X-Men '97 is the Open Door to a New Age of Uncanny Video Game Experiences | Fanboys Anonymous

X-Men '97 is the Open Door to a New Age of Uncanny Video Game Experiences

Posted by Robert DeFelice Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Charles Xavier's extremely gifted students recently made a triumphant return to the world of animated television. Now is also the perfect time for gamers to once again be reminded of what the X-Men bring to the table.

Disney+'s X-Men '97 series has reinvigorated the widespread love for Charles Xavier's new-age family of genetically gifted heroes. Crafted as a direct sequel to the beloved 1992 animated series, the 2024 series picks up exactly where the original left off. Presenting new challenges for Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Rogue, Jubilee, Gambit, Storm, and a whole host of mutants both familiar and brand new, X-Men '97's first season has wrapped up and fans are already clamoring for more.

In the '90s, the cartoon's massive success resulted in the X-Men being featured in a host of video games of varying genres. After a long layoff from X-Men-branded video games, the latest series provides the perfect opportunity for new creators to step up to the plate and create the next slate of memorable interactive experiences starring the students of the Xavier Institute. Season 1 of X-Men '97 even includes a fun video game-themed mini-episode starring Jubilee and Sunspot. With the world's most famous mutants being early veterans of the video game medium, the question remains what would be the best style of game to re-introduce their unique brand of characters and storytelling to a new generation of gamers?

Much like Nathan "Cable" Summers would, sometimes it's best to look to the past in an effort to best shape the future.

In that spirit, it may be best to look at the 1992 X-Men Arcade game produced by Konami. A wonderful example of a side-scrolling Beat 'Em Up, this game precedes the 1992 Saban cartoon series, actually being based on a failed 1989 cartoon pilot called "Pryde of the X-Men." Still, in tandem with the success of the 1992 show, the arcade game helped turn the X-Men into one of the most lucrative and recognizable properties of the 1990s.

Beat 'Em Ups have seen a resurgence of sorts in recent years with games such as Streets of Rage 4 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge. A game in the vein of capturing the magic of the 1992 arcade product while updating graphics, including the cast of the Disney+ series, and adding in unique story elements or power-ups that can vary depending on the combination of heroes selected by the player would be a strong way to keep the game fresh and allow for replayability.

For example, a team of players who choose Jubilee and Sunspot could receive a boost to the gauge which controls their mutant abilities and give way to special combo finishing moves specifically programmed for certain partnerships. Adversely, pairing such as Cyclops and Wolverine could trigger mini-games where players would compete with one another for the higher score on any given level with the "winner" receiving a boost going into the next stage. Paired with voiceover work from the stars of the actual cartoon, this would go a long way in creating an immersive experience.

Another bonus about creating such a game in today's environment is the opportunity to afford players a quick multiplayer experience that they wouldn't have to stink hundreds of hours into to complete. The modern landscape is filled with many Souls-like experiences that can sometimes take upwards of 50 hours to fully play through. Still, for those who may want a longer experience, downloadable content would allow for an expansion of stories and gameplay while also opening the door for cameo characters seen in X-Men '97, such as Captain America or Spider-Man, to make appearances as well.

It's been 13 years since the last X-Men standalone game release. 2011's X-Men: Destiny had unique ideas with the concept of allowing players to create their own mutant and pick a side in the plight for mutant acceptance but the single-player experience received largely middle-of-the-road reviews.

The drop in quality of the video games and movie releases for everyone's favorite mutants has resulted in there not being as much of a desire to take on the role of X-Men in interactive experiences outside of those tying members into the larger Marvel outings such as Marvel's Midnight Suns and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Yes, Insomniac is creating a Wolverine game for the PlayStation 5 but that is a game focusing solely on Logan, as opposed to the team at large.

Hopefully, that will change in the near future, because when X-Men games are done right, they have the ability to produce legendary results.

Truly, there may be no better time than right now for a development team to strike and attempt to create a fresh X-Men experience off the back of the new cartoon with a vibrant aesthetic, pick-up-and-play controls, and an engaging story simple enough for new fans to understand but engaging enough to keep long-time fans coming back for more.

Until such a day comes, gamers can get their fill of superhero action by playing Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 5 or the aforementioned Marvel's Midnight Suns on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments about how you would like to see the X-Men return in a new video game dedicated to their unique brand of teamwork as the fight for equality rages on.


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