Each Super Hero brand that has existed for more than 30 years has inherently had several video games attributed to it. While many tend to think that the games associated with these franchises are of little impact, these games tend to measure the temperature of the brand at that particular time, while either adding or subtracting to it concerning the brand adherence. 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?
This article will 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. Revisit part one here.
This is Part 2:
X-Men vs. Street Fighter
After a few Sega Game Gear releases that didn’t generate a great deal of buzz, Marvel made a somewhat unexpected move to work with Capcom in providing an unexpected yet joyfully-received mash up in 1996.
This game combined all of your favorite Street Fighters and X-Men in simple PvP or PvCPU battles. There was no plot, because the game itself followed the Street Fighter platforms almost exclusively.
The Good: Each X-Men character was given a believable set of powers and power ups, compared to the ‘reinventing’ that occurred in previous arcade games.
The graphics were on par with the latest Street fighter game, and it was obvious a lot of work went into the UI.
The Bad: With all of these adaptations, sadly the game didn’t seem more than a standalone street fighter game with new characters. That said, new levels were added that were intrinsic to the X-Men franchise.
The Ugly: None.
A Dambold note: It’s understood by many that the game was a promo for both brands and as anyone who has played the game can tell you: The flashing intro graphics say it all. That said, it was still fun to play and indulge your inner geek.
Helped or Hurt: Helped.
With that bright spot having become popular in the arcade rooms, things didn’t go very well for Marvel in the new releases.
X-Men: Ravages of Apocalypse
In 1997 Marvel released a commercial conversion for Quake, and with that release, one of the worst X-Men games was born.
The Good: Ravages of Apocalypse holds the Guinness record of being the first Superhero First Person Shooter. That’s great for the franchise, but what a horrible product that had to be the record-breaker.
The Bad: Almost everything about this game is unbearable. Besides the fact that you are shooting up X-Men instead of monsters, it’s so obvious that this is just a “tack-on” to Quake that there is no sense of originality. At all.
The Ugly: The graphics are typical for the time, but little to no detail was put into the characters or design as everything looks like one giant mod.
Summary: Don’t even buy this game on ebay.
Helped or Hurt: Hurt.
X-Men Legends 1 & 2:
Now we come to the most amazing idea Marvel has had for the X-Men since the arcade game.
X-Men Legends was released in 2004 by Activision games. Activision has had a reputation for being one of the best companies at giving each franchise their due love and care in the games created for them. Legends 2 was released in 2005.
Legends 1 is a role-playing game that follows the saga of Magneto, specifically by introducing the young mutant Alison Crestmere (Magma) and her nearly uncontrollable mutant powers. This enables the player to become familiar with the X-Men if they had not been previously. Legends 2 is a vast story that covers Apocalypse, and is a perfect plot continuance of Legends 1.
In eachLegends game, as the plot proceeds, each X-Man chosen for the team is allowed to power up, level up, and continue the storyline in their own way. As the process unfolds, more X-Men become available to play in both games.
The Good: The UI is genius for the X-Men franchise, because it utilizes the ideas presented in the X-Men comics about teamwork and holds to the original theme of the X-Men: Fighting for Justice, Teamwork, and Uniqueness as a strength.
The Bad: The engine was great, but gameplay could be a little confusing at times.
The Ugly: None.
Summary: Legends was the beginning of a sub-franchise that eventually lead to Marvel Ultimate Alliance. This is what X-Men had been waiting for.
Helped or Hurt: Helped.
Destiny is a new game that will be released in Q3/Q4 of 2011. Rumor has it that the player will begin as a new mutant and will join the X-Men and whatever choice you make during the game will affect the outcome.
The reason for this inclusion is because this may very well be one of the best or worst X-Men games of all time. We have so little information, however, the outcome of the game and it’s impact on the X-Men brand is anyone’s guess.
In the end, the X-Men franchise has had a bumpy road with the games released with their brand. However when speaking of video games, there are few franchises who have had a smooth road of success through the years. What matters the most, however about the X-Men franchise is that their current Gaming Developer Activision is revolutionizing the market with the new super hero games, and carrying the X-Franchise along for the great ride.
Missed part one? Check it out here.