Monday, October 8, 2007

The Uncanny Suck-fest that is Marvel's X-Men (NES)

From about 1989 to some time in early 1993, my primary interest was the fictional world of the Marvel Comics Universe. I collected a good mix of titles that included Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Daredevil, Moon Knight, Punisher War Journal, Marvel Comics Presents, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the majority of the "X-books." The X-books, to the uninitiated, are the titles that dealt with the X-Men and other mutants in the Marvel Universe. Those were my absolute favorites. These included Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force, The New Mutants, and Wolverine.

So imagine my amazement when they announced Marvel's X-Men for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It seemed like a match made in heaven; my two favorite things were coming together in a way that was surely going to be undeniably awesome. The game publisher, LJN, had been responsible for the NES version of Jaws, a pretty good game by my standards back then.

Marvel's X-Men was at the top of my Christmas list in 1989, right above the Power Glove. I would have to say it was quite an ironic coincidence that both of these products were the worst pieces of shit (X-Crement?) I have ever received from Santa. The fat man was just trying to do his job, I concluded. He followed my list almost exactly and couldn't be held responsible for bad programming.

It was mere seconds after pressing START that I realized what a terrible and useless game Marvel's X-Men proved to be. The opening screen was slightly promising, at least more so than the back of the box. Then it was all downhill from there.

The game allows you and another player to pick two X-Men who must traverse through a bird's eye view of a post-apocalyptic landscape littered with enemy blobs, robotic tanks, and centipedes. Lousy enemy designs notwithstanding, the biggest disappointment for me was definitely the portrayal of the valiant X-Men as strange, blocky humanoid-like creatures with practically any noticeable powers. Wolverine should have claws at least. If I remember correctly, Iceman and Cyclops are able to shoot some kind of projectile energy beams. That seems to be the only display of the X-Men's powers. Most ridiculously, using said energy beams lower your health as you use them. You can actually commit suicide in this game by using your powers. That sure doesn't sound like anything I remember from reading the comic books.

To make matters worse, this game is unforgivably hard. Those blobs are aggressive enough to be nearly inescapable. Whether this is a testament to the absolutely horrid game design or the clunky control scheme, I don't know. Either way, I can't help but think about how my life would have been without this disappointment of a game. The only video game experience that was more monumentally disappointing than playing Marvel's X-Men on Christmas day was playing Marvel's X-Men on Christmas day using the Power Glove. But that's a whole 'nother blog. Nuff said.

I meant to play this game on an emulator and get some screenshots in order to demonstrate it's high level of sucktitude, but it turns out that I can't legally download the ROM because it's "Protected by the ESA." Why anyone would claim legal rights to this game is beyond me. It must be because it's a Marvel game. If Marvel was smart, they'd hold on to the rights and hunt down every copy in existence in order to wipe it our from the face of the earth.

Since I have no screenshots, I'll post this youtube video instead:

The one positive thing this video reveals is that the game actually looks better than it plays.