Back in the early 1990s, my brother and I would often go to the arcade at the mall, where a lot of the games were beat-’em-ups based on licensed characters. Turtles in Time, later ported to the Super Nintendo, had the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting through various time periods. The Simpsons featured the family beating up various townspeople in their quest to rescue Maggie from Smithers, which really doesn’t make any sense. Gameplay was pretty simple, with your characters moving across the screen and defeating any enemies along the path before progressing. There was usually a boss at the end of a stage, and sometimes in the middle as well, and they took a lot of hits. Continues were unlimited as long as you kept putting in more money. Despite the similar mechanics, they were worth playing to see what familiar characters would show up.
This was back when the Fox Kids X-Men cartoon was on the air, so it’s not too surprising there would be an X-Men game as well. Actually, though, it wasn’t based on this cartoon, but on the pilot episode for a never-picked-up animated series that apparently gave Wolverine an Australian accent. You DO know he’s Canadian, right, casting department? That’s probably why Colossus and Nightcrawler, who were more minor characters in the Fox Kids series, were playable in it.
I couldn’t say why Dazzler is playable, though. Was she ever all that popular?
Every character had both short-range and long-range attacks, although the latter took away health unless you were already low on it. This especially doesn’t make sense for the fast-healing Wolverine, who probably should have a stronger short-range attack and no long-range one. Instead, they gave him the ability to shoot laser beams from his claws.
Storm summons tornadoes (okay, that one makes sense), Nightcrawler can attack by teleporting right through enemies, and Colossus can create energy fields.
What plot there is consists of Magneto attacking the city with Sentinels, then taking Professor Xavier and Kitty Pryde prisoner. Most of the low-level mooks are Sentinels, taking the place of the Foot Soldiers in the TMNT games. The Sentinels were designed to destroy all mutants, so I guess Magneto must have reprogrammed them or something. But then, these arcade games were never all that accurate to the source material in terms of alliances. The TMNT games were largely based on the cartoon of the time, and it never had Leatherhead or the Rat King working for Shredder that I can remember. The villains in the game are identified as members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but not all of them were part of that organization in other media. Really, I’m not sure why they call themselves EVIL mutants anyway. I mean, Magneto thinks that he’s doing the right thing, no? Maybe it’s supposed to be ironic.
These villains also differ somewhat from their usual incarnations in order to make gameplay simpler. You can knock down the Blob and damage Juggernaut with regular physical attacks. There’s a fair amount of voice acting, some of which is very oddly phrased. The most memorable is Magneto’s “X-Men, welcome to die!”, but there’s also the Professor’s “Magneto is in another place.” Granted, he does point out what that place is immediately after this (as if you couldn’t figure it out from the fact that there’s a big door to the right), but it’s still very awkward phrasing. And isn’t Pyro supposed to be English? This FAQ does a good comparison and contrast of the comic characters to their arcade counterparts.
There have been other X-Men video games, including at least one that actually gave Wolverine his healing ability, but the only one I can recall experiencing first-hand was the terrible NES game.
The publisher, LJN, is known for its far less than stellar track record. It has bad controls and poorly rendered graphics seen from an overhead view, and I don’t even think it was that easy to figure out what to do.
I believe only Cyclops, Storm, and Iceman had long-range attacks, which makes sense. Nightcrawler can walk through walls, actually Kitty Pryde’s power, but how else would they simulate teleportation? I understand that Sabretooth appears in this one, and I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t in the arcade game.