Western Technologies Inc
Genre: Action Platformer
It’s been said before, on this very blog: franchise games tend to be cringe-worthy. Once in a blue moon, clever developers realize that they shouldn’t make a game based on a franchise merely to sell games, but they ought to put some damn effort into it, and maybe check out the source material. Tapping into a long established franchise to produce a game that does both of these things is a rarity. Considering how old this particular comic franchise was, and that it had been dug into before (and after), it was unsurprising that the Genesis’ X-Men came to be.For anyone who is unaware of the longstanding media icons, the X-Men are a team of super powered people in the world of Marvel Comics. Exhibiting strange and unique powers due to a genetic mutation, these mutants have been gathered into a single institute of study and learning to help grow and develop by a philanthropic and well known mutant named Professor Charles Xavier. Professor X, as it is often shortened to, had a falling out with his original friend and partner, another mutant by the name of Magneto, who can control magnetic fields. The division was this: while Professor X decided to dedicate his life and that of his students to helping bridge the gap between mutants and the rest of humanity, Magneto believed that they were better and more deserving. There are obviously many more nuances, but this should give you enough of a background to understand the franchise of the game. In the game, it opens with Magneto broadcasting viral signals (via a stream of little 0’s and 1’s to represent binary) from a satellite on his floating asteroid superbase, Asteroid M, down to the X-Men’s mansion, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. This has a terrible affect on the danger room, a combination of holographic and mechanical dangers that help them train for all kinds of various scenarios involving violence and rescue. The safeties on the danger room are turned off, meaning that everything going on inside has become real.
The current team of X-Men who comprise the roster in X-Men include the four protagonists and playable characters of the game:
Gambit – a Cajun ex-thief with the power to charge small objects with a dangerous unknown energy, his preferred projectile of choice comes in the form of playing cards. With his slick trench coat and metal bo staff, he is both stylish and deadly.Wolverine – this Canadian cultural icon has regenerative powers and an adamantium skeleton, which includes a pair of extendable claws that come out of the tendons on the back of his hands. Wolverine’s colors didn’t change much from his 70’s debut, and though his garish yellow may not be reminiscent of his namesake animal, his attitude is about as ornery.
Nightcrawler – though this German mutant looks like a demon, he’s got a noble heart. With the power to teleport both himself and others, he is also a trained acrobat and large fan of the works of actors like Errol Flynn. His fighting style is faster and lighter hitting.
Cyclops – Rounding out the fearsome foursome, Cyclops is the American leader of the X-Men. Unable to control his optic blasts, he is cursed to constantly wear a special set of ruby goggles or glasses to keep his mutant power in check. His garish blue jumpsuit and slower movement speed don’t mean he is any stronger, but the ability to fire controlled blasts from his eyes more than make up for it.In addition, secondary characters may be sent in lieu of a typical mutant power. There are cameos by Rogue, Iceman, Storm, Archangel and Jean Grey (who, while not summonable, will bring your character back whenever they fall over a ledge with no floor to it). Each has their own power that is useful in different situations, and their use is limited – using their power wisely is a good idea.
The game was an action platformer that was, while enjoyable and with some innovations, a huge pain in regards to difficulty. It could be played single or two player, which was both a blessing and a curse by taking away characters available to you. Enemies were placed in annoying areas that made travelling across unfamiliar stages hazardous, and could often be a bit tough to dispatch without your mutant power. It was a 3-button game, making use of attack, jump and mutant power. A yellow bar represented your health, and a blue bar represented how much energy you had. While all X-men slowly regenerated their blue bar, Wolverine also replenishes his yellow bar, as part of his mutant power set. Power ups included the buffs for secondary characters, health bar fillers and mutant power fillers, along with keys. When a character dies, that’s it – they are gone from your roster. You can switch between your four heroes at any time, but you have to be extremely careful, and it’s not likely you’ll have them all to the end of the game.
One of the most rage-inducing features in a game includes the end of one stage, where a countdown begins. When I first owned this game, it took me a full year to figure out that the way to get past a particular stage (where you find the source of the virus in the danger room) was by pressing the hard reset button on the genesis ever so lightly to initiate a “reboot” of the danger room. Innovative? Sure. Boy, it sure was irritating to have a feature with no hint of what they wanted you to do. I only had figured it up by having given up on the idea I could get past this stage, and was resetting my Genesis to start the game over.
The games music was really catchy. I had forgotten quite how catchy the musical selection was. Composed by a gentleman by the name of Fletcher Beasley, the music used G.E.M.S. (Genesis Emulation Music Software), communicating directly from the game to the Yamaha synthesizer chip in the console itself. It gave the game a rich sound, both more complicated than the usual 16-bit music and an overall great soundtrack.Despite the glaring difficulty and some horrendous surprises (I’m looking at you, the end of Mojo’s stage), X-Men was an awesome franchise entry for a Genesis-only release. It was followed by a sequel called X-Men 2: Clone Wars, which had more characters and different gameplay. The game is a bit hard to find for retail (though please, if you know of any releases on the PSN, Wii network or X-Box live, let me know!), but is available to play on archive.org.