Sega first took a stab at the X-Men license in 1993. It was a generally disappointing affair whose only benefit was bearing the X-Men
name. It was a boring and at times completely unplayable mess that really did nothing to show off the Genesis or license it was based on. This time around, with the help of HeadGames, Sega thrust players back into the world of the X-Men with somewhat better results.
The Phalanx have come to Earth to assimilate ur doods and doodettes with mutant powerz. Now you be a good X-Man and go stop that shit. FO SHIZZLE!
The first thing that jumps right out at you as soon as you start playing is the incredibly detailed character sprites. Each hero and many of the enemy sprites sport loads of animation for all their running, jumping, and various attacks. Clearly a bulk of the work went into making each X-man and other characters appearing from the universe look as alive and detailed as possible. Genesis games typically never saw this many frames of animation, so it is quite a sight to see the characters in action. Unfortunately, not quite as much work went into the backdrops, as stages look fairly uninspired and generic. Pretty typical stuff you'd see in an action game with lots of futuristic looking lab type environments and what have you. A couple areas diverge from this theme, but they're not nearly frequent enough and the whole package ends up looking pretty bland because of it. Had more detail went into the backgrounds, even half of what went into the sprite work, this game could have easily been one of the best looking on the Genesis.
The sound department is also fairly uninspired, featuring mundane and ultimately forgettable bass-driven techno tracks as the audio backdrop for the action. There's really not a whole lot of melody here, just driving bass riffs and straightforward percussion. Stuff you could probably make in Fruity Loops in about half an hour. Sound effects are well-done and tend to avoid the typical Genesis farty explosion type stuff. Everything sounds as it should and that's all it really needs to do.
Gameplay-wise, we're looking at another attempt at the action-platformer, only this time the results are a tad better. Note that I said, only a tad better.
This game does something I don't think I've ever seen another game do prior to it. When you first boot up the game in your Genesis, you're immediately thrust into the heat of combat with a random character (the game seems pretty favorable toward Wolverine). No Sega logo, no title screen, no opening narrative, just you facing down the barrel of a tank that'll likely nail you with its opening shot simply because you just don't expect that kinda thing the first time around. A cheeseball way to score a cheap hit on a newbie, but still a pretty cool thing to do. It gets across a real sense of urgency to get your ass in gear. Only after you complete this opening stage are you greeted with the Sega logo, title screen, and story synopsis. Feels almost kind of like a cinematic experience.
You're initially given access to six playable characters from the get-go that you can select from before starting a stage and after losing a life. Beast, Cyclops, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, and of course, Wolverine. You're later granted access to Magneto. (Warning! Spoilers back there!
) Every character controls a bit differently and comes eqiupped with their signature mutant powers along with some characters possessing unique abilities like clinging to and climbing walls or double jumping. Unfortunately, though having so many abilities and characters to choose from ends up being a negative due to the lack of balance between the characters. To summarize all characters:
- Not good for anything. His special is close range, but his sprite is too damn big to let anyone get close and you always take the hit.
- Decent special with the eye beams, sucks at everything else known to man.
- He's decent all-around.
- Fast like a mofo which may get you hit a lot till you're used to the speed. His jump attacks are fun, but his teleport special ultimately feels worthless.
- God damn worthless for the first 1/4 of the game, only decent thereafter. Her special is close range and only works on humanoid enemies.
- Fucking owns everyone at everything.
- Too fucking slow to matter. Only there as a novelty.
The game basically ends up being The Wolverine Show in the end. The entire shebang almost feels like it was built with him specifically in mind and everyone else just kinda got dropped in and tweaked to suck a bit more. Had the game been a solo Wolverine affair, maybe I wouldn't be judging it so harshly.
On top of the completely unbalanced character roster, we have other Polly gameplay peeves. Firstly, hit detection! It's a load of horse shit most of the time. It's nice that the character sprites are nice and big... no it's fucking not. Big ass sprites = big ass hitboxes = a load of bullshit. There are just too god damn many times you'll get hit in this game simply because you're too fucking big. You'll also run into many bosses that have seemingly unavoidable attacks. Fucking joy! Your sprite takes up a large portion of the screen and your hitbox even grows during certian attacks. The scroll point is also too damn close to the side of the screen. It's a complete crock that you'll end up running smack-dab into an enemy simply because you're so close to the side of the screen and moving so fast that you can't see it coming. This also presents a problem with vertical scrolling as well. You can still hold up or down to move the screen and check what's above and below, but a lot of the time it's just a leap of faith... Into a shit pile.
Secondly, a simultaneous 2-player mode is hanging out there for you and a friend to try. That's generally a pretty cool idea and in some cases can save a game that's mediocre, but it simply doesn't work here. You run into too many problems with sprites being too big and since the areas are all maze-like, the other player (or even you) is likely to be a large hinderance on progress. It's merely a cool idea that could have worked if X-Men 2
was a better game. Kinda like everything else in here...
The final nail in the game's coffin is the piss-poor level design. Every stage is basically a maze that you need to find your way to the top or bottom of. Only one or two stages break this formula and even they're ruined by the shit scrolling and fuckassed hit detection. The stage layouts only serve to make the entire game feel like a chore.
This game really did have a lot of potential. With all that variety in powers and a little balancing they really could have put together something awesome. Instead, the game should have been a Wolverine game since he's almost always the man for the job. The action bits CAN be fun, but get to be too damn frustrating for their own good thanks to shitty hit detection. Even then, the stages would put you to sleep if the frustration didn't throw you into a stroke. So close, yet so far. It'd be years till we'd get a somewhat decent X-Men game when the X-Men Legends
series rolled around. Maybe you should give one of those a look instead.