Retro Review: X-Men Mutant Apocalypse
Licensed games tend to be an awful group of products. Usually these games are derivative and uninspired, and make fans seethe with hatred for having something they enjoy be tarnished by a poorly created game. However not all licensed games are terrible, and for this week’s Retro Review we have a pretty good one for the Super Nintendo. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is based on the popular television show from the nineties that aired on Fox for several years. It’s a pretty typical story about the X-men using their teamwork and mutant abilities to stop the super villain Magneto. It’s pretty much superhero 101, but the lack of plot won’t be missed here.
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is a 2D side scrolling Beat ‘em Up that lets you choose from five different members of the X-Men. You can choose from Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men whose optic blasts can one-shot nearly anything (but bosses). Gambit is the charming thief who throws explosive cards giving him great crowd control and vertical shots as well. Psylocke is a female ninja who wields a psychic blade and the largest array of special techniques. Beast is the furry blue genius whose incredible agility allows him to cling to ceilings. And finally the fan favourite, Wolverine, who fights with his adamantium claws, and also uses them to scale walls. Although Wolverine’s most famous ability is his healing factor, it doesn’t appear in this game.
In order to perform each characters special moves, you input commands that are identical to Street Fighter moves. For instance the classic “fireball motion”, down-to-forward + attack, will have Cyclops execute a forward facing Optic Blast, or have Gambit throw a trio of cards in front of him. You may need to lookup how to do everyone’s moves online, because the game fails to do so, but they will be easy to remember. The more retro games I play, the more I wish they all had a “how to play” or “move list” menu. If you are an avid Street Fighter player then you can probably guess at most of the moves quickly. Thankfully the moves are all simple to pull off once you know them.
All the sprites in this game are large and wonderfully detailed. It isn’t necessarily the best animated game, but the visuals are still quite pleasing and the special moves are very well drawn. For an SNES game it has certainly aged well, and the music isn’t half bad either. I have a weakness for the SNES soundtracks that make that bass line work, and the slapping at work here is really nice. Some of the boss tracks are short loops that are forgettable. But some of the stages deserve to be in your VG music library!
Some honorable mentions (and serious recommendations) are:
The fundamentals of moving to the right and beating up bad guys is intact here, but if you don’t learn the special moves that each character has, and how to maximize their special abilities, then you won’t make it far. This game’s difficulty tends to fall just between challenging and taunting, with a very few instances of it descending into being cheap. You only have one life per stage, but if you know where to look for health power ups and extra lives then you can have your life bar replenished a few times per level, so it’s tolerable. Platforming sections are handled with a nice amount of forgiveness and don’t require extreme precision to progress either, but you will have to watch for instant death pits and occasional turrets that like to push you into them.
Although this is a 2D side scroller, it isn’t a brainless baddie bashing bore, it requires your attention. For instance, every enemy should be taken seriously. Even a single combatant can do significant damage, if you let them. They don’t throw waves of mindless foes at you, each waiting minutes before taking a single swing. No, these enemies have a range of abilities and are more than willing to use teamwork to take you down. With practice you could get to each stage’s boss without taking a single hit! Bosses can sometimes be overwhelmed by the ranged attacks of Cyclops and Gambit, and a few others can be easily stun locked by Wolverine’s claws.
The 5 X-Men have unique first and final stages, and the other levels in between allows you to choose one to tackle that mission with. It adds a great deal of variety to try every character on each stage, but you will discover how dominant certain choices make some levels incredibly challenging, or a push-over. There is also a password system that allows you to pick up from further into the game. Whoever you beat the game with will have a few unique lines of dialogue, but otherwise all endings are virtually the same (thankfully they are wonderfully illustrated).
If you are an X-Men fan, or a Beat ‘em Up fan, than this game will delight you. It just feels more focused than other games of this genre. It will be a bit difficult at first, but as you learn the ropes, this game can be finished in an hour. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is a great addition to any SNES library.
Average price on EBay: $5 to $10
Is it worth it? For $5, absolutely. For $10, maybe.
Available on Virtual Console: No.