Sunday, January 3, 2016

Kid's Stuff, Part VIDEO GAMES! Third Quarter: X-Men Mutant Apocalypse #1




Super NES fun for the mutant fanboy crowd

Marvel’s hottest properties bar Spider-Man is a crowd of fellows known as the X-Men. There’s about 150 of these guys and gals, each with different powers, convoluted backstories and giant helpings of pre-emo angst to sort out. And I’m going to examine each and every one of them right now.

Psyche!

If you don’t know who the X-Men are after five blockbuster movies, two different animated cartoon series plus their 4-5 different ongoing comic book series, there’s really nothing I can do to bring you up to speed.

Another thing I can’t really bring you up to speed on is the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Just like the Atari 2600, I didn’t have one of those either. Between being a full-time college student and working 39 hours a week while teaching myself computer skills at home really killed my video game playing time for six to seven years. So the only fond memories I have of the Super Mario Brothers is the fond memory of turning off the movie when it was showing on HBO. 

Ahh, what a sweet relief that was.



What I can tell you about the SNES is what I gleaned from minutes of pouring over wikipedia. A late bloomer that eventually overtook all the competition, SNES was the most popular of the fourth generation console systems. Featuring a 16 bit architecture with improved graphics and sound, SNES was introduced in late 1990. Packaged with the side-scroller Super Mario World, players got one of the hottest game systems with one of its best games included. Selling over 49 million units world wide, it was a big success, even if it did fall short of the 60 million mark set by its predecessor, the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES.

Third party development of titles had been strictly controlled by Nintendo for the NES, with limits set on number of games a developer could release, platform exclusivity for a period of years after a game’s release and Nintendo approval on each and every title. 

Due to fierce competition with the SEGA system, the SNES developers were freed from many of these restraints. Capcom, creator of such hits as Street Fighter and Mega Man, was one of the developers to benefit from having free reins on game releases. Capcom nailed down licensing from Marvel comics to use their comic book characters and would later create such titles as Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs. Capcom and X-Men: Children of the Atom.



All of these games came after this X-title, though. X-Men Mutant Apocalypse was a side-scroller (what else?) fighting game where you got to assume the identity of one of the five most popular X-Men characters. Players got to try out Beast, Gambit, Psylocke, Cyclops and everyone’s favorite Ginsu knife set with a healing factor, Wolverine. You are not given a choice of who to play for the first five levels of the game so you get a chance to play each character once. After that you are on your own to choose who you fight with. I found a review online HERE, plus I should really pay some bills by mentioning IGN’s site HERE.

(That's a joke, by the way. No one pays me for this. No one. *points to tip jar*)


Enemies in the game range from the generic bad solider-guy (always a hit), to mutant machine-gun-toting train engine, Brood drones and a host of X-Men baddies like Apocalypse, Omega Red, and Juggernaut. The odd thing about the game is the final boss isn’t Apocalypse, it’s Magneto. Not that Maggie shouldn’t be the final boss of an X-Men game. He’s got the street cred and everything. It’s just his name is not in the title. Feels a bit like false advertisement to me. Whatever my feelings, several people have felt it necessary to youtube whole levels of the game and show their mad X-Menz skillz. Far be it from me to comment further. Here are three of the levels and a link to three pages worth of youtube X-Men Mutant Apocalypse throwdowns.

Intro & Cyclops vs evil train:

Wolverine vs Apocalypse

Gambit vs Magneto

Three pages worth of Mutant Apocalypse

As for the comic, it appears to be a promotional item the was either included in the game as freebee or handed out alongside the game cartridges. It’s a full size, 16 pager with no ads. I’m not real sure how you would fit an 8 X 10 comic into a package the size of a SNES cartridge without folding it up worse than a road map, so my bet is that these were sent to retailers as a separate give-away gimmick. I’m not researching further to find out.

Jim Krueger did the writing here. He went on to work with Alex Ross on Earth X and Justice plus a slew of other titles. In this instance, Krueger is given some really far out plot elements and he does his best to tie them up into a neat, tidy bow. To a point, he succeeds, but I’d rather not be around for the unwrapping. The parcel he creates bulges like it is overstuffed and about to pop open. 

Karl Kershl does a passable job on art. There are panels that evoke styles of other, better artists, but for the most part the pure “averageness” of the characters and background look unmistakably rushed. Typical for a low-cost promo item.
 
We being our sordid tale with Apocalypse torturing mutants and loving every minute of it. It’s fitting that the book begins with him, since he’s getting shafted as the main baddie. I get that Kershl is trying to pull off what amounts to a poor man’s Walt Simonson here. Sadly it doesn’t really jive with me as it just doesn't have Walt's smooth lines. Anyway, let’s listen in as Apocalypse monologues our intro.


“…the mutant this game is named after! Ha ha ha!” I’ve never really felt Apocalypse was that good of a villain. I mean he’s got a distinctive look and all, sort of a “robot-meets-black face comedian” deal, but for someone so ultra-powerful I’m not really impressed. What is his main claim to fame as a bad guy? Making Angel’s skin blue and giving him a more powerful set of wings? Terrifying. Maybe it was getting his ship taken from him by the preteen Power Pack when he first appeared? Real Scary. Maybe it was that whole “Age of Apocalypse” future-thing that never really happened? Oh, yeah! Except it never really happened. Torture helpless mutants all day long, ‘pocky baby. Color me not impressed.

So here he sits on Genosha, talking to himself. Which is pretty frightening. Suddenly Apocalypse’s train of thought is derailed, attacked by hungry hobos and turned into sub-standard housing for the homeless. My goodness, one of the X-Men is attacking his men! Also I’m quite sure that “X-patriots” doesn’t really mean what he thinks it means. While distracted by Psylocke on the monitors, three more X-Men break down his door

Pointless exposition introducing the characters or a necessary explanation of four of the game levels? Why it’s two, two, two lame ideas in one! I really feel for writers who are given these projects where every move the characters make has to fit a specific mold. Must be really emasculating not to be able to say “this character wouldn’t act this way” only to hear that they have to fit that round peg into that square hole because the game does it that way. Wolvie finally makes an appearance on the following page…



…getting his butt stomped by a Sentinel. Guess someone’s 5 year-old brother is playing that level and can’t figure out the A+B combo moves. While the rest of the X-Men team help Logan out of the robot jam he’s in, ‘pocky takes off for the hills. Because he’s so bad-ass and all.

 
Now how great a chance is it that the folks Apocalypse is torturing turn out to be infected with the alien Brood? It’s like saying that there’s a huge possibility that all of them are Skrulls. Wait, in light of Secret Invasion, let me rephrase that. It’s like saying there’s this huge possibility that all of these folks are lesbians. Or left-handed. Or ninjas. Hell, who am I kidding. This is an X-Men comic set in the Marvel universe. When the day is done, we’ll find out all these guys are Brood-infested, left-handed, lesbian ninja mutants. Or Skrulls pretending to be Brood-infested, left-handed, lesbian ninja mutants. Take your pick.

The Brood only make an appearance to show that they’ll be in the game. They and Apoca-lips get buried by building rubble resulting from the X-Men KO’ing the Sentinel. As the teammates search the rubble, they receive the thanks of the formerly captured mutants.




Yeah right! Who is this chick? Does she work for the island’s Bureau of Tourism? Did she take lessons from “Bagdad Bob”? Genosha is like the focal point of 90% of all the bad things that happen to mutants. Every year the place is either taken over by mutant-hating human extremists, power hungry super-villains or totally razed by advanced Sentinels. And since the X-Men are the ones that come in to clean up all these messes, who does she think she’s fooling with this “mutants and humans living in peace” act?



Meanwhile, Magento is chilling in his crib miles above the planet, getting his drink on and plotting how best to pimp out the X-Men. Maybe not in so many words, but you get the idea.

Maggie is one of these guys who’ve played both sides of the fence now for such a long time that, at any given moment, you never know if you are suppose to root for him or against him. When he’s good, he’s always conflicted. When he’s bad, he’s always supremely confident. That’s about the best way to tell which team he’s batting for. Here he’s all cocksure about everything, so we know the little devil on his left shoulder has kicked the halo out of the angel on his right.

The X-guys and gals arrive back at the mansion in time to receive a psychic call for help from Professor Xaiver. It appears he was in the Danger Room and has fallen under something heavy. Sadly, common sense alarm bells don’t go off in anyone’s head and they rush to his aid.



Only to be strangled by Doc Ock. Wait, that’s a Spider-man villain. Oh, it’s not Doc Ock, it’s these two fellows:



Juggernaut, who I have a lot of respect for, and the less eloquent fellow by his side, Omega Red, who appears to not only have stolen Doc Ock’s tentacle power but also has the personality of a post. For quite awhile there Omega Red was being built up as a huge threat to Wolvie. I never cared for him then and nothing in this book changes any of that.

The doors clang shut and won’t open. While the boys are fighting, Psylocke wakes up the real Professor X from where he’s unconscious of the control room floor and has him defeat the Acolyte sent by Magneto who’s controlling the simulations. To do this, Psylocke uses her “mutant mind butterfly” which is still the lamest looking mutant power ever.




When the simulation ends, Gambit, Beast and Cyclops disappear with it. They’ve been transported to Avalon, and wake tied and bound. Guess Exodus is in to that B&D stuff. I’ve heard those French-dudes are pretty weird. Magneto reveals himself and for the second time in the book is referred to as the “stone-hearted man”. I’m pretty sure Maggie doesn’t have a Flintstone’s pacemaker so I’m guessing this is an exaggeration used for impact.

And that’s where the book ends. Wholly unsatisfying and with no follow up issues to finish the story off. The last page admonishes you to play the game to find out what happens next. Some people must have, and as youtube can attest, they still have a working SNES to this very day.

2 comments:

  1. You thought this was bad..you should try X-men for the Original NES! Horrible on another level!

    Loved this post man! Keep em Coming!

    Hero Out

    ReplyDelete
  2. One of my favorite games growing up. Felt like a side scrolling Street Fighter 2.

    ReplyDelete