Chasing Ghosts: One Quarter at a Time

When the Saturn was cool: Playing X-Men: Children of the Atom.

In the early summer of 1996, I was obsessed with getting a Sega Saturn.

Like, I couldn’t eat, sleep or breathe without thinking of this system from the same folks who brought me Sonic the Hedgehog and a sorely underrated X-Men game on the Genesis. More than likely I was being brainwashed by the good people at Sega Visions magazine, who made no mention of the Sega’s blunders in debuting the Saturn in the United States. They just made sure I knew all about this fantastic machine and the amazing games it could play.

However, it was one game that sent me spiraling out of control. And that was X-Men: Children of the Atom.

See at the time, I was obsessed with Marvel’s band of merry mutants. They had a cartoon that was fantastic (although it doesn’t hold up very well). They were all over your Pizza Hut promotional materials, your toy aisles, even your tube of toothpaste. So it made sense for Capcom to snag that license and put them in a game that Capcom does best: the 1-on-1 fighting genre.

While I had appreciated the beat-em up game that Konami released a few years prior, seeing this blew my little mind away. It was like Street Fighter, but with X-Men. I could be Wolverine and kill Cyclops! I could gaze at, er, um, PLAY as Psylocke. It was a really great merging of the worlds.


No doubt 12-year-olds like me appreciated the, um, assets she brought to the game.

So having played this game, and knowing that it was available on the Sega Saturn? I had to get this. So I asked my parents if we could get a Saturn. “You don’t even have to buy it, can we just rent it from Blockbuster?” I just wanted a weekend to play this, and I knew that I had a better shot at renting it for a weekend than my parents being able to afford a new video game system, as we were your standard middle class family that had just bought a computer eight months earlier (the PC port wouldn’t see a release for at least another year).

Finally, my father relented, and apparently the rental process at Blockbuster wasn’t as simple as my 12-year-old brain made it seem.

“Yeah we’ll get the deposit back, but it’s like we bought the whole system already,” I overheard dad telling mom. Makes sense: if you run off and steal the system, Blockbuster can bill you for the entire cost of it. I’d be curious if anyone else did this as a kid.

Looking back, I wish I had rented another game for the Saturn, because I have to tell you, a whole weekend of X-Men: Children of the Atom got old really fast. I didn’t have any friends who were able to come over that weekend to play, so it was just me, who wasn’t that great at fighting games to begin with, against a cheap A.I.

Oh, and I electrocuted myself unplugging the system. No vital injuries, but that was truly an odd sensation.

My love for Saturn died down shortly afterwards, when I saw a Super Mario 64 in action at the Babbages store in the Augusta, Ga., Mall.  But that obsession is for another column, dear reader.

Don’t get me wrong though, X-Men COTA was a fantastic game despite me getting burned out on it. The sprite animation was very smooth, and the characters looked just like they did in cartoon. Big, beautiful sprites were always an eye-catching thing in the arcade, and seeing Juggernaut take up more than half the screen made you want to stand up and applaud Capcom for being so authentic to the comics. The fighting didn’t feel too cheap, and it was very apparent playing this that Capcom was getting better with every subsequent fighting game.

And this is one of those games where the Saturn version triumphed over the Playstation version. Usually, not the case, but the Saturn was king when it came to 2D games. Unfortunately, the system came at a time when 3D was all most people wanted, so it’s greatest strength was it’s greatest weakness in a way. Had the industry stayed focused on 2D gaming, then the Saturn’s story would have been much different.

Would this game have been good if Capcom got the X-Men license and released this fighting game before the first Street Fighter 2? Nope. I think it would have been dreadful. It was thanks to the years they spent perfecting the Street Fighter series that this game, and the future games in the series, were so great.

And that’s the beauty of it. Capcom was just getting started. Marvel Super Heroes took the same formula but put you up against other super heroes from the Marvel universe (I remember Chuck Owens and I having knock-out battles where I took Spider-Man and he went Captain America. Something about “raising his mighty shield”). X-Men vs Street Fighter was fun and introduced the tag-team option (which I’m not the biggest fan of but enjoy nonetheless). I didn’t actually play Marve vs Street Fighter in the arcades, but for a time I became obsessed with Marvel vs. Capcom.

That, my friends, might truly be Capcom’s finest moment in the fighting genre. So much so that I can’t hardly bring myself to play regular Street Fighter games now because it feels so empty without the Marvel characters.

None of those future titles, however, inspired a rabid obsession over getting a Sega Saturn like that original did though. Although, given the Saturn’s failure, that might be the best thing you can say about them.

Running it in Mame

You shouldn’t have any trouble running this or any of the games in Mame. And since most people default to Street Fighter six button setups, this is about as out-of-the-box you can get on Mame games. The buttons should default correctly with no issues whatsoever. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but make sure you have an eight-way stick instead of 4-way.

However, you won’t be able to run Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 through Mame. Don’t even try it. You could go PS1 or Dreamcastu emulation, but in the interest of simplicity, I only have Mame installed on my cabinet. If it can’t handle a specific game, I move on. It’s not like I’m struggling to find a game to play.

My wife plays Marvel vs. Capcom.

In an effort to get my wife to play more video games, I’m giving her this space to share her thoughts after playing the featured game. You can find her on Twitter @alliwait

I didn’t like that the characters switched. Took me by surprise. I didn’t realize that it was switching in the match, thought it was going to a different level, and it was very confusing. While I didn’t like it more than the classic SF game, I really enjoyed having wildly different characters to play as. And the variety of moves was enjoyable as well.