hughThis past week saw the legendary mutant superhero Wolverine return to movie theaters by way of the film X-men origins: Wolverine. Of course, the logical tie-in game hit store shelves as well. Word on the street is that this new game isn’t half bad. That’s a good thing too, as Wolverine’s solo history in video gaming has been less than encouraging. This special maximum letdown takes a look at one of his previous solo endeavors. As an added bonus, this week’s lost classic , included in this article, takes a look at one of his many team up adventures.

Maximum Letdown: X2- Wolverine’s Revenge (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube)
x2To date, there have been several good X-men games, from Konami’s 6-player beat-em-up to Capcom’s Mutant Apocalypse to Raven and Activision’s X-men Legends. However, Wolverine, easily the most popular member of the group, has had a less than encouraging history in gaming. There was Acclaim’s side scrolling platformer which was mediocre, and there was Wolverine: Adamantium Rage which wasn’t very good either. Activision had a forgettable Game Boy Color side scroller. When the second X-men movie hit theaters, Activision decided to have another go with the canuck head. Wolverine’s Revenge had a lot going for it too. It features a story penned by comic scribe Larry Hama, unlockable costumes, appearances by several members of his rogue’s gallery, and vocal work by both Patrick Steward and Scott Hamil (with the former reprising his role as Professor X and the latter voicing Wolverine). However, like other Wolverine solo games, this one too would fall flat.

The game begins during the 1960s, shortly after Wolverine was forcefully implanted with Adamantium. You control Logan as he makes his escape from the Weapon X facility. Somehow, despite being in a state of uncontrollable rampage, he is rational enough to seek the assistance of one of the scientists, and think about the path he needs to travel in order to escape. Before he leaves, he is informed of a virus in his system that will kill him years later down the road. Not paying any mind to the news, he makes his escape into the woods. Decades later, the virus starts to flare up in Wolverine’s system, and with the help of Professor X, he sets out to find a cure. Along the way, he gets mixed up with old foes such as Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red, and others.

So far the developers try their hardest to put the player in the shoes of Wolverine. He has a series of special moves he can use, his healing factor helps to recover him, and he can use his enhanced senses to find hidden enemies. There is also some stealth elements, but they are limited to holding down a button to walk slowly hoping to get unnoticed, and popping out from behind corners. Unfortunately, the game suffers from horrid level design. Levels are huge and boring to play through,fights are too far and few in between, and when you do meet enemies, they can be frustratingly cheap. Making matters worse, there are no checkpoints. Thus, if you get killed, you have to start all the way back to the beginning of the level.

Another issue I have deals with part of the story. I’ll try to hold back on the spoilers, but for crying out loud, the game is 6 years old. If you haven’t played the game by now, then you’re not gonna. When Wolverine gains the recipe for the cure, instead of going back to the X-mansion and wait for Beast to synthesize it, he decided to head out and take care of some unfinished business, despite the fact that there is a virus raging in his system. Why not simply wait until he is back to full health? Or better yet, why can’t the X-men, or some of the other superheroes assist with the unfinished business? Makes you wonder where some people’s priorities lie.

However, there are a few brightspots in the game. You can unlock past Wolverine costumes such as his classic yellow/blue costume, his Ultimate X-men gear, and his outfit from the movie. Xbox users can play their own custom soundtracks during the game, and there are character bios for everyone in the game. While the gameplay may not have been up to snuff, at least the developers tried as hard as possible to appeal to the fans.

Lost Classics: Marvel Superheroes- War of the Gems (SNES)
mshwogWhile the house of ideas is doing considerably well these days(crappy economy notwithstanding), it’s a little known fact that Marvel was undergoing bankruptcy during the mid to late 90s. You wouldn’t know it though, as under the watchful eye of then president Bill Jemas, Marvel Comics’ artists, writers, and other talent were putting their best feet forward. Even at their lowest, fans were still reading the comics and buying related merchandise. Even so, they still suffered some losses. Several movies that had been planned were put on the backburner among other setbacks. However, one good side effect was that Japanese publisher Capcom was able to gain licensing rights to the many of Marvel’s intellectual properties for dirt cheap. They put the license to good use, creating a string of classic titles featuring Spider-man, the X-men, and the Punisher. One of these titles was this hidden gem from the SNES days. A spiritual successor to Capcom’s X-men: Mutant Apocalypse and one of the original Capcom 5 (5 SNES games that would have been canceled if not for a massive fan outcry as opposed to the 5 Gamecube games that were supposed to breathe new life into the system), War of the Gems is loosely based on the Infinity Trilogy. Though it doesn’t take very long to complete, Marvel fans will enjoy it while it lasts.

The mad titan Thanos is seeking out the infinity gems, and it’s up to Adam Warlock’s chosen group of heroes to help stop it. Taking control of either Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, or the Hulk, players set out to grab the infinity gems before Thanos does, defeat him, and save the universe.

For those who played X-men Mutant Apocalypse, this game plays very similar. The game is a 2d side scrolling platform game that freely borrows many elements from the beat-em-up genre. The character’s attacks are activated by control pad motions similar to Street Fighter. While they are responsive and work quite well, they can easily frustrate gamers unfamiliar with SF. It’s a mystery why Capcom would use such a control scheme when there are so many buttons available on the SNES control pad. Your enemies consist mainly of evil clones of various Marvel Superheroes such as Puck, She-Hulk, and Daredevil. You’ll also face villains such as Doctor Doom and the Magus sometime during the game. You aren’t all alone however, as Adam Warlock shows up to brief players between levels and Doctor Strange shows up to lend a hand as you battle evil Silver Surfer clones. As you gain the infinity gems, you can equip them to make use of their special powers. Be warned however, the game is pretty easy to finish. I was able to play through it in a weekend without making use of the infinity gems.

Even as simple as it was, Marvel Superheroes was a pretty nice package for SNES gamers during the system’s final days. It may not have been Marvel Ultimate Alliance, but it gave 16-bit gamers some superhero sized thrills all on its own.