Ah, 1991. The pivotal moment when Chris Claremont handed the pen over to Jim Lee (with Claremont’s help at first). It seemed a good time for a change. The mid to late eighties era of X-Men comics were not quite up to the same standards as they were in the late 70s and early 80s (according to many), with legendary stories such as the Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past (if you are not up to snuff on these stories, pick up books 1 and 2 of the inexpensive Marvel Essential Series (the books are in black and white, but they are as thick as phone books).
Sure good threads could be found as the eighties moved onward, but something seemed to be missing for the most part when Byrne left as illustrator. With standards as high as the Claremont/Byrne team so early on, it became difficult to please the fans. Needless to say, it was time for another hit thread. And that thread would be called “Mutant Genesis.” X-Men’s popularity again soared. A hit cartoon followed, featuring stories based on Jim Lee’s new comics. People of ALL ages were tuning in to watch this Saturday morning cartoon.
As expected, X-Men video games hit the scene. As with many TV licensed games, many were mediocre at best. Hey, it happens. People want to cash in quick when a piece of media garners this kind of attention. Thankfully, there are exceptions (such as N64′s Goldeneye, Gamecube’s Rogue Leader, or True Lies for the SNES). Another exception was 1994′s X-Men Mutant Apocalypse for Super Nintendo.
X-Men Mutant Apocalypse was made with the same skill and craft as any other Capcom game at the time (such as Street Fighter II or Mega Man X). It took on Jim Lee’s then modern “look” just as the cartoon did. It was a full 16 megs of action and set several new standards. For example, rather than have a brainless beat’em up like their own Final Fight series, they incorporated Street Fighter style moves into the game complete with complex controller motions! Suddenly, special moves in this type of game required some real skill and finesse to pull off (unlike Final Fight‘s pile driver for example). Being skilled at Ryu’s Dragon Punch and fireball, I was able to pull off moves such as Wolverine’s uppercut and Cyclop’s eye blast. Interestingly enough, some moves were more based on Mortal Kombat’s double-tapping style (such as Gambit’s fireballs). When the moves are pulled off right, there is an amazing satisfaction when you land your blows on the lackey’s, mini-bosses, and especially the bosses. Somehow the carnage you inflict feels more “deserved.”
Unlike Final Fight, the game never gets repetitive. How can it get old when pulling off the big moves is so much fun? Also, the game does not go overboard with restocking the same enemies over and over again.
Another thing that made this game great was the fact that it really felt like a team effort. After all, cooperation is what the X-Men is all about. Instead of picking your favorite X-Man, you are forced to play as everyone in their own unique level (you cannot substitute a different character in the initial stages.) Unlike Final Fight, each character feels unique and has a completely different fighting repertoire. Once you use all five characters and beat their retrospective stages, then you can use anybody you want to complete the rest of the stages (as long as you keep each character alive). Think of these latter levels as akin to”Dr. Wily” stages in Mega Man. This trend changes again on the final stage of the game as each character has his/her own final stage before Magneto. If you lose a character, you have to choose somebody else, and go through their unique final stage before getting the chance to continue fighting Magneto. Yes, the damage done by the previous characters is still registered on Magneto’s power bar! Again, the message is teamwork.
Con: For me, all the characters border on terrible when fighting Magneto,except for Wolverine and Psylocke. Why? The latter two both have uppercut moves that kick ass against his telekinesis attack (as long as you can consistently perform the controller motions). Each character has only a SLIGHTLY different ending consisting of a few lines of text.
Con: The balance seems a bit off when it comes to Psylocke’s stages. Both her own original level and her special “final level” are coincidentally harder than the other characters.
Con: The choice of X-Men included in the game will disappoint some, as some big name X-Men have been left out, such as Storm.
Cover Art: The scene, although busy, has great composition and perspective. It’s a glossy explosion of color. I would prefer the character portraits to be more “in-character,” rather than having everybody looking as ferocious as Wolverine. The portrait is somewhat “over the top” and lacks subtlety, but it gets the job done.
Music: It’s not as catchy as Mega Man, Street Fighter, Phoenix Wright, or other Capcom games but it fits the mood nicely enough. The music tracks on each character’s stages seem to fit the personality of each individual X-Man (just compare Wolverine’s track to Beast’s to see what I mean.)
Difficulty: Again, it depends on if you can pull off Street Fighter II style fighter moves. Not only that, but it will take some time to learn all the patterns of the enemies as well. But stick with it! This is one of those games that seems “too hard” at first but with enough practice becomes fairly easy.
Graphics: The graphics are very “Capcom” and remind me of Mega Man X and Street Fighter II (which is saying they are pretty good). The environments vary between trees in Cyclop’s stage to Wolverine’s obligatory falicity setting. The bosses and enemies are well-animated, large, and menacing.
I also like the small search element. There are three little blue icons hidden in each stage to collect in order to obtain free lives. There is also a hidden “better ending” if you can manage to beat the game in one sitting without using passwords.
Overall the game has so much pick up and play appeal that I can’t help but say that it is my favorite game based on a comic book.