Retro Review: Wolverine NES -

Toy Maniac

Mania Grade: C-

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  • Game: Wolverine
  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Genre: Side-Scrolling
  • Players: 1
  • Online: None (Yeah right)
  • Developer: LJN Ltd.
  • Publisher: Software Creations Ltd.
  • Graphics: C
  • Sound: C
  • Gameplay: C
  • Replay: D
  • Fun Factor: D
  • Series:

Retro Review: Wolverine NES

The Toy Maniac tackles Sabertooth

By Robert T. Trate     May 01, 2009

Wolverine Opening Screen for the NES game, circa 1991
© Trate


Thanks to the miracle of eBay purchase and an original Nintendo game system that by the grace of the gods still works. The Toy Maniac is finishing his Wolverine coverage this week with a bang, or more appropriately a "Snikt!". Way back in the late eighties /early nineties Nintendo’s game system took the world by storm. The plethora of titles is amazing even by today’s standards. The quality on the other hand varied from game to game. Castlevania(1987) being one of the best and most popular games ruled. Batman (1989) released by Sunsoft, though far from perfect still delivered one of the best crossover games featuring both a movie and a comic book tie-in.  
Probably riding on the comic book explosion of the early nineties Marvel, Nintendo and LJN Ltd released Wolverine. A perfect character to make the leap from comic book to the video game. Practically invincible, an incredible rogue’s gallery to draw from and totally savage Wolverine threw his claws into the video game world. Unlike Batman and Castlevania the result was far from perfect.
Of course it is easy to say that now. In 1991 we would take any game that would feature the X-Men let alone Wolverine himself. While getting ready for the game I thought, how hard can this be? I’ve beaten all three original Super Mario Brothers games as well as survived to level 22 on Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty World at War (2008). Unfortunately the skill and patience for beating Wolverine for the NES would take a lot more.
Music From the Game to Play While you Read:
The moves are pretty simple. Punch, jump, crawl, unleash your claws and get yourself worked up to fight in berserker Wolverine mode. Immediately you watch a very stilted one panel opening that had none of the class or fun that Ninja Gaiden (1991) delivered. This is a shame because one would think the owners of Wolverine, Marvel Comics, would insist on a little bit more. The game starts immediately and already Wolverine’s nemesis Sabertooth is taunting you and your quest begins.
I’ll be honest. I died on my first jump from left to right (see picture Level 1 the First Trial). Knowing that this was a Scrolling from Left to Right game and back again I thought that the controls were similar to Super Mario Brothers. Wolverine on the other hand does not have the slipperiness that Mario had and did a header right over the side. Battling on I made my first jump and went on trying to kill what look like all white Super-Adaptoids. My claws barely did anything in the way of defense or killing and it became easier to jump and duck then rack up a body count.
Level 2 “Trial by Air” was more of the same but the producers of the game were clever enough to use giant magnets to pull Wolverine’s reinforced adamantium body off of platforms. Here on this level I found the first of the only things available to replenish Wolverine’s strength; giant hamburgers and soda. I thought of the soda as beer to keep in the mind set of the charcater.
On Level 3 “Trial by Traps” it was a melee of spikes, trap doors, swinging pendulums and Ninjas all trying to stop me. The game was getting tiresome in the killing department because with each “clever” trap door or poor jump I would die. Trying to kill a Ninja was practically impossible without depleting my strength down to nothing. This so called “berserker” feature never materialized and that is when I called upon the help of the video game mystic, Game Genie. Shut up. I’m not cheating. I am playing as Wolverine. I am supposed to be “the best at what I do” but how can I do that with the simple minded thinking that went into this game. I didn’t cheat completely, though I could have. I only gave myself infinite lives.

I would need those lives as I played Level 4 “Trial by Water” in which I was cut up into fish bait and drowned more than Wolverine ever did in the comic. I happened to come across two totally unique parts of the game but they totally saved my life. The first was a burger and “beer” refueling station. Then miraculously I jumped into a waterfall and found the warp level.

The warp took me to Level 6 “Trial by Fire”, which was clearly inspired by “World 8” of Super Mario Brothers. More strange goons appeared firing bullets at me as I jumped over lava and avoided huge flames. I then noticed there were no bosses at the end of each level. Quite frankly I was relived to finish each level as quickly as I did but I kept expecting Sabertooth, Pyro or Toad to appear. I figured Sabertooth would show up at the end of each level, kick the hell out of me then jump away so that the chase would continue. Sabertooth only appeared between levels, taunting me.
When I first entered Level 7 “Into the Fortress” I began to wonder how long this mindless jump, dodge and punch game could go on. The all white Super-Adaptoids returned and at this point I decided Level 10 would be where I would call it quits. The levels were simplistic and for the price of the game (at least $50) back in the day it probably went on forever. Then I hit a snag.
I spent the next ten minutes jumping from right to left with no success. I tried inching myself closer to the edge but always died. I moved back for the old running start and then jump only to come up short. Determined not to let a game from 1991 beat me I, eventually, prevailed. The reward was worth it as now I would face Magneto.

Reward? I must have been crazed or obsessed at this point. I spent the next thirty minutes trying to figure out how to beat the Master of Magnetism. Seriously. I traveled all over the level and could not figure out how to get around Magneto’s energy beam (to Wolverine’s right on the picture).

I tried everything. Eventually I decided to watch Magneto (for six minutes) to see if there was a pattern or short break in the energy beam. If there was that would be the only chance I could get to kill him. I even started the level over and took a fresh approach just in case this game was stuck in a loop. None of this helped so as an X-Man I turned to my equivalent of Cerebro and looked for answers. The following YouTube clip supplied the answers.
The Two Final Levels (really quick):
Apparently I had to slash at the energy beam to get to Magneto. Yeah, that makes sense. The guy with an adamantium laced skeleton is supposed to stick his metal claws into an energy beam. By the game’s conclusion I did appreciate the way Wolverine does take down Sabertooth. This enables the character to come back and fight another day.
This game was far from fun and without Game Genie I probably would have kicked in the TV screen or broken the controller. As I nurse a huge indented blister on my right thumb I now have a better appreciation of how far games of come in both look and control. I also now know what it means to keep that raging animal inside locked away.



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StarlightGuard 5/1/2009 3:26:16 PM

Game genie?

You cheater!

A real man from the golden days of Nintendo DIDN'T NEED A GAME GENIE!

You know, I clicked on this article on the strange coincidence that I actually own this game. A friend of mine gave it (and thirty more, plus a half dozen more controllers) to me because my refurbished Nintendo is in working order.

I must have like 60 to 70 old NES games.

And what do I play?

F-Zero for the SNES.

I still haven't beaten Megaman 4 - 6, or Mega Man X, yet I keep playing F-Zero.

SaintDemon 5/1/2009 5:43:38 PM

I use to own that game. I loved and hated it. I loved that I was Wolverine and that I could pull in other X-Men to assist in my battles. However, I hated that the use of my claws was limited and that the healing factor did not seem to apply.

redhairs99 5/2/2009 9:22:39 AM

Starlight, if the system allows you to do it, it's not cheating.  At least, that's what my father always taught me.

TheScriber 5/3/2009 5:31:00 PM

 Retro Review = Awesomeness!

I like the idea of this. I never played this but I do enjoy a little retro gaming myself.

I own a sega genesis with a ton of games. I especially enjoy Snow Bros.

I played the X-Men game on Gen. which was pretty sick. I think you could play as 16 different characters. For back then is pretty nice. Alright Game on!

INSOMNIAC666 5/5/2009 7:58:50 AM

Oh My God!

I lost so many hours of my life to this game! it's Awesome.


StarwindAmada 5/19/2009 5:38:03 PM

 Wow. What a piece of shit.


You know what's awesome? Playing this, giving up on it and then playing X-Men Origins: Woverine. You go from a crappy 8-bit side-scroller to a full 3-D world where you control a visceral Hugh Jackman-portrayed Wolverine who rips people to shreds, with blood and screaming everywhere. Much different from the NES games of yesteryear.



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