In 1994 Capcom were on a roll with the X-Men license. The arcade was graced with X-Men: Children of the Atom while the home market had this little gem. Not only did it do the comics justice it also wiped away the stink of the prior game, Spider-Man/X-men – Arcade’s Revenge. I honestly was not aware of its existence prior to release so it came as a pleasant surprise and remains one of the better games to feature these characters.
Anti-mutant hysteria in the island nation of Genosha prompts Professor Charles Xavier to investigate what is behind it. Finding the presence of Apocalypse 5 X-Men are sent to cripple their operations and end the conflict swiftly. But this is just a prelude to a much bigger battle however…. Capcom had a run of successful stream of beat em ups in the arcade that pushed the genre forward and some of that experience carried over to this game. As a beat em up its highly enjoyable and also makes excellent use of its license to enrich gameplay.
Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Psylocke, and Gambit are the team sent to Genosha. Starting as a series of chapters, so to speak, each of the five characters has their own level tailored specifically to their powers and functions as a tutorial of sorts. After the individual levels there are a few boss battles and extra stages that allow you to use your favorite mutant and put in practice everything you’ve learned so far. All in all it’s a lengthy quest full of variety, be it character powers or level design.
Combining some elements of Street Fighter with Final Fight allows for a much deeper combat system. All characters possess a number of moves activated by different button combinations; fighting game veterans will be right at home with this setup. Seeing these characters pull off their signature powers from the comics is a gas and the controls are perfect. Inputting these commands also relieves the repetition of using the same punch, punch kick combo for the umpteenth time in a row. Not only do these attacks look cool they are extremely powerful.
Each level is designed to showcase their talents as well; Wolverine is a brawler and as such his levels are combat heavy. Cyclops favors long range combat and fights more flying enemies. Beast, although the physical strongest can also exploit his agility to circumvent his foes and his level s are designed with this in mind. There is a decent amount of platforming thrown into the mix so it isn’t a non-stop slugfest. The last few stages will challenge you to really apply what you’ve learned playing as each character since you can freely choose who to tackle them with. It isn’t the most challenging game in the world but it definitely puts up a fight; boss battles are tough and extra lives are scarce.
The X-Men license is put to extensive use creating the world of the game. Beyond the Genoshan magistrates there are a cavalcade of cameos from the comic. Fan favorites like Juggernaut, Omega Red, Magneto are all present but even lesser known characters Exodus and Tusk make an appearance. The style of the graphics is patterned after the comics with massive sprites locations ripped from the funny books. It isn’t big on special effects but the overall presentation mimics the comics perfectly which is more important. I get the feeling some of their Mega Man team worked on this game, the graphics bear a slight resemblance and the music especially echoes Capcom’s classic series. Whatever the truth may be the production values are more than adequate.
This is definitely one of the better super hero games on the market. It’s been almost 20 years (jesus!) since its release but Mutant Apocalypse still holds that title.