Welcome back to Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters. This is part 2 of our special edition X-men $20 GOTW and lost classics. In the first part we looked at some of the lows of the X-men franchise. In this second part, we’ll take a look at the Marvel Vs Capcom series, as well as Activision’s X-men games. You can find pretty much all of these games in stores, and most of them retail for $20 or less.

xmvssf.jpgIn the mid 90s, 2D fighting games were at the peak of their popularity. There were many solid entries in the genre, but its two biggest names were Midway’s Mortal Kombat and Capcom’s Street Fighter, while SNK’s games were close behind. The fans who weren’t arguing over weather MK or SF was better wanted to see a crossover between Liu Kang’s crew and Ryu’s clique. Capcom wouldn’t give us MK vs SF, but what we got instead was a hundred times better. Capcom’s Street Fighters teamed up with the X-men (and some of their arch enemies) in a series of tag team battles. Making their Capcom fighting game debuts here were Gambit, Sabertooth, and Rogue. On the Street Fighter side, Cammy made a surprising reappearance after a brief absence, and sported a new costume to boot. While all the familiar SF moves were there, the game’s engine was pretty much a Marvel game with Street Fighters. Thus the gameplay felt a bit loose, and the Street Fighters’ special attacks were even more hyperactive than usual. Chun Li’s super fireball took up a larger area of the screen, Akuma’s body generated lightning, and Dhalsim’s Yoga flame was even more dangerous that it could ever have been in Street Fighter. Adding to the craziness were ‘infinites’, combos with obscenely huge hit counts. Although this regulated fights into a game of ‘who could pull off their infinite first’. Of course this did nothing to take away from the game at all, as it was the start of one of the greatest Marvel crossovers since Spider man teamed up with Superman all those years ago. After defeating each team, you faced off against Apocalypse. After defeating him, you partnership dissolved, and you fought against your partner to determine the ending you’ll see.

The Playstation version of the game was severely hampered by the system’s memory limitations. Mainly, the tag team mode was severely gutted. It was accessible by only a code, and was only available in 2-player vs mode. Worse yet, you were forced to pick the same two characters your opponent picked, but in reverse order. You couldn’t play through the arcade mode in this manner. Instead, the second partner you chose was only used for ‘striker’ attacks. This was tantamount to releasing a King of Fighters game without a team battle mode. The Sega Saturn version of the game was arcade perfect, however, the only way to get it was via import, as Sega had prematurely killed off Saturn support in the US.

mshvsf.pngThis game was succeeded by Marvel Superheroes vs Street Fighter, which removed most of the X-men in favor of Spider-man, Captain America, and other non-mutant Marvel heroes. Besides switching around the cast of characters (adding in Dan and Sakura on the SF side) and recoloring the backgrounds, this didn’t do much to distinguish itself from X-Men vs Street Fighter. You even fought against Apocalypse towards the end of the game. After beating him, you fought against Mecha-Akuma, a super hard version of Akuma who was transformed into a horseman of Apocalypse. This game’s endings also seemed a bit rushed. Strangely enough, despite not being in the original X-Men vs Street Fighter, Omega Red was among the cast of playable characters. Speaking of questionable cast additions, Capcom caught a severe case of Mortal Kombat syndrome, as there were two characters, Mephisto and US Agent, who were just recolored versions of Blackheart and Captain America respectively. (Anyone familiar with the comic books knows that these are definitely not what Mephisto and US Agent look like in the comics.) They didn’t even have their own ending, and their movesets weren’t much different from the characters they were swapped from. This wasn’t a bad game by any means of the imagination, but you get the feeling that Capcom could have put a little more effort into it. By the way, the Playstation version suffered from the same unfortunate limitations as X-men vs Street Fighter, only this time you didn’t need a code to access the limited tag team mode. You still had to pick the same two characters your partner did, and you still can’t play tag team in arcade mode. It was even harder to obtain the imported Saturn version of the game, due to the appearance of Norimaru, a Japanese-exclusive character who was based upon a real-life Japanese comedian. Apparently Marvel wasn’t comfortable with his appearance in the US version of the game.

mvc.pngThankfully, Capcom redeemed itself in the next two Marvel crossover games. Marvel vs Capcom not only shook up the Marvel cast with the additions of War Machine (a palette swapped Iron Man in this game, but he was so cool that it was forgivable) and Venom (who thankfully was NOT a palette swapped Spider-man), but for the Capcom side, they borrowed characters from all over the company’s history. Along with Ryu, Zangief, Darkstalker’s Morrigan, and Jin from Cyberbots, players can also choose characters from Capcom’s non-fighting games, such as Captain Commando, Strider, and Mega Man. In Perhaps an even cooler feature, you can choose a third ‘striker’ character. These strikers ranged from Thor, Jubilee, and Magneto to Ton Pu (the boss from Strider), the Unknown Soldier (from Forgotten Worlds), and Michelle Heart (of Legendary Wings fame). This time, Onslaught was the final boss, and he had 2 forms you had to defeat. Unfortunately, this game featured more palette swaps (such as a golden War Machine and a red Venom), and this time Capcom didn’t bother to give them new names. Of course, the game was so cool, and the appearance of obscure Capcom characters was so awesome that this could be forgiven. Unfortunately it goes without saying that the PS1 version suffered from the same limitations as the previous versus entries. Thankfully, the Dreamcast version, a launch window title, was an arcade perfect port, even adding a 4 player mode, helping the system sell a lot of units in the early months of the Dreamcast. Oddly enough, while War Machine was in the game, Iron Man was nowhere to be found. He was also absent from Marvel Superheroes vs Street Fighter. Also gone was Ken, although one of Ryu’s specials was to change into a mode that used his attacks.

mvc2.jpgMarvel vs Capcom 2 was the last game Capcom made with the Marvel license, and it went out with a bang. It featured one of the largest character lineups ever in a 2-d fighting game at the time, of course many of them had to be unlocked first. Capcom boasted many new characters, including Resident Evil’s Jill Valentine, Star Gladiator’s Hayate, and Anmigo, a bizarre looking walking cactus. The Marvel lineup featured every Marvel Character that was ever in a Capcom fighting game, except Apocalypse, Onslaught, and any character who was a palette swap of another. The only new characters
added to the cast were Cable, Marrow (Out of all of the Marvel heroes that could have made it into the game, and they pick her? AUGGGGGGH!!!!), and an alternate version of Wolverine with bone claws. This game changed up the formula in a huge way. The striker characters from Marvel vs Capcom were nixed in favor of three on three tag team matches. The graphics made use of the Naomi arcade board (instead of the more commonly used CPS2 board) which allowed scrolling and animated 3-d objects, while the 6-button fighting scheme was nixed in favor of a new 4-button fighting system. If you see the 6 – button cabinet, don’t be confused, the last two buttons are for striker attacks by your partners. Just like Marvel vs Capcom before it, it helped sell a lot of Dreamcasts. It would also arrive on Xbox and PS2 a few years later.

mutantacademy.jpgActivision took over many of Marvel’s biggest properties, including X-men. In fact, they wasted no time getting started utilizing the license with X-men: Mutant Academy, a one-on-one fighting game for the Playstation. Paradox Software, known for Wu-Tang Shaolin Style, and the canceled game Thrill Kill was developed the game. In fact, Mutant Academy utilizes an altered version of the Wu-Tang/Thrill Kill engine that supported 2-players (instead of four as in WU-Tang and Thrill Kill). They had already begun work on the game even as Capcom was releasing the MVC games, as an early version of the game featured Iceman fighting a Brood creature. However, when the movie hit, the designers went back to the drawing board and utilized the look and feel of the movie. A sequel was released a year later, featuring even more characters from the X_men universe. Although these games were no substitute for Capcom’s games, (the developers even admitted this) they were enjoyable in their own right. One nice thing about them was that they featured characters such as Forge, Havok, and Mystique who had been overlooked in the Capcom games.

xmnd.jpgAfter several average portable games, Activision continued the fighting games on Xbox, Gamecube, and PS2 with X-Men: Next Dimension Featuring an original plot featuring the X-men and brotherhood teaming up against Bastion, the games could almost have fit into comics continuity if not for a few changes that would be needed. Although it still wouldn’t make hardcore fighting fans toss out their copies of Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance and Dead or Alive 4, X-men fans found lots of enjoyment in this game. It has lots of playable characters (including both British and Asian versions of Psylocke), some cool unlockables (Dark Phoenix), and plenty of familiar locations from the comic. The Xbox version included Pyro as an exclusive character. A nice thing about this game is that it’s one of the first to feature the Grant Morrison New X-men era costumes as the default selection rather than the early 90s Jim Lee era costumes that were common in most X-men games.

wolverine.jpgWolverine’s Revenge, a blatant attempt to cash in on the X2 movie was the third console attempt at a Wolverine solo game. (The second, Adamantium Rage, was a mediocre SNES/Genesis platformer released in 1994 by Acclaim.) This game had a lot going for it. Wolverine faced enemies such as Magneto, Sabertooth, and Lady Deathstrike in an attempt to cure himself of a virus. There were unlockable costumes, guest appearances, and custom soundtracks for Xbox owners. However, the actual gameplay fell flat. It was too slow paced, enemies were far and few in between, the stealth gameplay felt like a gimmick, and there were no mid-level checkpoints.

xml.jpgAfter that debacle, Activision teamed up with Raven Software to create 2004’s X-men Legends, an action role playing game that could best be described as Diablo with mutants. The game was centered around Magma, and featured a large cast of playable X-men. Teaming up with your favorite mutants, your mission was to stop Magneto from going to war with humanity. You’ll also encounter the Morlocks, the Shadow King, and other X-foes. A sequel was released the following year, and while it was a little lighter on the storyline, it fixed some of the gameplay issues from the original game. After Activision released a dismal movie tie-in game, Raven improved on the action RPG formula even more with 2006’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance. It featured some of the X-men along with Spider-man, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers.

Few know what the future holds for the Children of the Atom. No doubt Activision has more games planned featuring the X-men, even if nothing else has been announced yet. There is also a Marvel Universe MMORPG planned by Microsoft and Cryptic (city of heroes). However, few information has been revealed about the game’s status. EA Chicago (Fight Night, Def Jam Icon) had planned a Marvel Universe fighting game. Unfortunately EA Chicago was disbanded late last year, leaving the status of this game in limbo as well. Hopefully we’ll hear some status updates soon, as gamers can never get enough interactive X-rated action.