NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 07/24/2013
Ah LJN, the company who would purchase any license they could get their mitts on to turn a quick buck. Wolverine on the NES would be the companies second X-Men game on the system (the first being the atrocious Uncanny X-Men) but the first solo Wolverine outing. Also unlike Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine is actually pretty fun.
Crafted by Software Creations, who would go on to give up Maximum Carnage on the SNES, Wolverine is a 2-D side scrolling action game with very little story to speak of: Wolverine has been captured by Sabretooth and Magneto and must escape through a series of themed levels (Air level, water level, fire level, etc.). Though the levels of the game fall into standard video game tropes, they’re all pretty fun to play through. They encourage the player to explore them to look for hidden areas and power-ups which you will need to see the game through to its end. The diligent player can recruit the help of fellow mutants Havok, Psylocke and Jubilee for assistance in the maze like levels (hey, even Wolverine needs help sometimes!). You only have a small number of lives and limited continues to finish the game, and that continue or life you find in level two could mean the difference between finishing the game or starting over.
Controls are as simple as they get for a Nintendo game: A jumps, B attacks while standing and crouching and Select extends and retracts your adamantium claws. While your claws are out, your health slowly depletes and even though this is a Wolverine game it does not regenerate, which leads me to wonder why the developer even gave you the option to extend or retract the claws at all. Let’s face it, you can punch guys in quite a few games, but you want to hit people with your claws in a Wolverine game!
Wolverine is a difficult, but not impossible game. As stated the controls are basic and for the most part tight enough to get you through dealing with enemies and platforming. One of the more awkward functions is the crouch in the game where Wolverine goes through an awkward animation as opposed to straight ducking and can lead to some cheap hits. The game also has an unforgiving damage model where your health drains fairly quickly with no invisibility period and this can be annoying in a game with limited lives, health and continues. You also have to be on the look out for cheap deaths, especially in later levels like the fire stage where the platform you’re standing on can fall out from under you without warning.
An area where Wolverine is lacking is in the boss department. The game is short (around 10 or 11 levels or so) and can be beaten with patience in under an hour. In that time you’ll only encounter two bosses towards the end: Magneto in the second to last level and the final encounter with Sabretooth. It would’ve been nice had they included some more bosses, like say Pyro for the fire theme world as an example.
LJN gets a lot of flack for their lack of quality games, and rightfully so. However Wolverine is one of the rare games from the company that’s worth playing. It is challenging but can be beaten with practice and it’s fun to replay the levels to see what secrets you can uncover. Wolverine on NES is a worthy start to the characters future solo video game outings.