Step One: Read the freaking Instruction Manual. This should be a disclaimer for all video games made before the PSX. It should be second nature to old schoolers like me, but I’ve been spoiled by the in-game tutorial that is a staple of modern games. That doesn’t dismiss the fact that I obviously played this as a kid without reading the manual, but it was probably a rental and those never had a manuals, so leave me alone! Anyway, read the damn manual if you want a shot at playing this game and understanding what is going on.
Step Two: Play cautiously, learn the game. The biggest mistake I made was thinking that this game was a standard dungeon crawler like Gauntlet and ran in guns a-blazing. That will not work with X-men. You have to play carefully, at least until you are familiar with the game play and level design. Take your time.
If you follow those two steps you just might be able to salvage your opinion of this game. And if you are really crazy, like me, you just might find you actually like it, a lot. What the hell.
So how do you go from completely dismissing a game to playing it for hours on end? Sheer will power. If someone else had possessed the wherewithal to actually beat this game, then there must be something to it. I’ve never let a game best me and I wasn’t about to let X-men be the first! So I started playing and kept playing and playing. Here is what I discovered. In all honesty, X-men feels like a sloppily made dungeon crawler that was pretty much already programmed when someone from LJN got a hold of the X-men license and started shopping around what they could do for an X-men themed game. Somebody pulled out this program and said they could change the sprites to look like the heroes from the comic and minutes later this game appeared on toy store shelves across America. I kid you not. The game is only loosely based on the comic books, despite the aforementioned, very well themed Instruction Manual.
|The Unstoppable Shooting Juggernaut!|
Anyway, if we look past the half-heartedly applied theming, what we are left with is an average or below average dungeon crawler that is tricky to learn, but once it has been learned, it proves to be simple and even fun. For an added kick, once you learn the game, you can reapply the theming and ignore some obvious mistakes and enjoy the game at its fullest. By no means am I suggesting that X-men is a classic, but it may not suck as much as you or I originally thought. The key is to be patient and learn its ins and outs. The remainder of this article is designed as a guide to getting some enjoyment out of this game and to redeem what is otherwise a dismal, comic-based video game. Having finally beaten X-men, I can say with some authority that X-men for the NES isn’t as bad as its reputation, but isn’t as good as it should have been.
But enough defending LJN games, next month I’ll take a Closer Look at something that we have unknowingly allowed to happen over the past 30 years, and we are worse for it…
TIPS AND TRICKS
Ranged vs. Melee Heroes. Your team is split into two types of characters: ranged and melee. My first instinct was that ranged was the way to go, but I soon discovered the advantage of the melee type. Ranged characters are great because they can attack from a distance and hit multiple enemies at once. Where they come up short is defense. A few good hits means curtains for them and if an enemy spawns under them, it’s goodnight Gracie (George Burns, look it up). Melee characters have to get up close and personal to take down bad guys, but they have more HP and defense to make up for this fact. I prefer the melee guys for this very reason. If you are going to use ranged heroes, pick up every, and I mean every, Energy and Invincibility power-up you see. This is a good strategy in general (see below), but for ranged characters this is not optional. Iceman can have full health one minute and be seconds from death the next. Do not risk it.
Colossus is the best character in the game. Why? Durability. He has the most HP and he packs the biggest punch. I believe you can beat the game with him alone if you have to. Sure he’s slow, but so what? That really only comes into play in the Robot Factory and even then you can work around his speed.
Storm and Nightcrawler are useless. Useless. Both have the resilience of a paper hat in the rain. They will die instantly upon contact with an enemy and their attack power is not sufficient to make up for their lack of fortitude. These two are expendable. Do not use either as your main character unless you just really want a challenge.
Wolverine, Cyclops and Iceman are all good middle of the road characters. Wolverine is a lot like Colossus, but with a little less durability. He can go a long way, but sometimes needs some help. Cyclops and Iceman are the best ranged attackers, but they can’t take too many hits, so use carefully. Other than the fact that Iceman can fly (?) they are virtually identical.
Laser gates are instant death. I don’t care if Colossus has full health; he cannot make it through a laser gate without dying should the gate close on him. Oh sure, you might make it once, but I promise you the odds are against you. What’s worse, there is no real rhyme or reason to when they open or close. It appears to be totally at random. The only way I have found to get through these gates is to kill baddies until one drops an invincibility power-up. Grab the power-up and run like hell through the gate. It may take a minute for one to drop, but I promise the alternative is 99% certain death.
Power-ups: There are two power-ups you should ALWAYS pick up: Invincibility and Energy. Dying in this game is easy, very easy. Stupid very easy. To stave off the grave, pick up these two power-ups every, and I mean every, time they appear. The Invincibility is great for obvious reasons and the Energy will refill your entire HP every time. Picking these up every time is a no-brainer. Avoid the Magnet Mines like they were the plague. If you are playing with a weaker character, these are instant death anyway, and they can be just as fatal for good characters. The Time Stop and All Kill are good, but I wouldn’t risk anything going for them. Use as you see fit.
Defeating Bosses that Shoot: For some reason Boomerang is a boss in this game and he throws boomerangs at you (shoots). Also the Juggernaut shoots at you, despite that being contrary to his very nature. When dealing with bosses that shoot, for any reason, your best bet is to avoid being on the same level (line) as they are. When you share a level (line) with them, their shots can hit you, otherwise they cannot. Position yourself just below their level or just to the side if working vertically, and then wail on them with melee attacks or blast them with range attacks. If they move to your level, adjust and repeat. They will continuously try to walk to your level so if you are careful and time it right, you can often bounce them back and forth into your attack until they are vanquished.
Look before you leap. Until you know the levels inside and out, walk carefully. The levels are littered with poisonous floors, traps, spike pits and other pitfalls that look nothing like those kinds of things. If you are walking and you hear the noise that indicates you are taking damage, check where you are, chances are good you are standing on a trap or other floor hazard. Get off of there quick. Weaker characters will be pretty much instantly killed by these, so mark them well and avoid.
A note about escaping the Robot Factory. On your way out of the boss room, you are going to pass through an area where the walls close off part of the room. RUN. Fast. If you get stuck between these walls all you can do is sit and wait for the bomb to go off and kill you. It is in your best interest to learn this room and its three closing walls well. At the start, grab an Invincibility power-up if you can and then make a run for it. If you get closed off before passing the first wall, you can always go back out the teleporter pad and come back in and the wall will be open again. I have actually gotten stuck in the wall before as it closed on me, however I was able to wiggle free by repeatedly pressing the A and B button and pausing and unpausing the game. Not sure if this will work every time, but it got me out once. Also, occasionally picking up the Time Stop power-up will give you a speed boost, not sure what governs when and if this happens. You can also use this to increase your speed and escape the closing walls. If you are playing as Colossus, this strategy is a must.
Ok are you sitting down? Are you ready for this? There is absolutely nothing in the game that tells you how to access the final level against Magneto. There is nothing in the instruction manual that tells you how to access the final level against Magneto. The only thing that even hints at how to do this is printed in extremely small print at toward the bottom of the label on the game cartridge itself. Not only that, but the hint that they give you on that label is WRONG. You heard me. If you beat all four regular levels, the game appears to be over, as you can only access the PRACTICE level. However, once you have completed the four main levels, on the stage select screen, you press UP + B+ SELECT + START and it will take you to the character select screen where you pick the two heroes you want to take on Magneto and then it will whisk you off to the final level. How totally messed up is that crap?
Be careful! Magneto’s lair is bigger than any of the previous levels and is a perilous maze. Many of the passages lead to dead ends and the floors are riddled with traps. The enemies move faster, spawn quicker and hit for more damage. Once you get to Magento, he’ll act a lot like a Boss that Can Shoot, so use those strategies. The only real difference is that the battle area is smaller, so watch your step. Also, if he hits you with his magnetic beam, your controls will be temporarily reversed. That is not good. Your best bet is to try and trap him in the upper right corner of the screen and give him what for!
Hopefully, the above tips and strategies will help you get more out of this game than you did the first time you made a go at playing it. Heck, if you are stupid like me, you might even like the game, but I’m not making any promises!