X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse
Released 1994
Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System Genre: Action/Beat ’em up 1 Player Rated: n/a
Playable Characters: Betsy Braddock, Hank McCoy, Logan, Remy Lebeau, Scott Summers.
With two lives per X-Man, once you get past the first wave of missions, you essentially have ten lives with which to beat the game.
The final password of my playthrough. It takes you to the Avalon Stages with three lives for Psylocke, Cyclops, and Wolverine and four lives for Gambit and Beast.
Pick Gambit for Stage 2. Scissor kick through the level, and pummel the Brood Queen with triple cards. They spread out and hit her head, her attacking leg, and dive-bombing Broodlings at the same time.

Review by Jay Wilson

X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse features a password system, which is quite baffling considering it’s neither long nor hard and considering that battery backup saves were implemented successfully on the previous hardware generation. It’s a two-button 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up in the vein of Final Fight with Street Fighter II special moves and just a dash of Megaman platforming, and given that four levels are one-on-one battles, it only takes somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour to beat. Two if you die a lot.

The game opens up with the X-Men infiltrating the island of Genosha to free mutants imprisoned by Apocalypse. Professor Xavier gives each of the five playable characters a specific mission with challenges only that character can deal with. Wolverine has to ascend walls with his claws. Beast has to climb on ceilings. Gambit has to hit enemy guns directly above him with his kinetic cards. Psylocke has to escape a collapsing platform that only her slide is fast enough to outrun. And Cyclops has to blast thugs off hover bikes as they try to run him down. You can tackle these missions in any order, but the plot does not advance until all five are completed, thus introducing you to each of the playable X-Men and teaching you how to use them.

Each X-Man has two lives (three in Training Mode), and at this point if anyone loses both their lives, it’s game over. Mutant Apocalypse doesn’t even issue its first password until all five missions are completed, and for this reason I refer to them collectively as Stage 1 or the Training Stage because that’s where Training Mode ends. Stage 2 and beyond assigns passwords after every mission, and you can stick with your favorite character without changing. You can even kill off all the other X-Men and still continue on to Magneto. But for right now, you have to succeed as a team.

Stages 2-6 are the same no matter who you pick. You always fight through a Brood infested camp and underground cave system in Stage 2. You always battle Tusk and his annoying little minions in a very short Stage 3. Apocalypse awaits you at the end of a lengthy Stage 4 that makes up for Stage 3’s brevity. Stages 5 and 6 are one-on-one Danger Room exercises against a holographic Omega Red and Juggernaut respectively. Then Stage 7 branches out again with character-specific levels that can be attempted in any order as the X-Men infiltrate Avalon, each taking a different route to Magneto in Stage 8. And if you can beat Magneto with one X-Man, you don’t have to play the other Avalon levels.

Cooler still: let’s say you pick Beast. Midway through Stage 7, you fight Exodus, but he only sticks around until you take out half his health. Then he disappears. You go on to fight the boss, a ceiling mounted laser which Beast just happens to have the right set of skills to deal with. Next is the battle with Magneto where unless you know what you’re doing Beast tends to get slaughtered. So you lose a life for the fuzzy-blue intellectual. Now you pick Gambit. Gambit has to go through his Avalon stage, and along the way he encounters Exodus ... at half life. That’s right, the damage from your previous battle carries over.

You finish off Exodus, play out the rest of Stage 7, and now Gambit faces the Master of Magnetism who still carries whatever damage Beast dealt him. Thus, you fight Magneto as a team. Say Gambit loses too. Now, if you still have lives left with Beast or Gambit, you could go straight back to Magneto because you’ve already beaten their path through Avalon. But let’s say they’re dead. Now you pick Cyclops. You begin his Avalon level, and about halfway through you come upon an empty room. A big, wide open, empty room that seems appropriate for a boss, or rather a sub-boss, fight. However, Exodus is defeated, and will not appear for the remaining three X-Men, which is good because Exodus can be a pain in the ass. It also means if you absolutely cannot take Exodus with Psylocke, guess what? You don’t have to. You just have to beat him with two other X-Men. Although why you would struggle with Psylocke is beyond me. Both she and Wolverine can easily—easily—perfect Magneto in one attempt using only their dragon punch moves.

Most Genoshan Stages have X icons scattered throughout the level. Pick up three for an extra X-Man.
Each Avalon stage has an icon that gives an extra life for any X-Man, including fallen ones. Just wait for it to cycle to their portrait before picking it up.
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse features some creative and unconventional boss fights including this battle to stop a rocket launch using Pyslocke’s ability to spring up from her jump kick and ascend the silo with it.
The trick is to listen for Apocalypse’s teleport and attack as he appears. Don’t give him the chance to attack or you’re going to be outrunning the lava for the fiftieth frickin’ time.

With that said, let’s talk about mutants and their powers. Psylocke packs her trademark psychic knife which is not surprisingly one of her best attacks with minimal startup, minimal recovery, and is briefly invincible. You do have to exercise some caution though because she advances forward, and if Psylocke is too close she will end up on the other side of her enemies, giving them a free hit and, if you’re surrounded, stun-locking you into taking a barrage of hits for 50-75% of your life. That sounds dire, and indeed, it’s the reason Mutant Apocalypse seems harder than it is at first, but once you’re aware of your arsenal’s properties, it’s pretty easy to outright dominate with anyone. Back to Psylocke: if you’re walking forward and try to instantly do the psychic knife, her rising knee (her dragon punch move) will come out instead because the inputs are so similar. It’s not that the rising knee is bad—it’s a great anti-air move that can double as a combo ender—but it can get you into trouble if used in the wrong situation. However, those are insignificant drawbacks considering how useful both the psychic knife and rising knee are and also considering Psylocke has the best standard low attack in the game with a fast sweep that hits a good distance in front and even further behind. She has a slide kick that’s fast, goes under projectiles, has great range, and knocks down all enemies in its path. And on top of all that, she has the highest jump, she has the best jump-kick, and if you hold down while performing a jump kick, she’ll backflip off the enemy and be able to do it again. I’ve killed entire waves of enemies, just bouncing off their heads without ever touching the ground. In terms of versatility, Psylocke is unmatched.

But if you want to trade a little versatility for pure, uncut damage, pick Wolverine. He has a charging claw attack that’s easier and faster to execute than Psylocke’s psychic knife plus there’s zero risk of accidentally inputting the wrong move. He has an aerial version that comes down at an angle and keeps going once he lands, knocking down everything smaller than a mini-van. It does a little less damage, but it positions you to unleash a standing combo plus the claw rush or perhaps the equally powerful claw uppercut (Wolverine’s dragon punch move) as soon as they stand back up. His jump, jump attack, and low attack might be inferior to Psylocke’s, but frankly, if you’re depending on those, you’re doing something wrong.

By contrast, Cyclops is a tank. His jump sucks. He’s the biggest target of all the X-men. And his three optic blasts—standing, crouching, and air—all have a very slow startup and recovery, but they kill pretty much everything in one hit. You can cancel the recovery of an air optic blast by doing it right before you land, allowing you to get a grounded blast out immediately so if you’re quick enough on the D-pad, you can clear both sides of the screen with this tactic. Cyclops does best when he can maintain control by anticipating incoming enemies and killing them before they have a chance to attack because once they’re on him, he really doesn’t have a good means of escape. He has a slide kick, but it’s not fast enough nor does it travel far enough to get away. The best Cyclops can hope for is to either brawl his way out because Capcom did give him the fastest punches in the game or to buy time for his optic blast with a knockdown crouching kick. He struggles the most, however, dealing with enemies who engage him from above such as Exodus, Magneto, and the dive-bombing Broodlings because he doesn’t have anything that attacks up. In those situation, anticipation becomes critical.

Like Cyclops, Beast can actually drop enemies with very few hits, and like Cyclops this power comes with major caveats. First, his standing combo ends with a jumping attack from which he has to rebound, so if you’re fighting somebody on the right side of the screen, your final attack will propel you backwards into the range of the enemies on the left. Beast has a charging attack—the most powerful charging attack if you’re close enough for the two-hit version—but once again, he has to rebound from it. Even if he hits a wall or furniture or a step or anything, he bounces backwards which makes it less effective as an evasive tool. I’ve died many a times because I misgauged the distance or timing of the closing gates in Apocalypse’s level. Bam! Flip! Right into the lava! But, like Cyclops, if you can cluster your enemies together, then Beast can clear them out faster than anyone. What’s really interesting though is Beast’s most useful move is a third attack that bounces off enemies. However, unlike the other two, this one bounces up, not back. Also, it’s a jumping attack that resets the jump allowing Beast to control where he goes and, more importantly, to attack again. So, like Psylocke, Beast can stay airborne indefinitely. Combine that with his high jumps and ability to walk on ceilings, and he’s deceptively effective.

X-Men’s famous Danger Room makes an appearance and cycles through various backgrounds as you battle. Here it’s in transition from one hologram to another.
In some ways, Exodus is actually harder than Magneto because you have to first get through a stage and then fight him and possibly additional acolytes on the same lifebar.
There’s no stage preceeding Magneto and you can get up to twenty-two lifebars to take out Magneto’s one. So even if you only do 5% damage per try, you’re still going to beat him with X-Men to spare.

Gambit does a bit of everything, but nothing exceptional. He has the full screen range of Cyclops without the power, respectable melee prowess, a decent escape option, and an okay jump. Gambit can also shoot straight up which isn’t as useful as it sounds. Enemies are rarely directly above, and if they are they’re never there for very long. You really need to be able to hit up and forward at an angle like Psylocke and Wolverine, and the invincibility of the dragon punch moves doesn’t hurt either. Capcom did put enemies on elevated platforms so Gambit can kill them before he gets up there, but they don’t threaten you in any. They’ll pace back and forth on their platform and wait for you to either come up or pick them off, which has its own charm don’t get me wrong. It’s just that when I battle Exodus who spends 75% of the fight floating above me or Magneto who spends 100% of the time up there, I really wish I could consistently hit them with energized cards. But unless you’re quick, by the time you line up the shot, Exodus moves and Magneto brings up his shield. And actually, Gambit’s best option for hitting Exodus out of the air is his M. Bison inspired scissor kick which is also his escape move. As for Magneto, he never descends into range so you just have to be faster on the draw.

Every character is capable. Every character can beat every level. They can even beat Magneto with one life. I know. I’ve done it. However, I will say it’s a hell of a lot easier with Wolverine and Psylocke than Gambit, Cyclops, and Beast. But I don’t fault the game for that. If anything, the similarity between how Wolverine and Psylocke play bothers me more than the effectiveness gap between those two and everyone else. I like that Cyclops absolutely destroys everything at eye level and below but can’t actively engage enemies above him. I like that to really deal damage with Beast you have to first position yourself accordingly. I like that Gambit is a middle of the road hybrid. I like that I have to play these diverse characters differently, and it made me want to continue playing even though I could already win the game with its most effective X-Men.

And the reason I mention beating Mutant Apocalypse every way possible is because it’s not hard. There is no bragging rights to be had. Sure, Exodus and Apocalypse will tear you apart the first time you get to them, but once you get a little exposure to their attack routines, the challenge melts away. I bring it up because when X-Men had no challenges left, I handicapped myself and went looking for my own challenges.

That, my friends, is the sign of a good, fun game.

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