Each super hero brand existing for more than a decade has usually had at least one video game attributed to the title. While many tend to think that the games associated with these titles are of little impact to their overall brand, these games tend to measure the temperature of the brand at that particular time, while either adding or subtracting to the brand’s integrity.
This brings us to a very unusual topic: How do we look at a brand from the standpoint of its video games and interactive media?
We’ll focus on one brand in particular with this article; The X-Men franchise.
We’ll focus on the history of the Marvel X-Men Franchise, and how the video games produced either helped or hurt the brand. Don’t worry, this is for the casual and hardcore gamer alike, and you don’t even have to play video games to appreciate the use of branding in any interactive media.
Who are the X-Men?
X-Men began as a comic in September 1963, published by Marvel Comics. Stan Lee, now a venerated comic book mogul, created the team consisting of five teenagers and their mentor, Professor Xavier. If you’ve seen the movies you have a general idea of the story concerning these uncanny teens.
The brand quickly gave rise to multiple comics of derivative names and multiple movies, TV shows, and products all under the band “X-Men” with over 800 new mutants created during the brand’s existence.
That said, each game for X-Men has had the challenge of staying true to the original story and theme of the comics, while putting its own exciting spin and new content for the player. We’ll go though the best and worst games, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of the mutant related games.
The Uncanny X-Men:
The first and ugliest of them all
The first game to be released under the X-Men brand was in 1989, developed exclusively for NES.
The Good: It worked well by using the most popular characters of Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Night crawler, Colossus and Iceman.
The Bad: The game play was so horrible that to this day some levels are nearly unbeatable. Some levels simply start from scratch if you go the wrong way.
The Ugly: The design is literally one of the worst ever put out for the Nintendo system, let alone the X-Men franchise. Each avatar was a box-man that thew cubes. This is honestly one of the worst game designs in Nintendo history.
Sorry to say that this was a relatively poor beginning for the X-Games brand.
Helped or Hurt: Hurt.
Want more? Here you go!
X-Men and X-Men II: Fall of the Mutants
After a rocky start the games began tightening their brand adherence.This game added more mutants and more powers. Combined with the better graphics of the time, the elements in this game gave the player a greater sense of scope with the graphics offered.
The Good: Increased usability and design aesthetic, as well as using a few 3-D tricks by pushing the then-new technology to provide a better game experience. Greater tech allowed for greater color spectrum and it was indeed utilized by a variety of stages and graphics.
The Bad: In the first game, the aesthetic didn’t really exist with the washed out colors and disproportionate designs. This was fixed for X-Men 2.
The Ugly: The game kept parts of the old boxy-style from the NES game, but added the side-view level, so it ended up less annoying than the NES game. The sounds could also be incredibly annoying.
Helped or Hurt: Helped.
X-Men Arcade Game
As the brand began to pick up steam, and finally released the X-Men arcade game, considered by most to be one of the best and most well-loved games in the X-Franchise.
The Good: Great graphics and use of the technology of the time. Good user experience and mimicry of the pilot cartoon airing on TV at the time. The style of costumes and roster also worked hand-in-hand with the comics of the era.
The Bad: Usability made it difficult to see the graphics and animations of characters during games of 4 or more players.
The Ugly: Some graphics and animations didn’t work well and didn’t use the brands already established canon. (But that’s debatable).
Help or Hurt: Helped!
X-Men : Children of the Atom
Several Titles came and went on smaller game systems, but in 1994 Capcom and Rutubo released a game for the Arcade and other platforms that took the X-Men brand to a new level of interactivity, adding special combinations and a decidedly arcade-style moves while using a scrolling background very similar to Street Fighter. (That’s why it’s usually regarded as the X-Men version of Street Fighter.)
The Good: Improved graphics from its predecessors, new UI controls from previous arcade and platform games.
The Bad: While the graphics were improved, the story was nearly non-existent. The game was reduced to PvP. This was one of the first games to divert from the adventure plot on such a large scale. However whether this truly detracted from the game can be debated.
The Ugly: While the graphics and engine were a vast improvement over previous games, there were a few small problems with UI and graphic quality. But the good truly outweighs the bad or the ugly.
Helped or Hurt: Helped!
Look out for more articles in this series in the near future, if you have any comments, thoughts or opinions on part one in this series then don’t hesitate to share them below.