maanantai 11. elokuuta 2014

REVIEW - X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse | SNES | 1994

GENRE(S): Action / Fighting
RELEASED: December 1994

Capcom snatched the X-Men video game license in 1994. Their first X-Men game was the arcade beat 'em up X-Men: Children of the Atom, which was much later released on 32-bit home consoles; since the game was so heavily influenced by Capcom's very own Street Fighter franchise, and since it was so well-received among Street Fighter fans, the game is often considered the first game in the popular Marvel vs. Capcom franchise. Another game that's not quite as well known today, but also immensely popular in its time, is X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse, which was released on the SNES around the same time Children of the Atom debuted in arcade halls. This game, in turn, was heavily influenced by Capcom's side-scrolling beat 'em up franchise Final Fight, and included elements from their biggest platformers as well. Could this be it? Could this be the X-Men game I've been waiting for nearly a year? ...No, still not it. But a fine tool for self-torture if you're into that kinda stuff. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is not a bad game by any measure - but it is one hard motherfucker.

Annihilation by humiliation

A group of mutants are captured and forced to labor on the island of Genosha. Worse yet, the villainous Apocalypse seems to have something special planned for the hostages. Cyclops, Wolverine, Psylocke, Beast and Gambit each have their own individual task to enable the group's infiltration into the Genosha stronghold.

As my current project is taking longer than I expected - and maybe a bit longer than I was prepared to bear - I played a few of my favourite SNES games to ease the tension and lift up my mood. Then I noted that the next title in the Marvel marathon was also a SNES game, and judging by what I've heard of it, it can't be all that bad. It was made by Capcom, after all - in their prime, I might add. And, if this game had been an utter failure, we probably wouldn't have Marvel vs. Capcom - which is THE most difficult and frustrating fighting game of the modern age, but there's just some strange appeal to it. Amusingly, the same can be said for X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse. It is most definitely the best game under the X-Men banner reviewed thus far. It's just not a very friendly game.

Let's go, tin can.
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is a love child conceived by people who know their business, that much is clear from the start and that much cannot be denied by anyone. First of all, it looks fantastic, if not perfect by the standards of its time. For once, I cannot come up with a complaint; both the character and level design make it feel like the game was made years after the Sega couple. It really feels like you're playing the animated series, down to the sound effects. Speaking of sound, the graphics are not the only element of instant appeal; the soundtrack is solid as well. Not nearly as memorable as in Capcom's original beat 'em up franchises, but delivered in surprisingly much of that same force.

Gameplay-wise, this is what happens when Mega Man, Street Fighter and Final Fight have a threesome one night stand. The short levels are almost straight out of Mega Man X, very familiar-looking industrial settings, yet not blatant copies. The game starts by having you choose between five levels, which you can beat in any order you wish. Perhaps in a conscious move by the developers who are well aware of everyone's favourite mutant, who everyone wants to play as (first), Wolverine's level is clearly - yet arguably - the easiest. And man, did I enjoy it. First of all, Logan's claws are out all the time; there's no punishment for using them, and you cannot retract them even by accident. That's all it takes. Perhaps due to the system's limitations which are tempted all the time, that's all there is as well; no regeneration ability for Wolverine, it's one specialty per character, which in Logan's case is a very efficient dash attack. The special attacks are executed exactly like special moves in Street Fighter; most of them follow the "ha-dou-ken" code, such as Cyclops' laser. Might sound too difficult for a hectic side-scroller, but let me tell you that these attacks pack a LOT of punch and would tip the scales for your benefit a lot more than the developers were ready to allow. Which isn't much, as you will see.

Mmm. Agile.
Those people duped to thinking that two lives per character is perfectly enough despite the game's high level of difficulty, since there are only five levels, I'd love nothing more than to ruin your Monday morning by saying that those five levels form less than one third of the game. After you've beaten each mutant's first solo mission, you FINALLY get your first password. You must then choose any mutant you feel most comfortable with (clever to give them all a level of their own so you'd have to make nice with 'em all), and go for three more levels with tough bosses, with the titular character Apocalypse for one of them. Even getting a password after each level from now on doesn't change the fact you're gonna weep. Out of every cavity you have, and every bodily fluid you have. ...Oh, you think THAT'S it? Go back to math class and ask your teacher the meaning of the word "third". Two more bosses, then ANOTHER set of five "HARD" levels for each mutant, THEN the final boss. This is like Mega Man 3 all over again. It's kinda neat, really, but at least it was possible to survive Mega Man 3 - at least the Blue Bomber could stand a hit - and at least you saw your enemy. Let's elaborate.

Lock 'em on the murder train.
First of all, your X-Men cannot block or evade enemy attacks; the absence of a block button is amazingly dumb considering there are two buttons without any use, namely L and R. Blocking could definitely even the odds, even if it's just for a little bit. You just have to keep moving and acting all the time, with high hopes that the enemy won't land a cheap one while you're kicking the shit out of the wrong pixel in their body. Happens all the time, if you didn't figure it out already, and just a few punches to the head are perfectly enough for you to drop dead and be hauled back to the beginning of the level with just one life left. Every character has two lives; once you lose two lives as the same character, it's game over. There are no checkpoints, just a couple of health power-ups per level, and the very slim chance to gain one extra life per level by collecting three hard-to-reach, blue X icons. And about the enemies you cannot see... my mind wanders to the first Cyclops level in which this wave of enemies on hoverbikes works as the sub-boss. You see 'em in the background just before they attack, and you quickly need to figure out the exact spot and time they'll attack you, and go for a dropkick a fraction of a second before they appear on the screen. One mistake, be it one of the placing or timing or both, they crash into you and take almost half of your health meter with 'em. It's fucking ridiculous, and what's even more ridiculous, if you somehow manage to survive the onslaught, you get a small health power-up for your troubles. A small one. Fair - considering you're not even halfway through the level. You're bound to get your ass kicked within the next 30 seconds - and this isn't the last you'll see of those hoverbike dudes either.

After all the yelling and cursing, it's time to reflect on the game's strengths again. Many game developers have made ultra-difficult games their business, kind of a sales point even - who made Ghosts 'n Goblins again? Oh yeah, Capcom. Who made Mega Man? Capcom again. The Magical Quest? Mmm. We have a load of ultra-difficult games with good gameplay and nice face values that have Capcom's name on the cover, and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is once again one of those games there's very little actually wrong with, it's just 1,000 miles of virtual cock right up your ass, tempting you with an appealing name from your childhood.

Besides the inexplicable absence of the ability to either block or dodge, and somewhat rough controls in general, it's a decent game - and definitely the closest to an entertaining X-Men video game experience I've had during this whole long-ass marathon. At this point of time, I think the best word to describe X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is "refreshing".

+ Looks like X-Men, and greatly so
+ Sounds awesome
+ Good boss fights
+ A simple, yet clever mix of different Capcom concepts
+ Challenging...

- ...Extremely and unfairly so
- Imperfect controls and limited movement; possible solutions are ignored perhaps to raise the stakes even higher
- That health meter don't mean shit

< 7.5 >

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