Let's Play X-Men Genesis

  • X-Men Genesis group artwork

    Gambit gampeplay X-Men Genesis screenshot

    Welcome to Let's Play X-Men: the Genesis/Sega Mega Drive platformer from 1993!

    X-Men games have a storied history, and the 1993 Genesis entry feels like an inflection point where they really became something cool. By 1993, home consoles had two less impressive X-Men outings: "The Uncanny X-Men" (NES, 1989) which is mainly remembered out of frustration and "Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge" (SNES+Genesis, 1992) which has the look and feel of a very early gen 16 bit title.

    X-Men 1993 is a step up -- more visual detail, larger characters, the mutant powers feel fun and powerful, and you can even swap heroes on the fly during stages (with a fixed swap limit per level, however). Like you'd probably expect from X-Men games, your mutant abilities are limited by a recharging mutant power meter.

    Here's who the player gets to control:

    wolverine profile x-men genesis

    Wolverine: his mutant power extends his claws for increased damage and range. He also has an always-active healing factor, which once in a blue moon you might notice restoring a tick of health. Wolverine is the shortest character and a short jumper, which is a significant factor in some stages.

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    cyclops profile x-men genesis

    Cyclops: his mutant power shoots an optical blast. Aimable in all 8 directions and each shot has a dirt cheap mutant power cost, You can basically play Cyke as a ranged character. Minor abilities include 1) charging up his beam for a ricocheting optic blast and 2) a super spin jump blast that fires in all directions at increased cost, giving it questionable utility. Cyclops is tall and the best jumper.

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    gambit profile x-men genesis

    Gambit: his mutant power shoots an explosive, homing playing card. Charging up your card will increase the homing slightly, but you generally you have to pray that your cards will connect sooner rather than later and hope for the best. Gambit also fights with his staff instead of kicks and punches, giving him probably the best basic attacks. Gambit is tall, has a very tall crouching pose, and is nearly as good at jumping as Cyclops.

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    nightcrawler profile x-men genesis

    Nightcrawler: Every X-Men video game has to have a "B-cast member" elevated to the playable roster, and in this game it is Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler's teleportation is a unique homing attack and shortcut tool rolled into one. If you've played this game, you remember Nightcrawler, I'm absolutely positive.

    Teleportation is tricky. You can influence the teleport by which direction you hold, with VERY brief taps being the best way to teleport past walls. Hold it too long and you'll use more power, plus the teleport may even U-turn on you and bring you back to where you started. Mastering Nightcrawler can feel like mastering the cape in Super Mario World, although if we're honest it usually feels like his mutant power has a mind of its own.

    The interesting "expert" way to use Nightcrawler is to not tilt the d-pad at all. This makes you an invincible, stationary hazard to enemies. The secret is that this consumes very little mutant power, making it almost too good. Nightcrawler is short, a bad jumper, and his jumping attack sends him into a fast dive.


    You don't get lives, continues, or checkpoints. When you die the mutant you were controlling is now dead (semi-permanently) and you start the level over. Essentially your 4 lifebars become 4 lives that you'll manage by swapping out each mutant before they die.

    Surprisingly for such a system, your health isn't topped off after levels either. You have to allocate inter-mission refills to each mutant individually. Yeesh!

    You can feel how this affects the design of the game. Finding all the health refills during stages (minor secrets, usually) is suddenly quite important for longevity. The lack of real continues means that the process of "learning" a stage involves multiple attempts with different mutants, instead of multiple attempts with the same mutant. Since the mutants all have jumps, punches, and kicks that are so different from one another you can't always rely on your previous knowledge and muscle memory to make it through next time.


    Describing X-Men 1993 an "inflection point" feels apt. It's going to be a cool game for some, but not quite there for others. Weird hit detection? Weird jumps? Yep, it's got that. There is a fun absolute level of challenge to conquer, but often there is a wall of knowledge on how a boss works or how a section is supposed to be tackled before you can give it a real shot. The partner swapping system plays into this as well, with picking the right mutant lending a degree of "Mega Man"-style thinking... that is, deploying the right mutant can help solve levels effortlessly.

    -> This is a 6 episode video LP (recorded in advance) split into two playthroughs so that every mutant gets a chance to shine.
    -> A new episode will be uploaded every other day.
    -> First episode will be posted tomorrow.

  • Let's Play X-Men ep 1! Expect musings on Gambit's taste in women, ducking vs dodging, and an overview of every character's strengths and weaknesses. Featuring killer-killer bees.

    Let's Play X-Men (Genesis) episode 1, Cyclops/Gambit Playthrough, stages 1 & 2
    Youtube Video

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    Here are the in-game dossiers for Cyclops and Gambit, as I don't stop to read this during the video:

    cyclops dossier x-men genesis

    gambit dossier x-men genesis

    Also making her brief appearance is Jean Grey (Cyclops' one true love) whose telekinesis power is an integrated game mechanic for how the player recovers from falling into pits. Remember, there are no "lives" in X-Men, and falling into a pit instead costs hitpoints. You have left/right control as she floats you out of the pit until she releases you (or you press a button, I think). I always associate this pit-recovery mechanic with 'Beat' from the later Mega Man games, although earlier examples might be Joe & Mac and the Angel's Feather item in Kid Icarus.

    If I had to guess, I bet the concept of letting the player float out of pits originated in some early arcade game, since most of arcade games are all about respawning on the spot, and if the game has lots of platforming this might be one way the designer handles the need for safe spots to bring the player back to.

    Other characters we see briefly in the video as bosses & NPCs are Juggernaut, Zaladane, Deathbird, and Lilandra. If you are like me, those last few are unfamiliar. Zaladane is a mutant in the Savage Land with sorceress-like powers. Deathbird and Lilandra (two sisters) are nobility from the extraterrestrial Shi'ar Empire. I was never too familiar with the alien stuff in the X-Men mythos. The X-Men seem to interact with the Princes and Empresses of these alien races, all of whom basically have "natural" superhero-level abilities. From my current vantage point I feel this comes across as a little tacked on, and weakens the X-Men's connection to the common (non-mutant) man on Earth, which I regard as a core part of X-Men's appeal.

  • Let's Play X-Men ep 2! Expect musings on budget friendly sprite reuse, the mechanics of super jumping, Cyclops engages Terminator mode, and... is Gambit is still cool? Featuring elevator pits that deal way too much damage.

    Let's Play X-Men (Genesis) episode 2, Cyclops/Gambit Playthrough, stages 3 & 4
    Youtube Video

  • I remember playing this game as a kid and being absolutely horrible at it, as well as its SNES companion. It's been much more pleasant to watch. :)

  • @sazime said in Let's Play X-Men Genesis:

    I remember playing this game as a kid and being absolutely horrible at it, as well as its SNES companion. It's been much more pleasant to watch. :)

    Yep, same here. Although I remember having a lot of fun playing this with friends despite not getting very far.

    Which SNES companion do you mean? The "Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge" or Capcom's "X-Men Mutant Apocalypse"?

  • I don’t recall being more excited for a game as a kid. I got it for my eighth birthday and hated how hard it was and restricting powers to a meter was such a dumb choice. Then years later I found the debug cheats and it was much more fun. Plus the Magneto theme is SO sick.

  • Let's Play X-Men ep 3! Expect musings on Psylocke's screen time and the only instance of branching paths. Featuring ginger haired henchman that think they are so cool.

    Let's Play X-Men (Genesis) episode 3, Cyclops/Gambit Playthrough, stages 5, 6, and Magneto
    Youtube Video

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    *Addendum to the commentary where I'm talking about Mojo: his deal as a villain is that he is a parody of television executives. He rules a dimension where, among other things, the power structure is dictated by television programs. Mojo keeps a population of slaves and enjoys creating gladiator-style reality shows.

    Next episode will be the start of the Wolverine + Nightcrawler playthrough.

  • @chocobop Arcade's Revenge. I must have attempted the Wolverine/Juggernaut stage dozens of times.

  • @sazime said in Let's Play X-Men Genesis:

    @chocobop Arcade's Revenge. I must have attempted the Wolverine/Juggernaut stage dozens of times.

    Ah, I've only rented that one a little bit. On the SNES I sunk more time into X-Men Mutant Apocalypse, which still kicks my butt and I've never beaten it. A really flashy and appealing X-Men game though.

  • Let's Play X-Men ep 4! Expect musings on unbalanced abilities, Logan's intelligence, and Nightcrawler getting the short end of the stick.

    X-Men LP (Genesis/Mega Drive) episode 4, Wolverine/Nightcrawler Playthrough, stages 1 & 2
    Youtube Video

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    Here are the in-game dossiers for Wolverine and Nightcrawler:

    wolverine in-game bio x-men genesis

    nightcrawler in-game bio x-men genesis

  • Let's Play X-Men ep 5! Expect musings on choosing the best mutant power in real life, and Wolverine finally gets a chance to shine against Sabertooth.

    X-Men LP (Genesis/Mega Drive) episode 5, Wolverine/Nightcrawler Playthrough, stages 3 & 4
    Youtube Video

  • Let's Play X-Men ep 6! Expect musings on character variety in platformers, and wishing there was a true Smash Brothers-style single player game.

    Let's Play X-Men (Genesis) ep 6, Wolverine/Nightcrawler, stages 5, 6, Magneto & Finale
    Youtube Video

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    That's it! Thanks for watching Let's Play X-Men

    x-men title screen genesis