Crossovers are a gigantic part of modern comics. From Superman teaming up with Batman to Howard the Duck pissing off Swamp Thing, if there’s a possibility two super heroes or super hero groups exist in the same omniverse, it’s exploited. This has, overtime, bled into the world of video games, giving us such amazing modern examples of gaming like Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Transformers, and Namco X Angry Birds. It is truly a wondrous time to be alive.
But this was not always the case. Back in the late twentieth century, crossovers were few and far between, and we’d rarely see something like a game featuring Marvel’s greatest heroes fighting for their lives against insurmountable odds using their amazing super powers. The game I speak of, featuring Marvelous exploits and every bad guy under the sun was inevitably a gigantic hit, with amazing gameplay to boot.
That was Marvel vs. Capcom.
This is Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge, for the SNES.
And it blows web fluid.
The theory behind this game is sound. Arcade is a super crazy mad genius in the Marvel Universe who designs “murderworlds”, areas not unlike theme parks; but unlike theme parks, clowns aren’t the only things trying to stab you. Murderworlds are supposed to be custom built (by, one would assume, Arcade’s non-union construction workers of doom, though they do still get 15 minute destruction breaks) to their captive’s anti-specifications. If Arcade was trapping DC’s Superman, he’d build the whole place out of kryptonite, Flash would face a world of molasses, and Aquaman… well… anything at all. Maybe fluffy pillows. At any rate, Arcade has, as of the game’s start, constructed five Murderworlds for four x-men and one Spider-Man, and gives said heroes the sporting chance of attempting to escape their worst nightmares. Spider-Man’s worst nightmare, for instance, involves battling hordes of very similar robots. Conversely, Cyclops’ worst nightmare involves battling hordes of very similar robots.
Before we go any further, I feel I should point out this game was made by Acclaim, a company known for claiming to be “Masters of the Game” while producing such quality titles as Turok: Rage Wars, BMX XXX, and the complete Simpsons line of Nintendo and Gameboy games, including The Simpsons: Bart and the Beanstalk. Basically, Acclaim had the amazing ability to take a concept that, by all rights, should be completely mind-blowingly awesome (dinosaur hunting, naked bicycle riding, buying a cow), and turn it into a gigantic turd-storm. Never played an Acclaim game? Then you’ve probably had a better life than mine. I’ve beaten Playstation’s Fantastic Four.
Back in the game, the X-Men and Spider-Man are trapped, in more ways than one, in Arcade’s revenge. Though it’s never stated what Arcade is taking revenge for, given he’s a hit man, I really doubt he’s got a grudge against these dorks. I think Acclaim just made the whole thing up when they realized Arcade was actually another Marvel character and not an excuse to make a game where Wolverine blows all his quarters attempting to get the high score on Space Invaders. Oh man, you ever try to grab a joystick with gigantic claws sticking out of your wrists? The fun is over before it begins. It’s actually how Wolverine got that hairstyle, it was in his Origins book, I swear. What was I talking about again?
Oh, right, crappy game. It’s a lousy, hop-around-like-an-idiot platforming action game with a few mutants and their super powers. The only reason anyone would even touch this game is for its all-star cast, so I suppose you would like to hear about the amazing traps and devious creations Arcade has unleashed upon our favorite Marvelites.
Spider-Man is stuck in a half constructed cityscape. Basically there’s a lot of asbestos and girders kind of haphazardly slapped together. I think Arcade didn’t so much create a maze here as get drunk and flail around a map editor. Actually, according to the (sparse) storyline, Spider-Man was the last of the gang to stop by Arcade’s place, and was only captured at the last second while attempting to rescue Gambit of all people. I suppose his precognitive spider sense, his singular trademark mentioned in nearly every pop culture reference, was on the fritz. So Spidey must make amends for his capture by battling random robots and, finally, the Shocker and Rhino, two Marvel villains so low on the totem pole that they didn’t see the big screen until Spider-Man 5: Spider Five. Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Lizard, Venom, no, they all had better agents, Spider-Man gets to take out the F-string for his climatic battles. Boo. Carnage also kind of shows up, but he’s portrayed as a weird leaping red thing, so there are about equal odds that “Carnage” is actually a red yoshi.
Wolverine must face circus midgets. He’s the best at what he does, and what he does is very colorful! He just runs around and tears clowns and toy soldiers to pieces. It’s probably not so much his worst nightmare as a cathartic little attack on Toys R Us. When Wolverine gets to take a break from the killer clowns, he takes out two big Marvel baddies, Apocalypse and Juggernaut. Apocalypse is a rather pathetic little boss battle where the ultimate mutant trades his demigod status for a Dhalsim impression, and Juggernaut is best defeated by dropping inappropriately placed anvils on the big lug’s head. I’m still trying to figure out how Acclaim turned a battle between two of the most serious, gritty mutants in all of X-Men into a Looney Tunes episode.
Scott “Cyclops” Summers actually does meet his worst nightmare in the form of a mine that is not only filled with gems that reflect his optic blasts, but also grime. Yes, that’s right, Scotty boy, you have to actually get dirty on this mission. Oh no! Filth on your shiny X-Men leader’s uniform! Jean will never love you now! Er, anyway, Cyclops also fulfills the 16-bit era’s requirement of “one mine cart level per game”, with some of the absolute worst mine carting seen in a… anything. Cyc does get to stare down a few sentinels, and then their big daddy, Master Mold, but this version of Master Mold doesn’t appear to have any weapons, except for missiles that shoot from its nipples and flame blasts from its crotch. Master Mold is a crazy party animal, and is currently scouring the internet for KOS-MOS’s number.
Storm, almighty weather witch of the X-Men, is stuck in a dunk tank. Storm, being a woman in a video game, has no offensive capabilities past her mutant powers, so she uses her abilities to shoot lightning bolts at her enemies. While completely submerged in water. The X-Men are mutants, not science teachers. At least Storm is the one character who gets a little (physics defying) variety, in that she’s not just stuck in a lousy platformer, she’s stuck in a lousy platformer’s underwater level. And, instead of a life bar, she’s got an “air bar” that depletes when she’s attacked or stays underwater for longer than a millisecond. And Storm, who is still burdened with a vagina and is thus far too weak to battle a real Marvel villain, gets to clash with a series of slightly different robot/trap things for her freedom. I can’t tell if it’s Arcade or Acclaim that has something against the poor girl.
Gambit, the hard-drinking, hard-gambling, hard-rocking Cajun with a hard-on for Rogue, is separated from the object of his lust and thrown into an auto-scrolling hell. Being a master of kendo-style martial arts and various forms of unarmed combat, Gambit is naturally limited to finite ammunition in the form of a deck of cards, and, upon using up his deck, is left completely defenseless. Gambit, in the comics, once turned a wad of chewing gum into a lethal weapon, but now Acclaim says he’s as useful in a pinch as Dolphigan (the X-Men with the mutant power to arouse dolphins). The wildly defenseless scumbag is stuck outrunning either an auto-scrolling spiked ball or an auto-scrolling collapsing tower (I’m assuming that’s the premise of his second level, the danger is off-screen, as is the deal with most auto-scrolling levels, so it could be a giant mutant brine shrimp for all I know), and, in either situation, must avoid or attack various deadly chess pieces. It’s a well known piece of logic that dictates that someone who enjoys playing cards is afraid of chess. It makes perfect sense! It all makes perfect sense! And Gambit’s bosses are all playing card manifestations. PERFECT SENSE!
Upon completion of each of the hero’s individual levels, the party teams up to separate again in five mini levels. While four of the mutants pretty much get rehashes of their previous fun-lands, Storm does at least get to hop out of the water, and manifests her flying abilities in a really floaty jump. Of course, she’s still prone to falling in bottomless pits, so maybe her flying powers need a little more work. Maybe her costume is too wet? Maybe chere is thinking of Gambit, n’est pas? And at the end of each of these individual levels, each X-Man gets captured, again, while Spider-Man finally uses that super power of his I keep hearing about and saves his own hide for the final boss battle. Guess that’s why he got top billing.
The final boss is a big robo clown that goes through a few different forms in a manner not unlike the final robo Burns fight of The Simpsons Arcade Game. Funny, that. Oddly, this boss battle is actually a lot easier than a lot of boss battles from earlier in the game (Juggernaut can cause a few headaches), and the X-Men imprisoned around the room actually aide Spider-Man in his otherwise solitary battle. Note to super villains, when you tie up the guy with eye lasers, who is named for the fact that he has eye lasers, maybe, just maybe, try to do something about hampering those eye lasers. Or not, it’s your choice. And after robo clown goes down, guess what’s next? That’s right! More robots! And they’re ridiculously easy and have no reason for existing because none of the robots turn out to be the real bad guy anyway. And, yes, you beat all the damn robots, escape, and find the big bad Arcade has already escaped and the super heroes don’t even get remote revenge on their captor. Yay job satisfaction!
Acclaim managed to take a very, very cool concept (Super powered heroes vs. their own custom built worst nightmares) and turn it into a game somehow even less interesting than a Pitfall revival. However, it could be argued that Arcade is the greatest winner of all. By game’s end (which, for the record, doesn’t include a credit sequence, which speaks for itself), Arcade has escaped unscathed, and claims to have tortured everyone involved. I don’t know about our mighty mutants, but I know that by the end of this particular Murderland, I was feeling very tortured. Think Acclaim may have been run by a malevolent red head?
FGC #68 Spider-Man and X-Men Arcade’s Revenge
- System: Super Nintendo was the version featured here, but there’s also a Sega Genesis version, and, phew, also Gameboy and Game Gear? Wow, those have to be horrible.
- Number of Players: Five heroes, one player. I suppose it would go against the theme of the game to allow simultaneous play, but, oh, maybe Spider-Man could swing into each X-Men stage and help out? That’d be cool.
- Favorite Stage: Wolverine versus clowns. Wolverine versus clowns times infinity forever.
- Development Guessing: I refuse to believe this game happened by anything other than accident. Aside from the obvious lack of credits, the way the game can’t even retain a consistent life meter between stages seems to indicate that this thing was pulled together from disparate pieces and slapped into a final product. Storm and Gambit are basically trapped in entirely different genres.
- Canon? Technically, the game is based on a run of X-Men comics (specifically starting at #123… easy to remember), but the original story included Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Banshee, but no Gambit. That said, there’s really no reason this game couldn’t be canon, as all the “villains” fought, including Arcade, are just robot doubles, and nothing plot-y happens to set this group of captured X-Men anywhere in the timeline. So remember kids, all those cool, fun franchise video games are just imaginary stories, but this butt side of an ass is the real deal.
- Did you know? Oh… an opportunity to show off some ridiculous X-Men trivia. Let’s see here… Ah, here’s a fun one. Scott Summers is often considered the everyman of the X-Men, as he’s the most “normal” of the original lineup, and has a power that is the typical Marvel “curse and blessing”. Cyclops also has a dad who is a space pirate, a half brother who was a literal king of space, a son from the future who is older than him, a clone of the previously mentioned son, a daughter from the future who runs around in her mom’s old clothes, a dead wife who obliterated a star system and can come back from the dead, a current wife who can turn to diamond, and a younger version of himself from the past who is here exclusively to remind him how much he’s screwed up. Cyclops is highly relatable.
- Would I play again: The first level is repellant. The most interesting level (Wolverine vs. Juggernaut) is bafflingly difficult. Spider-Man’s web swing controls like a ton of bricks. Most stages are difficult beyond reason. At what point should I just stop and say, “No?”
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers for the Sega Genesis. ROB, you on a 90’s Fox Kids kick all of a sudden? I knew I shouldn’t have gotten you that Netflix subscription. Oh well, guess it’s morphin’ time. Please look forward to it!