torstai 27. helmikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Wolverine: Adamantium Rage | SNES | 1994

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: November 1994

The X-Men debuted on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the end of 1994... however, this "debut" of the mutant supergroup once again placed the bulk of the group in less than a cameo capacity, and cast the spotlight on its most popular member - Wolverine, a few years off his solo debut on the NES. Two very different versions of the same draft were made. The Sega Genesis version was developed by Teeny Weeny Games and published by Acclaim; this balanced action game was fairly well-received by Marvel fans, who praised the storyline and presentation, but heavily criticized the gameplay. The SNES version was an unforgiving, do-or-die type of beat 'em up. It was developed by Bits and published by LJN. Now why would I waste time on looking for a game that could actually be at least interesting (on a console that's not really one of my favourites), when I've got an almost guaranteed wet turd soiling my hands right here (on a console which ironically is my favourite console of all time)? Then again, you might remember that not all 16-bit LJN/Marvel collaborations were that bad...

One of us is going down, and it might as well be this game

In a classic set-up not presented too well in this SNES version of the game, Logan finally catches a hint of his mysterious past and travels to Canada alone to investigate the Weapon X project which turned him from a simple mutant of flesh and bone into the unstoppable adamantium-infused beast he is.

Left: 11 out of 15?! I've already beaten the crap
out of  something like one hundred and
eleven dudes in this level. Something stinks.
Wolverine's origin story is Marvel's equivalent to DC's Batman's; no matter how often they tell it, no matter how slightly it changes, they always come up with a way to make it interesting in any format. It's been known to happen in video game development among other mediums - as proven by the Arkham series, and in this context, you know a review of the video game adaptation of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is bound to pop up sooner or later. Storywise, the Genesis version of Wolverine: Adamantium Rage was well received, 'cause it told the story well and stayed true to it. What we have here is half the story... probably, since I've never personally experienced the Genesis game, this is all through the ever-so-trusty grapevine. Might correct that sometime later, but for some way beyond ironic reason, I chose to review the SNES game, avoiding taking on any extras at this stage of the Marvel marathon. Perhaps 'cause I thought it wouldn't be that different, and it's available on a console that is more familiar and comfortable to me. Aaaaand, when I was an undemanding child who thought Wolverine was cool even though he didn't know much about the X-Men comics, the game looked awesome. My favourite magazine only covered Nintendo games back at that time, so I never even really knew there was a whole different "version" of the game available, one that maybe wasn't all about the looks.

The SNES game lives by its looks. Even though the storytelling and presentation are off, the graphics are basically really good, but as you make progress - if you can - you'll very soon figure that the reason that the sprites look so fluid might very well be that the cutscenes are so minimal, and the whole game consists of copied and pasted level and enemy design.

The game starts at the Weapon X lab, and although this is the easiest level in the game, it's probably the most exemplar of all the things wrong with Wolverine: Adamantium Rage. OK, so Elsie-Dee's supposed to work as the time limit - if you stick around for too long, say, "cheat" by standing in a safe spot to let your health regenerate in peace (one of the first games with spontaneous regeneration, by the way), Elsie-Dee's supposed to sneak up on you and kill you dead. However, that does not happen at least in this version of the game, or on the normal difficulty level. I've waited around for ages for it to happen just to see how, and how fast it plays out, but it doesn't happen at all. So whenever you find yourself in a pinch, just backtrack to the safest spot - usually the entry point - and take five. There, a tip. It makes the game a little easier, none the more interesting though. There's the game's greatest challenge, right there: maintaining interest. It takes you way too long just to skewer through this first non-sensical maze of copy and paste.

Yes, those most certainly are ninjas with
Your primary task in each level is to get rid of a set number of enemies before you're allowed to continue. There are straightforward levels in which getting to the goal is fairly simple and easy - just plow through everyone you see - but in these maze-like levels it's a bit more complicated. You won't be able to sink the counter by just slashing through endlessly spawning armies of cybernetic soldiers, you have to run around the level and bash all sorts of enemies to crap to - maybe - see the number go down. There's no indication whatsoever who you should go after, it's just trial upon trial. When you finally get rid of all the enemies in the first lab, the exit that's been in plain sight all that time will finally open, and on the other side awaits... another identical lab. With less enemies to kill, though. After you're done with them, you need to seek out the master computer, a really high-tech looking apparatus which they probably used in Vietnam... after smashing the computer to bits, you have 30 seconds to make it to another exit. Another lab? No, a password, which works as your checkpoint. A little about the passwords later, but let it be known right now that not only is it a password, but indeed a checkpoint. Whenever you choose "Start Game" from now on, right up until you power off the console, you will start from this point. That's kinda cool, considering there are no continues. After that, you'll have to deal with the first boss, Destroyer, who's pretty easy to maim to death assuming you're at 100% in the beginning. Then Logan travels to Japan and the rest of the game opens up to offer some different experiences than what you just suffered through... but again, none the more interesting.

I know you've waited for this, so I'll just say it: the controls are shit, but a different variety of shit than what you're accustomed to in these games. They're completely non-sensical, over-sensitive, and pretty much impossible to master, since just one tiny press of the digital pad, in any direction, can change a simple move completely. Wolverine's running speed varies all the time, I guess it has something to do with repeated clicks into a direction but in this sort of game, it inevitably feels completely random. If you're going for a standing jump straight up, one wrong press and you might be diving head first into the pit next to you instead - no bottomless ones to my recollection, though. When it comes to aerial attacks, what you do with the digital pad doesn't matter all that much, it's Wolverine himself who decides whether he's going to execute that attack you just told him to or just jump straight into the enemy's line of fire as if to say "end my suffering". You could say that the best way to survive this game is to avoid moving whenever you're fighting. It's impossible, of course; in the later levels, you're bombarded from every direction - at all times.

Maybe they won't see me if I run across this
table here.
Let's just skip right to the passwords. The passwords are portraits of different X-Men characters. With the positive issue of the checkpoints out of the way, what about when you shut the system down? Is a casual player supposed to have a photogenic memory? Since most of these characters don't appear in the game, is he supposed to know these guys by name? Is he supposed to shine at drawing? In other words, how in the hell are you supposed to write these passwords down for later use? Personally, I do know these guys, nearly all of 'em are well known to any who's half of a Marvel buff, but the player might be what I was back when this game came out: a ten-year old kid who wanted to play this game because Wolverine was in it and Wolverine was cool, but ultimately I didn't know shit about the X-Men. I didn't even know who Professor X, Storm or Nightcrawler were. Cyclops and Beast were probably the only other X-Men characters I knew back at that time besides Logan. I probably would've had to write the passwords down like this: "the blue guy who's not Beast, the crazy lady with white hair, the bald guy, Geordi La Forge". Yup, I watched The Next Generation as much as the next kid. Think about it: I knew more about Star Trek than about the X-Men.

In all seriousness, Wolverine: Adamantium Rage is one of LJN's better games, as it does at least have its moments; you just need to survive several extremely boring levels and endure some terrible controls to get to experience those few brief moments of clarity. Like I said, I might take on the Genesis version someday - not within this marathon's limits, though - and judging by the reviews that actually focus on gameplay rather than presentation, it's not good, but at least a whole different game and well-presented Marvel Comics by-product.

+ Wolverine...
+ ...In nice colours
+ Nice cavalcade of Marvel Universe characters rarely seen in games
+ Moderately good music
+ The password system's function as a checkpoint system as well...

- ...However, the password system's function as an actual password system sucks
- The controls are terrible
- The level design is boring and totally uninspired/uninspiring; the maze-like levels with their cryptic progress criteria are the worst
- Good story told bad

< 6.1 >

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