Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.
Game: The Uncanny X-men
Developer: LJN Toys Ltd
Publisher: LJN Toys Ltd
Release Date: December 1989
System Released On: Nintendo Entertainment System
Who Nominated The Game: Staff writer AJ Hess.
Why Was It Nominated: The Uncanny X-Men represents a dark time in videogames. Anything popular had to be shoehorned into a console to maximize market penetration. In the comics world, Marvel had become so enamored of Chris Claremont that they bumped up the publishing of the Uncanny X-Men to twice a month in order to allow as many stories to be told as possible. LJN apparently had only looked at a few covers of what was being published, because they certainly didn’t have anyone who knew about comics on the staff for this game. What that meant for the world of young gamers on the NES was a horrible mess of bad gameplay, twitchy controls, and graphical glitches more common than a fanboy with silverware between his knuckles trying to act like Wolverine at a Comic Con.
All in Favour:
AJ Hess: Like so many teenagers in the late eighties, I was a huge fan of the X-Men comics. So when the opportunity to control some of my favorite mutants in the battle for genetic supremacy against Magneto came along, I was all about it. The fact that it came out during the holiday season meant I was probably an insufferable bastard to my parents in order to get this game. Thirty minutes after I popped it into my NES, I’m pretty sure I was in tears over how bad it was. Not only did it not feel like the I was playing as the mutants who were banded together to save the world, all the while hated and feared for being different, but the game was hardly playable to boot. Difficult controls, attack patterns that made sure if you hit something you were going to get hit back, and a complete lack of structure made this title an abomination. Want to play the stages in any order? Go right ahead. Want to fight against Boomerang, who is an Avengers villain? Why not, nothing else makes sense. Are you fighting the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants? No. Well, surely, you’ll fight against the Sentinels? No, not them either. You’ll take on bugs, turrets, and amorphous blobs. Not the character The Blob, just…blobs. This game proved the old saying “Be careful what you wish for.”Â Thankfully, a few years later, the X-Men arcade game showed up and helped ease some of the pain.
Chris Bowen: The NES era was a weird time for licensed products. We knew, as a general rule, that games based on movies, comics or anything we could see outside of video games tended to suck. But… what if they didn’t? Ducktales, Batman, any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (even the first one)… these were all good games. You would think that a game based on a property as awesome as the X-Men would be at least decent, right? It’s almost impossible to fuck up such an awesome concept.
Dear Christ almighty, they fucked it up.
Looking back, I can see that there were warning flags right on the box. The game was published by LJN, as part of their “Power Play” series. Remember LJN? They shat out crappy toys from all sorts of movie and cartoon properties in the 80s – for the most part, they didn’t even handle the good ones, like G.I. Joe, though they did do Thundercats – but also developed and published video games, most of which are some of the worst games of all time. Their games were so bad that I think I might start an LJN wing – after the Zoo Games wing is built – of our Hall of Shame. Back to the Future Part II and III, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws, The Karate Kid, MLB Baseball and NFL Football (not many people played these, but trust me. They were awful), just about every WWF game they made… really, I don’t think they had a good game until they did Spider Man: Maximum Carnage for the 16 bit systems, unless you want to be EXTREMELY friendly and count Gotcha! The Sport! (a light gun game that was a lot more complicated than a light gun game should be) and Town &; Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage (which was hard to play, but not particularly offensive). In short, almost everything that company touched turned to crap.
Looking back, maybe it’s not surprising that the X-Men would be in stages completely unrelated to what they were doing, taking cheap hit after cheap hit after cheap hit, and forcing us to watch Wolverine being reduced to doing limp-wristed punches that might have been effective had the game designers even heard of something called “collision detection”.
Just being a bad game isn’t that bad in and of itself, but The Uncanny X-Men won the Hero Lance (named after the unfortunate Dungeons and Dragons game) for fucking up while being a part of an established property that little kids are going to want simply because of the name attached. You have all read the accounts of people much more into the X-Men than I who were heartbroken over this game. I lucked out; I didn’t play it for the first time until I was well into my teens and I’d broken into the emulation scene. I hated it almost immediately. I can’t imagine what I’d think if I’d paid $50. Then again, I was often so bored as a child that I played Chubby Cherub for days on end.
Regardless, at least Chubby Cherub is playable, and cute on a base level. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about The Uncanny X-Men. When you combine that with misuse of what should be a slam-dunk franchise – I mean, look at what Konami did with it – you have a game that deserves shame.
William Kaye IV: I actually find this to be a worse game than Custer’s Revenge. Yes, it’s true. With Custer’s Revenge, you may have a vile piece of garbage, but you kind of know what you are getting yourself in to when you play that. You wouldn’t pick up that game and kid yourself into thinking it was going to be a worthwhile experience. The Uncanny X-Men, though? I distinctly remember this being the first video game I ever rented and expecting it to be awesome. The X-Men are in a video game? And I can play with a partner? It was going to be the best thing I have ever played. And then you turn it on. And the game is an assault to all five senses. Your eyes will bleed after five seconds of looking at this thing and your will likely go deaf after listening to the soundtrack. You will injure your fingers pounding buttons on the control pad hoping, in vain, that the game will actually respond in time to your button presses, and it is all for naught. You will taste the bile rising up in your throat as you realize that you will have wasted an entire weekend on a rental that you want to burn in the backyard. And it should be pretty self-explanatory what you’re going to be smelling. Unappealing in every single way
ML Kennedy: Merciful Satan, I bought this game, or at the very least wasted a childhood Christmas present by asking for it. I remember seeing ads for an X-Men game that looked freakin’ awesome. (I think it was for the PC.) I remember catching glimpses of the rad Arcade game, but never having the opportunity to play it.
It’s the X-men; how could you screw that up? They’re super-heroes that kind of look like monsters that fight a colorful assortment of bad guys.
It’s a no-brainer.
(But, as the fella says, I was young and foolish then; I feel old and foolish now. )
It’s not very often that a game flies below every expectation I have for it. X-Men was ugly, the sprites looked nothing like the characters, the sound was terrible, the level designs made no sense, and I couldn’t tell what I was fighting. It was stupid, and hard and using your mutant powers sometimes killed you.
Wolverine and Colossus, the favorite X-Men of me and my friend respectively, were completely useless. After being abandoned by my friend, I was stuck with the most useless computer controlled second player in the history of time.
By any reasonable account, the game just doesn’t work. I don’t think I ever managed to beat a level.
I’ve played a lot of bad super-hero games for a lot of different systems. I am comfortable in saying that NES X-Men is the absolute worst.
The 7th Level: I was jazzed beyond belief to play this when it came out. I played it for twenty minutes and was so disgusted by it that I went back to my Tandy 1000 EX for a whole week. MY TANDY 1000 EX!
I would venture to say that back in those days the fact that LJN had the Marvel license was just as bad, if not worse, than when Acclaim had it (Editor’s Note: The Marvel license transferred to Acclaim when they bought LJN from MCA in March of 1990). That’s how brain meltingly awful this game was. The overhead, almost four color CGA “Bad PC port of Ikari Warriors” look of the game ensured that the characters didn’t resemble themselves at all, aiming was horrible, it moved at a snail’s pace, the music was, again, worse than a bad 80’s era PC port of an arcade title (those of you who played PC games during the 80’s and experienced the horrors of PC Bionic Commando, PC Ghosts and Goblins, PC Outrun, and others, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about) Wolverine’s claws looked more like he was flashing his enemies with his square albino mutant schlong… it was just an overall unpleasant experience.
Alex Lucard: I actually beat the game, so I can’t vote yay on it. I never had trouble with it. I even found it kind of fun. I figured out all sorts of little tricks to get through the game and why Wolverine was unstoppable if you took advantage of the game’s A.I. and his healing factor. Sure the game is ugly, but from my perspective it’s one of those games where the manual did more harm than good and the only way to figure out all there was to do in the game was through constant experimentation. Once you figured out several tricks like Nightcrawler PHASED rather than teleported and Wolverine had an endless life ability, the game was pretty easy.
It’s not a good game by any means, but I never had any of the horror stories everyone else had with this thing, so I vote Nay simply because I got through it with relative ease.
Result: 5 In Favour, 1 Opposed, 80% Approval = SHAMED!
Welcome to the Hall of Shame, Uncanny X-Men! Hope you survive the experience. Sure, you’re license has since been redeemed in video game form in a across a few different platforms and genres, but this title goes straight to the Do Not Play file.
Join us next week when we step into the ring to square off with a bit of wrestling history that may be better off forgotten.