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Replay: Five X-Men games to remember
by Joey Núñez

It's an exciting time to be a fan of Marvel's Merry Mutants, the X-Men.

In the pages of the X-Men comics, a major overhaul is in the works for the team as the Schism event, a story arc centred on a team-dividing clash between Wolverine and Cyclops, comes to an end. This summer, X-Men First Class helped 20th Century Fox prove that there was still hope for the X-Men film franchise. And, just recently, gamers around the globe were able to get their hands on X-Men: Destiny, the latest game to feature Marvel’s super-powered outcasts.

Developed by Silicon Knights, X-Men: Destiny is an action-RPG that allows you to step into the shoes of one of three original mutant characters. Although the game doesn’t allow you to create your own characters, there is a heavy emphasis on power customisation, so your mutant of choice will have the abilities which suit you best. Likewise, you are free to determine your allegiance, as the game allows you to choose to side with the stubbornly heroic X-Men, or the Brotherhood of Mutants (a.k.a., the bad guys). Now, although my status as an X-Men fanboy is undisputed, the sad truth is that if I had to sum up Destiny in one word, it would be disappointing. Lackluster graphics, repetitive combat and uninspired characters rob the game of all of its potential.

But I promise you gamers, Marvel's Merry Mutants have seen better days. Don't believe me, yeah well i came prepared. I leave you with the definitive list of the very best X-Men games of the past; basically just the games I liked the very most.

X-Men Arcade

If part of your childhood was spent frolicking in the savageness of the early 90s, chances are that you, like me, spent a considerable amount of time at the arcade. Everyone has that single arcade game that they remember the most, the one that swallowed the most coins and incited the simultaneous feelings of excitement, rage and love. For me, that game was the X-Men Arcade. It’s both the first arcade game I can remember playing, and the one I played the most.

A classic 90s beat-em-up, X-Men Arcade was basically a side-scroller where you hit everything that stood in your way. Refined gameplay it wasn't, but man, was it fun. The game featured six beloved X-Men in playable roles – Wolverine, Cyclops, Dazzler, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Storm are all present – and they all look great (all things considered), with big and detailed character sprites. I’m a huge fan of Storm, and some of my fondest gaming memories involve kicking Sentinels to the curb with everyone’s favourite weather witch. Though, in all honesty, I never did understand why Storm was packing a wand.

Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge

A SNES game featuring both the X-Men and Spider-Man was almost too much for my ten-year-old mind to compute. The sheer incredible awesomeness of the concept was too much to bear. That’s probably why I never finished the game. Or maybe it was because the game was so freaking hard, even by old-school standards.

This nineties gem had Spider-Man rushing in to save Storm, Gambit, Wolverine and Cyclops from the menace of Arcade. You don’t need to know much about the guy, just that he’s constructed a fun little theme park called Murderworld; Disney World it is not. As with many SNES platformers of the day, the controls were a challenge unto themselves, the platforming was torture, and deaths came cheaply, but these hang-ups made getting through a level all the more rewarding. It was no masterpiece, but Cyclops shot his optic blasts and Gambit threw his cards, and at the time, that was enough.

X-Men (Sega Genesis)

When I finally managed to convince my parents to get me a Sega Genesis, this is the first game I bought. A 2D platformer at heart, the game allowed you to take control of Cyclops, Gambit, Nightcrawler and Wolverine. Several other X-Men were featured as assist characters too, including Rogue, Iceman, Storm and Archangel. As a kid, watching Jean Grey swoop in and save me from falling to my death with her telekinetic powers was probably the most amazing thing I’d ever seen – I didn’t get out much, but still. The graphics were all kinds of pretty, with detailed, colourful sprites, and the gameplay was as challenging as you would expect from a mid-90’s 16-bit platformer.

But what is the one thing that really sets this game apart? The one thing that every person who ever played it was unable to forget? The game was set in the X-Men’s Danger Room — if you don’t know what that is, honestly I don’t know how you’re still reading this — and the premise was that the X-Men’s training system had been infected by a virus. Upon defeating one of the bosses, the game would tell you to 'reset the computer' in order to clear the virus. Look all you want at the screen, you’ll find no reset button, or command prompt; you had to literally press the reset button on your console. Hold down on the button too long, however, and the system would reset like normal.

You can imagine my frustration the hundreds of time I held the button for just a moment too long. My controller, on the other hand, felt my frustration, as I threw it across the room. Again, and again, and again.

X-Men: Children of the Atom

Before Marvel vs. Capcom, there was X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and before that there was X-Men: Children of the Atom. It was a bright day in Valhalla when Marvel and Capcom put their heads and talents together to create a fighting game, and gamers have been thanking their lucky stars ever since. Children of the Atom was the first fighting game to feature the X-Men, created by the great minds behind Street Fighter; with a pedigree like that, it’s no wonder the game is still impressive today. In fact, if you look closely enough, you’ll notice that Wolverine and Storm use pretty much the same special moves today, almost twenty years later, in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Now that’s what I call staying power.

A few years later, Capcom would lose the rights to Marvel’s characters. Activision stepped in, and created three X-Men-centric fighting games (Mutant Academy and its sequel, and X-Men: Next Dimension), and although I played the hell out of those games, they didn't hold a candle to Capcom’s original masterpiece. I’m glad that the mutants are back in the hands of Capcom, and here’s hoping against hope that a Children of the Atom sequel might still see the light of day.

X-Men: Legends and X-Men: Legends 2

The X-Men are, first and foremost, a team, and although many games had let you control many different X-Men one-at-a-time, no game had ever put you in control of a team. Activision and Raven Software set out to solve that problem with X-Men: Legends, released for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. Featuring fifteeen playable characters, each with their own diverse power set, the game allowed you to create teams of up to four X-Men, and wreak havoc on multitudes of baddies. An action RPG, Legends almost felt like Diablo for X-Men fans.

How cool was it to hold a baddie in place using Jean Grey’s Telekinesis, and then blast him away with Cyclops optic blast?

About as freaking awesome as it sounds.

The cel-shaded character models of the game weren’t appreciated by every gamer out there, but regardless of whichever gripes you had over the graphics, the Legends games offered a definitive X-Men experience, with great storylines, a massive list of playable characters, and gameplay that was faithful to the comics. A greater X-Men game has yet to be created if you ask me.

Did I miss your favourite X-game? Don’t be shy, troll me below.

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- Joey Núñez

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