RETRO REBOOT - X-Men (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive)

Now wait, didn't I review an X-Men game before? Why yes, a few months ago, I had the unprivilege of trying to give one of the more frustrating and painfully bland video games from my childhood a second chance in The Uncanny X-Men on NES. I should learn my lesson and rightfully burn copies of that so nobody can experience the stale air that is the basement of the NES library, I willfully welcome terrible games back into my life and play them again, I can clarify that I'm either clinically insane or a self-loathing troglodyte. The answer is likely both. To sum up an unnecessarily long prologue, a crazy man moves his boulder door to write a retro blog to tell you X-Men on Genesis is better game. 

This is something I intend to speak about more in future posts, I feel in general the Genesis got better superhero entries during the 16-bit era. I know cases can be made for X-Men Mutant Apocalypse and Batman Returns on the SNES, but that's something down the road that has more variables than face value when it comes to Marvel and DC products. Since the Konami produced action brawler never saw a home port, X-Men on the 'Drive is one of the first really substantial titles available featuring everyone's favorite mutant team. The cartoon series was on fire around the time period, and this game was based on its lore, many were excited to play it. It's a game that both lives up to its expectations while still being quite an ordeal to play. And it's a game where I can play as NIGHTCRAWLER, my favorite member of the team.

Developed by Western Technologies and released in 1993, X-Men is a side-scrolling action game where you can select one of four characters. Cyclops, Gambit, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler, with support appearances from Storm, Iceman, Rogue, Archangel, and Jean Grey (who recovers you from pitfalls). The team is trapped in the Danger Room due to a virus via satellite that sends the safety limits haywire and disables locks. Spoiler, it's a plot by Magneto. 

One of the things I recall pointing out is how weird the character select screen is displayed. It's a control panel in the Danger Room with a tiny icon indicating one of the four. Click on it, and you get pretty detailed bios on who you may want to select. I always appreciate things like that. After you choose, you then can free roam around the general area for a few moments before being teleported to the stage. There's more to the Danger Room area than meets the eye. More on that later. 

It's got some stylish visuals, it emulates the looks of the cartoon series very well, which instantly draws its appeal. The sprites are big, boast good animation, and there isn't any slowdown or graphical clipping in this game to speak of. The stages themselves are varied and well designed, if there was any nitpick(s) I MIGHT have is more often than not I feel the color palette for levels tend to lean towards the drab and overly dark side. My other issue, and this is a pet peeve of mine from the this era of gaming, far too many foreground obstructions I'm comfortable with having. Switches and locks being obscured from my field of vision is one thing. Enemies leaping out of trees in tight confines or firing lasers through hallways chips at the health bar. Again, super tiny nitpick.

X-Men is a simple enough action game to pick up and play, using powers is fun. But this game is pretty damn challenging almost right from the start. The initial stage is the Savage Lands, which as far as beginner levels go for a video game like this does set the tone for what you will experience. It teaches you to vary your characters wisely. Each level, you can switch between the four once each. So if you swap out Wolverine for someone, he is inaccessible for the remainder of the stage. And once the level is completed, your health isn't restored. Instead, there are healing items scattered throughout the Danger Room that move about in increasingly fast patterns. Progression through X-Men can best be described as a battle of sheer stubbornness. The difficulty doesn't flat out smack you in the face, but rather it's like solving a maze. It's more effective to focus less on the end result and more about the turns you take to get there. Conserving health and your mutant power gauge, locating power-ups, choosing who tackles which portion of a stage.

I have yet to pull together a great run in this game and have spent years trying to beat it, I rank it as on of the hardest titles I've ever played for a game I still like. The bosses are tricky to hit effectively because they only "kinda" sell your damage, jumps can be very frustrating. And that isn't even including "Mojo's Crunch", that requires you to reset the game in order to complete the stage.

This is one of the cooler comic book games of the era, and they'd improve in quality from here. An amazing soundtrack, awesome visuals, and good controls end up arm wrestling with a monstrous and unorthodox difficulty to find that sweet spot. If you're one of the people that can beat this game, major kudos to you. It's legitimately harder than fighting all the members of the X-Men at once in real life, but it's one of the legendary standouts on the Sega Genesis.

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