Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I never beat X-Men for Genesis

The first X-Men video game for the Sega Genesis came out in 1993, when I was 11. While I didn’t have a Genesis myself at the time, I had at least a couple friends who did and I spent many an afternoon following school holed up in one of their basements or living rooms mooching off their sweet, sweet consoles.

By 1996 or so, I did get a Genesis to call my own. I played it on and off for many years, even bringing it along to college with me—Sonic the Hedgehog 3 got me through finals my sophomore year as I’d just play, write a paper, play, study for a test, play, sleep a few hours, play, and maybe eat once in awhile if the steady diet of gold rings and knowledge wasn’t doing it.

Since most of my friends at least watched the X-Men cartoon even if they weren’t comics-reading full-fledged nerds like me, they had the X-Men game. When I got a Genesis, I think I either bought the game or got it from one of my buddies who had no more use for it.

I present this preface to illustrate that I have been playing the Sega Genesis X-Men game for roughly 18 years now and I have still never come anywhere close to beating it.

I braved an electrical storm and pumped about 30 pounds worth of quarters into the X-Men Arcade Game to beat Magneto’s ass. I rented and polished off X-Men 2: Clone Wars, the sequel to the Genesis game, which would in theory, be tougher, but no.

Let me speak first to the virtues of this game.

The graphics are rad. They were awesome in 1993, and I daresay almost two decades later in the world of 3-D and polygons are whatever they still rock. It looked like the comics I was reading at the time, as if they’d pulled Jim Lee and Andy Kubert’s energy and dumped them into my TV with all the crackle and sexiness therein.

There are a crap load of characters in this game, and given that the X-Men has always been a franchise at its best—in my opinion—when it’s filled to brimming with personas, I dug that. To start, you can play as Wolverine, Cyclops, Gambit or Nightcrawler and can rotate between the four. You also get assists from Storm, Iceman, Rogue, Archangel and Jean Grey. You get to fight Juggernaut, Deathbird, Apocalypse, Ahab and Magneto, to name a few. The levels take you everywhere from Mojoworld to Excalibur’s Lighthouse; it really is a full X-Men experience.

Also, the music was bad ass, both to my 11-year-old ears and in a nostalgic sense looking back. Fletcher Beasley (thanks, Wikipedia) rocked it with a hard-edged techno beat that felt right for the X-Men.

Ok, now to bitch about how impossible this game was/is/will forever be.

Your mutant powers are, on the whole, terrible, or rather your ability to use them is. Wolverine has his claws and an incredibly slow moving healing factor that does you no good against anybody tougher than a generic Savage Land tribesman. Cyclops’ optic blast is so tiny it looks like you are firing the puck from Pong at your opponents. In order for Gambit to actually throw a playing card, you need to execute some elaborate button-pushing sequence more appropriate for Street Fighter or it just hovers in front of you like a pink bug zapper. Nightcrawler teleports into walls. To make matters worse, you have a power bar right next to your life bar, so you have a limited amount of uses of your crappy mutant abilities. You will be longing for Colossus’ angry yell energy spark or even Dazzler’s dainty light grenades by the end of level one.

Remember those guest star assists I mentioned earlier? It’s virtually impossible to beat bosses without them, but also almost as tough to figure out how to execute them. Unless you time it perfectly, Rogue will fly in and punch the air rather than the guy you’re fighting. Archangel is a little better/more frustrating in the sense that he will shoot wing darts at the air three times as opposed to just once. My natural inclination to want to use Iceman after my excitement over seeing him in a video game tends to make me forget he’s only there to make ice bridges and thus useless unless there’s a long jump I want to avoid (in other words, I gave Juggernaut a lot of ice bridges to run across and kill me from). Storm is really the only surefire helper, as she fries everybody on the screen, so of course the enemies tend to flee a second after you’ve called her. And since you burn through these assists the minute you use them and can’t get them back until you die, you better use them right the first time out the gate or memorize them for next time after you’ve sacrificed Nightcrawler to get all your power back.

Also, you can’t die from falling down into pits because Jean Grey comes and retrieves you, though it does cost you a little bit of life each time; this might seem like it’s a kindness, but really it just means if you’re stuck and want to start over without hitting reset, it’s death by a thousand paper cuts rather than being able to run yourself through with a sword.

It’s also hard to jump; really, really hard. Wolverine is short, so he can’t jump. Cyclops is lanky, so he can’t jump. Gambit has a trench coat, so, you know, wind resistance. In theory, being able to jump should be one of Nightcrawler’s chief assets, so instead they have him do some flip thing in the air that, again, makes jumping virtually impossible; also, he does a ridiculous dropkick.

The bosses are incredibly difficult. Juggernaut just runs back and forth, but being unstoppable, you can’t do much to him unless you hit him in the head at the exact right time or use all your assists to get past him (guess which one I did). Deathbird jumps away to the other side of the screen any time you make contact, and, again, you can’t jump too well. Apocalypse can create an impenetrable barrier around himself at a moment’s notice that drains half your life. I hear you get to fight Ahab, Mojo, Magneto and maybe a Sentinel as well, but I wouldn’t know.

Finally, you only get one life with each character, though you are able to swap them out at will, so you can have four guys die in rapid succession rather than be allowed the dignity of just accepting that you can’t get past the Shi’Ar airlock once and putting in Tecmo Bowl. There are, of course, no continues or saves.

To sum it up: I was able to grow up and get a job at the company that makes X-Men before I was able to beat this X-Men video game.

If anybody has beaten the game, I’d love to hear your stories. I’d also love to borrow your Sega Genesis, as my sister’s pet rabbit bit a hole in the plug to mine.


JimmyGlenn711 said...

This game was impossible... it haunts me to this day.

If you were lucky enough to beat Juggernaut, Deathbird, and whomever else was next; you were forced to face Apocalypse who was, as far as I could tell, immortal. I guess the developers were more committed to making Apocalypse's powers accurate, and less committed to making a game that was enjoyable.

Also, I am sure Tim Dillon will agree, Iceman was sorely under utilized.

Whoever made this game was a sadist.

P.S. Shameless plug, check out my comic Kid Occult:

Th first issue will be available for free at New York Comic Con

Ben Morse said...

Yeah, if I could beat Apocalypse, as far as I was concerned, I beat the game. The level after him was ridiculous.

And everybody check out Jimmy's book!

Trinity said...

I had forgotten this until your screen shots and then it all flooded back to me. The slamming of my fists into the carpet as I would almost beat a boss, the times my mother would warn me she was going to take the game away if I didn't calm down. The thrown remotes in frustration.

I can't recall how far I got but I can guarantee I didn't beat it.

Mark said...

I loved this game and I definitely beat it, one of the few games from that era I ever beat - although possibly by cheating, as the internet tells me there's a way to get full health with some fancy controller tricks.

I remember it primarily for the part where you had to reset your Genesis(!) in order to continue in the game.

Ben Morse said...

I didn't even bring up the reset thing because I never made it that far, but yeah, that.

dagnabbit said...

Yeah this game was incredibly tough but cool. You forgot to mention the "special moves" where Wolverine would do this wicked spin-slice. Cyclops would somersault and shoot in all directions but it was fairly useless...can't even remember the other two characters' special moves so they must have been equally lame. My favorite was Nightcrawler because he was the best jumper and his "bamf" would flat out kill dudes...until you got to the boss then Wolverine usually.
You could also play it two-player tandem mode. If either character made a movement that would cause the screen to scroll and the other guy wasn't right there with him, you could expect another visit from Jean Grey. As frustrating as that game was in one player mode two player mode was 10 times worse.

JimmyGlenn711 said...

I literally had to wikipedia the game to find out what "reset button thing" you were referring to...

There is apparently an entire game that I never, and will never, experience.


I agree Ben, Apocalypse was the end for me.

Ben Morse said...

Oh man, I did forget two player mode...

Chris Baker said...

I was able to beat each level in the game via cheat codes, including the last level -- I just couldn't piece them all together for one, full, legitimate beating of the game.

And as annoying as the actually hitting of Reset may have been, you have to admit it took some balls for the developers to actually do it...

Anonymous said...

its not THAT hard. after you defeat mojo, a screen pops up with matrix-like numbers and you restart the console, then you continue onto magneto, on asteroid m. once you get to magneto... then you could call it hard. said...

Here, I do not really imagine it is likely to have effect.

Anonymous said...

loved this game when i was a kid and i also found it extremely hard. apocalypse was where id always fail. DAMN YOU APOCALYPSE!!!

Anonymous said...

This game is awesome! Really hard at first but once u get the hang of it easy as pie. The story above is pretty bad since he didn't even beat the game but I did like the enthusiasm for the game. Every boss has a simple way of defeating typically a pattern or use of the special guys (rogue, storm, etc). Bummer for me is my reset button doesnt work so im unable to complete. :/

Levin1983 said...

Damn it damn it damn it. I wish I had kept my system and that game. I loved it so much! And YEAH! Apocalypse was a bitch! I couldn't get past him either. If I had that game now I'd use Gamefaqs. Time to hit craigslist.

Anonymous said...

i swear i beat this game as a kid... once, and only once. final boss was against magneto in space (and you guys thought apocalypse was hard). this game was so damn impossible though. i remember beating apocalypse a few times only to have the game end. i think it did that on east mode.

Michael Bucciantini said...

You don't need the console to play, this game is on the website game oldies. I'm letting wolverine recharge as we speak!!!

Putain said...

Apocalypse was actually the EASIEST boss to beat. The key is using Nightcrawler.

When you meet him, hes absorbing his waterfall/energy field. As soon as he's done and grown double the size, he'll charge after you and try to punch you. Right before he does, as Nightcrawler, hold down the mutant power button so you're all teleporty/pink/glowy. When he punches you, he'll hit you as you're "bamfing" and get hurt by your energy. As soon as he does his "Im hurt!" pose, release the mutant power button and move slightly out of the way, as he will start that whole waterfall/energy absorbing thing again. Then, he'll grow again, youll make him punch energy-infused Nightcrawler, and he'll get damaged in the process.

The key is JUST holding down the mutant power button, but not moving the direction pad; move only after he's hurt and you've let go of the mutant power button.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

This game was easy until you got to mojos level. I never use cheats and never considered calling Sega. But after 15 years(not continuous) I had to see. And it was the stupid reset button.

Joe Popich said...

WOW what a blast from the past. I remember being so afraid the first time rebooting after defeating Mojo (but I only learned that cheat way after beating the game). The biggest hurdle for me was the future level. All the kids at my grade school who had a Genesis didn’t know how to beat it. We all ended up giving up once we hit the “Cliff”. This was pre Internet, and no one called Sega. Finally one night I had a dream to use iceman and do a leap of faith (maybe I was watching the Last Crusade) and sure enough I did it and there was an entire level at the other end. Man I remember telling everyone on the playground…. My kids will never experience that. Damn you Google and your wealth of information!

Steeltown Mike said...

I remember using Nightcrawler through the first three levels, pretty much, particularly teleporting through the walls in the 2nd level, cutting 5 minutes off the game, easy. I would use Wolverine in Level 4 because the environment was more harmful that the enemies, so I'd just stand around and wait for him to recharge his health when I had to.

Mojo's get to the end of Level 5. Xavier's telling you to "Hit the Reset Button Now!" and you're punching and kicking and blasting every wall, floor panel, pixel of the screen looking for that reset button. It's taken you more than an hour to get here, he surely can't mean "hit the reset button on the Sega system itself!" No WAY am I doing that? But after time kept running out and getting Game Overed, I figured, well, the game's over anyway, so why not?

And it worked. I should have trusted Professor X all along. That's probably the cleverest piece of programming in the whole thing. I didn't see anything like that again until the halfway point of "Batman: Arkham Asylum" 20 years later.

I agree with a previous comment that if I beat Apocalypse, the game was over for me. The final 3 levels are fairly boring with super challenging boss fights. I found Cyclops to be the best for beating Magneto, but I'm sure that's just me. I don't even remember the ending, so it probably wasn't even worth it.

Thanks for the memories.

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Aron said...
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Aron said...

All it takes is avoid the attack patterns and attacking and the right time. I beat it as a kid surprisingly (even though still a few years). Only Magneto gave me a hard time. Nightcrawler is the most powerful if you figure out the secrets. Still love it though. Great game.