This past weekend, I went to the 2012 Chicago Comic-Con know as “Wizard World.” This was my second year going to the convention. Last year, I posted a game review after the convention talking about what it offers the video game community. Being that this is the Chicago Comic-Con and not the San Diego Comic-Con, there’s no big game unveilings or game studios in attendance.
However, there’s still some fun to be had for the gamers. The convention has a whole roster of celebrities in attendance signing autographs on the convention floor. Gamers can get their games signed by celebrities that have either appeared in a video game or in a movie a video game was based on. In the two years I’ve gone to the convention, I’ve been able to get three games autographed.
In addition to the autographs, there’s also a handful of booths that sell vintage video games. Most of it’s standard stuff but you can find a gem or two if you really dig. At one booth, I spotted a game that I had never seen before, X-perts for the Sega Genesis. The cover alone sold me since it told me two things about the game right away. One, the game is all about 3D rendered graphics so the graphics probably look good for a Genesis game. Two, the game probably relies on its fancy graphics to cover up its horrible game play, I had to have it.
X-perts was released back in 1996. It was one of the later games released for the cartridge based systems of the late 80’s to the early 90’s. The PSX and the Nintendo 64 were released around the same time X-perts was so the game was up against some stiff competition. It was developed by Abalone Studios and it was published by Deep Water, an in house publisher owned by Sega. Deep Water was used to publish all of Sega’s games featuring more mature content. They were also used as front if any of Sega’s games stirred up any controversy.
As for Abalone Studios, the only other game I can find in their development portfolio is Golden Nugget Casino for the Nintendo DS. X-perts was their first game and almost their last. Apparently, The heads over at Sega weren’t happy with the game and nearly cancelled its development several times. If it weren’t for the fact that X-perts is a spin-off game featuring a character from the popular Sega 2D fighter, Eternal Champions, this game probably would have been axed.
Ugh, here we go. Remember how I said that when I first saw this games cover I figured the games fancy graphics were probably used to cover up poor game play? Well, I was right. The game play is atrocious. Before we go any further though, I should tell all of you about this games ridiculous back story. First, X-perts is a spin-off game. There’s three main playable characters, one of which is Shadow Yamoto. If you know your 2D fighters then that name might ring a bell. She was a character in the Street Fighter clone game “Eternal Champions.”
In Eternal Champions, Shadow Yamoto was killed by her employers, the Black Orchid. In X-perts however, her story continues with her surviving the attempt on her life back in Eternal Champions and now she’s the main character in X-perts. After leaving the Black Orchid, Shadow joins an organization named “JANUS” which is an acronym for Japan, The Netherlands, and the United States. The game explains that JANUS was formed in response to the reformation of the Soviet Union in 1996. That and the Swiss-Brazilian-Korean trade consortium pose a threat to world peace so the industrialized nations of the world join together in a secret alliance that births JANUS.
The game follows JANUS as its agents try to take down a terrorist organization that has taken over an underwater weapons research facility. It’s up to three agents to first infiltrate the base and then retake it from its terrorist captors. In the game you can play simultaneously as one of three agents.
X-Perts Game Play
First, there’s Zachary Taylor. Zach holds a masters degree in Computer Science with a specialty in systems security, I’m not making this up, the game actually says all this. Zach is credited with creating the worlds first truly uncrackable data encryption system. Sadly though, he uses his talents to embezzle money which leads to his imprisonment. His story takes a turn for the better when he escapes from prison and is recruited by JANUS for his computer skills.
Next up is Tashile Claudel. Tashile holds a Ph.D in Robotic Engineering from M.I.T. After a tragic car accident, Tashile was declared dead. Ah but her story doesn’t end there. JANUS used the accident to remove Tashile from the civilian world and recruit her as one of their agents. The car accident left her severely disfigured so she used her knowledge of robotic engineering to repair herself. She underwent reconstructive cybernetic surgery that gave her titanium limbs that give her super human strength.
Finally, there’s Shadow Yamoto. Her back story from Eternal Champions remains intact in X-perts. She was once the top assassin for the Black Orchid Organization and is a martial arts expert. She can also speak nine different languages. Unfortunately, this game is entirely in English and doesn’t have a single spot where her linguistic skills come in handy so really, she’s the only character in the game that doesn’t use any of her skills learned in school in her real world job.
Now, I wanted to give you a nice thorough run thru of the games story and characters because there’s almost nothing to talk about when it comes to the actual game play. I said earlier that you can simultaneously play as all three characters in the game which, in theory, is pretty cool. Unfortunately, this idea totally fails in this game as it just turns into a massive cluster fuck once the game gets going.
Right from the get go, you have no fucking idea what to do and the game gives you very little information to get started with. It starts out by showing you a diagram of the under water facility and it’s 8 different levels. To progress through the base, you have to travel to various levels unlocking doors, activating elevators, and killing terrorists. At some points, you have to use one character to do something on one level in order to help another character progress in a different level.
This style of game play holds up for one mission only because as you get all of the agents into the base, the mission objectives for each character get harder to keep track of since secondary missions start up without warning. What ends up happening is you have no idea if you’re working on a primary mission or secondary mission for any of the characters. You end up walking around aimlessly on each of the levels just fighting enemies and occasionally tinkering with a computer in the background.
As you play as one character, the game will track the other two characters. So, if you’re playing as Zachary you will hear audio prompts like “Shadow in Combat” which means Shadow is fighting off an enemy on her own. You can switch to Shadow to take control of the combat or you can leave her. You really don’t have to worry about the other characters because they will never be killed while you’re not controlling them. Seriously, I let the characters fend for themselves a majority of the time and they were never killed.
As far as the actual combat goes, it’s terrible. The controls in the game suffer from some major lag so the combat ends up being clunky and slow. Also, this game is a 2D brawler like (all together now) Final Fight. This means you can move freely around a section of the level to fight against enemies. Since the controls and movement are so poor it can be frustrating to quickly line up punches and kicks on enemies. The combat ends up looking like plastic marionette action figures fighting each other.
Also, each character is supposed to have their own unique fighting style and torture moves, yes, torture moves. The torture moves can be used to threaten enemies into giving you key information that can help you complete missions. From what I’ve read about the torture moves in the instruction manual, they sound pretty cool. Yeah, I was never able to pull one off in the game since the button presses are the same as basic combat button presses so every time I tried to do one, I wound up just punching or kicking the enemy I was trying to interrogate. The unique fighting styles don’t hold up either as each character pretty much just punches and kicks a little bit differently than each other with their unperformable torture moves being the only real thing they each do differently.
Continued X-Perts Game Play
Overall, the game for me became unplayable. The game simply tries to do too much with the whole simultaneous three player thing. You end up with your characters scattered throughout the base as you try to figure out just what the hell you’re supposed to be doing. Also, since the torture moves are near impossible to pull off, you can’t get certain information that will help you finish missions so you end up getting stuck in the game with no way to make progress. Simultaneous single player missions is a cool idea but it just doesn’t work here. Had this game been a little more linear it might have been slightly more playable.
Well, this is supposed to be the area where this game shines and it does literally shine. The characters in the game are done in pre-rendered 3D models and then digitized into the game. This gives each character a plastic action figure look with light reflecting off every part of their bodies. Video games were obsessed with this back in the early 90’s and some games did it well like Donkey Kong Country and Rock N Roll Racing. The developers of this game on the other hand put everything into making the playable characters look cool and phoning in the rest.
Character animations are clunky as well. The only smooth movements each character makes is when they’re not moving and just swaying back and forth like a character from Mortal Kombat does before a fight. The movements of the enemies are the same way except they do one thing I never found a reason for. When you kill an enemy, they fall to the ground and a beam of light appears from the top of the screen that stretches down towards the enemies body. It’s almost if their soul is leaving their body and going to heaven, it’s bizarre.
Oh boy, here we go. It’s a Sega Genesis game, enough said. Just kidding. This is a Sega Genesis game so the sound is shit. Ok, Ok, not every Genesis game sounds like shit but this one does. The game tries to pull off some nifty effects from time to time but it all ends up sounding like the usual grunts, farts, and curdling noises this system is known for. The only highlight in the game is the voice acting, which is bad, but it’s clear enough to understand.
Collectibility – Sought After
I’ve seen a lot of Genesis games in my life but I had never seen this one before the convention last weekend. That’s probably because Sega wasn’t happy with the game and didn’t promote it. Remember, this game was almost killed by Sega several times during its development because it’s so bad. After playing this game, I can understand why Sega didn’t want its customers running out to buy it. The only reasons to buy this game are if you’re a die-hard Sega collector or a die-hard Eternal Champions fan or if you simply want to own one of the worst Sega games ever made.
Average Value – $8 loose, $64 New in Box
Rarity – Sought After with a 47% rating on RarityGuide.com
Happy Gaming and Happy Collecting!
Follow me on Twitter @PatsGameReviews or check out the Retro Game Review Podcast right here on Planet Arbitrary or on iTunes!