The 1993 X-Men title for the Sega Genesis is simply titled “X-Men”. This is fairly unusual, as the X-Men traditionally get an extended title of some kind, like “Uncanny X-Men” or “X-Men: Children of the Atom”. In this case, I can think of only one appropriate, complete name for this Genesis game…
The Impossible X-Men
Or, barring that, the less succinct “X-Men: You Will Never Beat This Game”.
… I think X-Men: Deadly Genesis is already taken.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have an unashamed love for this game, if only because, back in the day, I had approximately five Sega Genesis games (compared to an innumerable [okay, maybe twenty] collection of NES/SNES games). This was primarily because I was a Nintendo kid, which didn’t so much speak to my allegiances as much as Nintendo Power outright told me what I wanted every birthday and Christmas, and the Genesis library was much more of an untamed wilderness. Phantasy Star? Who knows what that could be? I’m saving my money for the next Final Fantasy. There were a few games to slip through the cracks and into my subconscious (mostly franchise titles like Castlevania), but, overall, my Genesis library was very limited.
But the X-Men? Whoo doggie, you couldn’t keep me away from X-Men merchandise of any kind as a child. At the time, the animated series was in full swing, finally showing more than those original eight episodes (“They’re on Genosha again!?”), and getting into the bold, mature storytelling of the Claremont adaptions. Cyclops is getting married! Jean Grey is a flaming bird from space (huh?)! Morph is alive for some reason! It was all very exciting, and I was right there with my X-Men collector’s cup drinking down every last sip of X-Men swill. I would have purchased (begged my parents for) officially licensed metal claws to wedge between my fingers should Fox have deemed to offer such a product.
So, naturally, I owned X-Men for the Genesis, and played it approximately 12 billion times. It was two players! I could play X-Men with my other, also X-Men obsessed friends (that is to say, all of them). It has Gambit, my favorite X-Men at the time (for some reason!). It has Nightcrawler, and it lets him teleport wherever the hell he wants! You can watch Cyclops die! This game has everything!
Also, I never got past Level 3. Well… maybe once I saw Level 4, but I certainly never finished it. And even if I had? I never had a prayer.
First, and most obviously, this game offers challenges far beyond the dimensions of the screen. The X-Men sprites are large and in charge, and that was damn impressive back in the day. Hell, it’s still one of the best looking games on the Genesis. There’s no “is this supposed to be Gambit?” going on here: here are your X-Men, as animated and detailed as on Saturday morning (well, close enough). The flipside of that, however, is that you can barely see past your chosen X-Men, and Wolverine’s super senses don’t mean jack when he jumps right on top of a spike pit. Well, okay, maybe Wolverine would survive that, but Scott Summers is going to be closer to that “Slim” nickname after he loses a limb. And the enemies of the game, whether they are equipped with spears or lasers, know of the X-Men’s nearsightedness, so get ready to lose a lot of health to a number of hard light holograms that are juuuuust out of view.
Then there are the bosses. Every stage seems to contain one or two sub-bosses in addition to whatever big bad is lurking at the end of the level. To the creators’ credit, I’m happy to see X-Men’s gigantic stable of villains out and about. Nothing is worse than having an X-Men game that only features Blob and Magneto. However, maybe the hitboxes for these scoundrels could have been a little more obvious. Hitting Juggernaut in the helmet makes a certain kind of sense, but Sabretooth appears in Level 3, and he’s only vulnerable when crouching before or after a jump. Otherwise, he appears to be invincible. And he’s a character that is supposed to be practically invincible (or at least immortal) in the comics, so… maybe I’m supposed to be doing something else? Is there a trick or… oh, I’m dead already, never mind. Guess I’ll just summon Storm next time.
Which brings me to my next point: death and the X-Men. First of all, death means nothing in comic books, so I wouldn’t have minded a game with a life counter. Jean Grey or… was Elixir around at this time? No? How about Angel’s healing blood? How about it was Morph all along? Oh, whatever, point is that there are lot of excuses to bring an X-Man back from the brink. However, in this game, you’ve got Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Gambit, and Wolverine, and that’s it. When one falls, he’s gone forever, and, should you die anywhere in the level, it’s time to completely restart the stage. Boo. Additional boo: you could conceivably switch to a different X-Man with more health when one drops into the danger zone… but each progressive level puts more and more of a limit on how often you’re allowed to switch. So you’re pretty much doomed post Level 2. Hope you don’t want to switch for some random reason like actually finding a situation where a particular mutant power is helpful.
Oh, right, of course. Mutant powers are severely limited by a “power gauge”, and if you shoot off too many eyeblasts, you’re stuck with melee moves for the rest of the level. Yep, the superpowered individuals that are practically defined by their superpowers can… run out of power. Sorry, bring more playing cards next time.
But all of these issues have appeared in other games. With enough practice (and maybe liberally abusing Kurt’s teleportation skills) you could potentially triumph over all of these overt problems. It’s a difficult game, yes, but not impossible. We can do this!
No. No you can’t.
The plot of X-Men involves our heroes being trapped in their iconic Danger Room by
Joss Whedon Magneto. Technically, each level doesn’t take place in the mythical Savage Land, Shi’ar Empire, or England; no, you’re simply in a simulation of those fictional locations created through the holographic magic of the Danger Room. At the end of the fourth level, you’re told by Professor X that he will appear to you when it is time to reset the system.
Okay, sure, Cueball, whatever you say. Then, at the end of Level 5, the first “timed” level, the game just… stops. You destroy the Danger Room panel for the stage, and then nothing. You can’t backtrack, you can’t move forward, you’re just stuck in a room, and Professor X is on a set of TV screens (stuck on mute, incidentally). This looks a lot like the game is outright broken, which might lead a frustrated player that fought all the way to this point to turn the game off completely. And that’s almost the solution!
To progress in X-Men, at the end of the fifth level, you have to actually press the reset button on the Sega Genesis.
That’s right, kids, you have to do the thing that, in every other videogame of the era (and even today), would completely obliterate your hard-earned progress. Go ahead, don’t be shy! Just do that thing that was obliquely suggested once during a random, thirty second “cutscene”, and then you can proceed to the final level.
Where you’ll probably die to the nearly invincible Magneto anyway.
Ugh, let’s just replay Level 1 again.
FGC #162 X-Men
- System: Sega Genesis. Thanks to how licensing works and the… interesting use of hardware in this game, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a rerelease of this title.
- Number of players: Two. The other hard part of this game is the inevitable fight over who gets to be Wolverine.
- So, did you beat it? Well, yes, technically. It may not have been on the original hardware, though…
- Favorite X-Helper: That scumbag Gambt is my de facto choice for adventuring (I have a sucker for staffs, I’ve covered this), but you also get your choice of helper X-Men. Storm wins handily here, as her ability to summon all the fury of nature is (by the Goddess) pretty damn useful. Though pity bonus points do go to Rogue for missing her chance to be on the cover.
- Screw Attack: Cyclops and Gambit inexplicably have a tumbling, ball jump. This is not one of their superpowers.
- Did you know? Beast and Psylocke appear in the ending graphic, and both X-Heroes would appear in the sequel, X-Men 2: The Clone Wars. Were they originally intended to be in this game, too? That would make sense. And make this roster less of a sausage party…
- Would I play again: The nostalgia is strong with this one, but I think I’ll give up after my first death (which might happen immediately). I fondly remember this game, but I’ve also practically memorized the early levels, so it’s a tossup.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Alex Kidd the Lost Stars for the Sega Master System! Let’s meet the Miracle Wall! Please look forward to it!