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X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Genesis) artwork

X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Genesis) review

"Second Genesis"

Even to this day, X-Men 2: Clone Wars does something unthinkable for a video game: a cold opening. You get no title screen or logos after pressing the power button, and instead you're literally plopped into the first stage. Forsaking subtlety, the dev team, Headgames, takes it one step further by having the stage placed in a blizzard! But unlike this opening Siberia sequence, the game is anything but a bitter, icy experience. Up against the Phalanx, an alien cyborg race, the X-Men go on a trek across the globe and its orbit, in a desperate attempt to stop the menace from enslaving the planet with a virus. In doing so, Xavier's team collide with many of their foes in a variety of diverse settings in this action-platformer.

Whether you're keeping ninjas of The Hand at bay with thrown, explosive cards, BAMFing around Magneto's loyal Acolytes on the Avalon space station, or clawing through numerous robotic entities in a flooded fortress, these classic moves are at your fingertips from a roster of seven acrobatic mutants. All characters, friend and foe, are also vibrantly crafted for their sprite representations, right down to the smallest details. Considering how thin some of these characters are portrayed, it's impressive that their likeness still sticks out, such as Wolverine's triangle-esque designs on his abs, or Cyclops' ridiculous shoulder belt. Adversaries, such as the Brood, an insect-like alien race with creepy faces, look as disgusting and menacing as they do in the comics, them and their icky, smattering infestation within a spaceship.

Most environments have the same amount of impact with their use of detail and color, and the excellent soundtrack compliments the scenery with a mostly foreboding ambience that's stunning for a Sega Genesis release. A terrific example is the second stage, where you break into a Sentinel complex; a downbeat, bass-like tune plays while you run down green corridors that mix well with the purple Sentinels in the back and the dimly-lit lights in the distance, creating a blue hue-like surrounding. The fusion lends itself to the breaking-and-entering theme in an intentionally understated way. The game has its pulse-pounding moments with the music, such as your encounter with an enraged Magneto, but I feel the soundtrack works best when being low key. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how each of the seven characters actually have distinct renditions of each stage's theme. That's some dedication.

Headgames' commitment to Clone Wars extends itself to the gameplay, which, despite sharing the same number of stages as its 1993 predecessor, six, is a surprisingly lengthy action-platformer due to its segmented areas. Depending on your skill, completing the game for the first time can easily cost you two hours, and that's after getting a feel for how the game and its stages function. Hilariously, while your characters are flexible, fast-moving, and even powerful when using their infinite, innate mutant powers, the game has a very slow and steady approach to combat. Brute forcing your way through a wave of baddies is ill-advised, especially since invincibility frames are nearly nonexistent.

This methodical style to the action is often one reason why the game is considered a challenge to conquer, but the fact that there's no checkpoints, passwords, or even continues after losing all lives also contributes to the difficulty curve. Though, it's rarely cheap, and Clone Wars even appears easy at first, when enemy placements and their abilities are simple to decipher, ranging from hopping ninjas to green drones that float in a basic pattern. But by the time you reach the latter half of this Sega Genesis adventure, you're fully expected to conform to its systematic design. For example, the Savage Land, once again made to look like a swamp for some reason, can be a breaking point for those with zero patience; condensed pathways are loaded with spiked orbs, acid lakes, and tree bark turrets in deliberately awkward locations, all requiring precise timing to dodge and pass.

However, there are small areas in the game that are genuine nuisances, and not at all the fault of the player's lack of restraint. The beginning of one stage has you redundantly hopping up a temple as boulders fall from the top. It really seems like a throwaway idea, where you run to the right side of the temple, reach a new floor, then run all the way to the left, and repeat this boring pattern a few more times. Irritatingly, those boulders almost always do damage as you're making any sort of jump. Another lame area has you vertically outrunning an acid flood inside a fortress, which is loaded with floating robots placed at the edges of platforms, some which unhinge after being stepped on. Clearly, the thing you want the most in a tall, flooded area is the constant fear of falling down long distances. Into acid.

But legitimate problems are scarce, so X-Men 2: Clone Wars overall manages to function as a solid, albeit straightforward, action-platformer for the 16-bit console. Pretty ironic considering its unconventional opening sequence. But not every video game needs to have a standout gimmick in order for it to be good, and this title displays that attitude by giving players standard obstacle courses with enough minor variances to make the whole thing feel diverse. Doesn't hurt that it does justice to its license, making you actually feel like one of the X-Men without weird restrictions that bog down gameplay, topping it off with excellent graphics and a skillfully-crafted soundtrack.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (May 22, 2017)

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EmP posted May 30, 2017:

Just for the record, even if no one else does, I appreciate your punny tagline.
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pickhut posted May 30, 2017:

Ha, thanks. I was struggling to say anything in the tagline bar, even a simple sentence, so I just did a quick glance of X-Men plot and book titles, and saw my tagline immediately. "Oh. OH, that's the one."

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