you will.

    The game itself is less interesting than the story that seems to emerge from the credits listing. That story involves two famous developers working in parallel on two games with the same title and concept, with the involvement of a publisher that went bankrupt before the game came out.

    Both developers are legends of the game industry, and they would undergo a big change the year after this game came out.

    Fraud and Bankruptcy

    This game was published by Acclaim Entertainment, a prolific publisher that started in 1984, publishing games of varying quality for the NES, and was shut down in 2004 due to securities fraud. However, this game was published in 1995, when they were still going strong.

    On the title screen, we find a copyright notice by Sun Corporation of America, the US branch of Japanese company Sunsoft. Sunsoft developed and published a bunch of games that included the DC Comics license, such as Superman for the Genesis, the two good NES Batman games, and several more.

    However, even though the credits list staff from Acclaim, noone from Sunsoft is present. I started wondering what their involvement had been.

    According to segaretro.org, the game came out early 1995. The timing is interesting, because Sun Corporation of America went bankrupt in February 1995 after having lost millions on golf course investments in Palm Springs. So, around the same time as the release of this game.

    A possible explanation for the Sunsoft name being in the game could be that they had the original publishing rights, which Acclaim could have bought after Sunsoft saw the writing on the wall. Of course, this is pure speculation.

    Blizzard and Condor

    On the title screen, it says 'Developed by Condor, Inc.', a name that wasn't immediately familiar to me. As I was first researching the developer, I noticed that there was a SNES version that came out at the same time - with the same publishing credits, but a different developer. The developer was none other than Blizzard Entertainment. In fact, the SNES version has many key developers in common with WarCraft: Orcs & Humans, which came out the year before, sharing producers, artists, and composer.

    So, after learning that Blizzard was involved, I was even more curious about who 'Condor, Inc.' were. I could never have guessed that 'Condor, Inc.' was the previous name of Blizzard North! In fact, this version of Justice League was created by developers from the Diablo team, including programmer David Brevik, art by the Schaefer brothers, and music by Matt Uelmen.

    So we have the Warcraft team on the SNES Justice League game, and the Diablo team on the Genesis Justice League game.

    Condor, Inc. was purchased by Blizzard the year after this game came out. Condor was based in San Mateo, California, and the company that would buy them was in Irvine, California, a 7-hour drive away.

    Different Developers, Different Games

    A closer look at the SNES and Genesis games reveals something surprising: one is not a port of the other, as I would have expected. Rather, they are different games!

    The concept is the same: a Justice League fighting game, but that is where the similarities end. The two games have different sprite art, different backgrounds, and different gameplay.

    So, Acclaim would have these two California-based teams working on two different games with the same title and game concept, without ever hooking up and sharing a single sprite or background.

    Making new fighting games is hard, I don't know how this seemed like a good idea for Acclaim.

    I would love to hear the full story, it has all the elements for great business drama: a well-known license, two legendary companies, bankruptcy, and the mystery of two different games with the same title.

Log entries

    2023-12-01
  • This is a fighting game! Seems to have a few Street Fighter-esque moves, but I can't find that many.


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