My roommate managed to destroy the apartment’s supply of HDMI cables, so I found myself searching for other means of video game boredom relief. I fired up the ZSNES emulator and took a nostalgic trip back through the adventures of the 90’s favorite band of merry mutants, the X-Men. I gave both X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse and Wolverine: Adamantium Rage a playthrough…well, as much as I could in the latter’s case before I simply wanted to rip my controller from my laptop and hurl it across the room.
The X-Men’s tenure in the 16-bit era was interesting in that with one exception (Spider-Man and X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge), there were no direct ports between the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis. All games that came out for either system were exclusive, and different developers were usually responsible for the titles. You might think that since Wolverine: Adamantium Rage was released on both systems, it would buck the trend, but you’d be wrong. The Super Nintendo version was developed by LJN, the same that put out Wolverine for the regular Nintendo, and it’s the inferior of the two, to be blunt.
But that’s the one I played, so that’s what we’ll be looking at today.
The original Wolverine game was actually not a bad little platformer, as far as licensed games went, especially compared to the ungodly horrible X-Men NES game. The game made use of Wolverine’s claws and berzerker rages, while including his closest allies at the time Havok, Psylocke and Jubilee. Of course, it toss in Magneto for little reason, but it kept the game’s main villain as Sabretooth, and that was just fine.
But you already know that, right? I’m focusing on that, because I didn’t play through all of this game. Hinted by the title, the game is ridiculously frustrating, mainly due to its attempt at being clever with its controls. The Super Nintendo controller has a four button face (a design still in use today through Sony’s PlayStations) and LJN decided that each button needed to be used to demonstrate the level of fighting skills harnessed by the pint-sized X-Man. And that would be great if done well, but instead, the controls tended to hinder the player rather than help.
Wolverine made use of one jump button and three attack buttons – one for punching, one for kicking, and one for taking a swipe with claws extended, rather than having a button to toggle claws in and claws out like its NES predecessor. I never understood why games tried to make a big deal of having Wolverine’s claws being something the players can choose to use. But while not hampering the player with a health penalty for using them as before, this game made them so unwieldly it was almost not worth using them because they wouldn’t hit anyway. Likewise, jumping was something of an issue, as pressing the up button would cause Wolverine to take a leap forward that was pointless for any situation, other than leaping off the small platforms that made up the majority of the levels (I’m assuming – I didn’t get very far).
The story is the common stock of the mid-90s Wolverine stories in which he gets a hint about his past and goes off exploring. This starts the game in “generic factory”, where you are given a health bar and a number, representing how many enemies are hanging around the level. So it’s off to take out all of the enemies, which consist of a generic Genoshan soldier and a hovering pod which launches little gun helicopters. Of course, that’s only the soldiers that are standing around – the ones that come out of doors don’t count. This little bit I only discovered after a while of knocking them from platforms and off-screen, to where I couldn’t tell if they died or not. And that’s when I hit them, since the enemy hit detection ranges from loose to non-existent. There are no visual or audio flashes to tell when you’ve actually hit something, so you just have to keep swinging until it dies or you do.
The hovering platforms were even more maddening, largely because Wolverine’s aerial attacks are nearly worthless. The punch button is your only option, because the kick’s animation doesn’t extend his leg until he’s almost hit the ground, and the claw button doesn’t have an aerial attack. Instead, Wolverine jumps up and puts his claws up, looking for a ceiling to hang from. So it’s your weak punch, which takes about 30 hits per enemy to beat, with only one punch being allowed per jump. And that’s when you can even hit them, as the flying enemies of the second stage do their best to hover just out of your jumping height. Sure, there is a boost jump done by ducking before jumping, but Wolverine can’t attack while boost jumping, so nerts on you. If this seems ridiculous, keep in mind that around 70% of the enemies I encountered required jumping to defeat. Awesome.
From what I’ve seen, the game features a broad range of Wolverine villains, but the only one I encountered was the forgettable Shiva before I gave up and took to the blog to complain.
So in closing, if you’re looking for a 16-bit Wolverine game for a retro kick, do yourself a favor and hit the Genesis. This one is a miss.