X Men 2 is, by all means, a perfect video game that anyone with a Genesis needs to play. Immediately.
Upon booting the game, you're thrown into the fray with a randomly selected character. No title screen. No "Press Start to Begin," nothing. Just you, your character and your wits dropped into a beautifully rendered snow stage, facing off against ninjas and robots. If that premise doesn't sound awesome to you, then stop reading right here.
The first stage sets the tone of the game perfectly, and serves as a well balanced tutorial without hand holding. You're left to figure things out yourself. You may start with a character that you personally won't be able to use well, in which case, you'll die. If you don't like a certain character, simply reset the game and try other characters out.
Within this first cold-start stage, you'll be dodging enemy robot fire, platforming, breaking ice walls to search for shortcuts which lead to health pickups (a major, major part of this game) and facing off against ninjas using your mutant powers exclusive to what character you're playing as.
The great thing about the mutant powers here, unlike the previous X-Men outing on the Genesis, is that you can use them any time you want as you see fit without having to worry about a "power bar" or losing health for doing so, and unlike X-Men Mutant Apocalypse on the SNES, your mutant power is allocated to a simple button press. This leads to figuring out how characters work, what strategies to use and how to best deal with situations the game throws at you without having a steep learning curve in the way the prequel to Clone Wars turned out. It's simple, effective, responsive, and strategic. The control is flawless, and the best for any 16-bit X-Men title I've played.
The level design at first glance, while good, doesn't appear to be anything special. However, once you start digging into this game more, replaying stages after having died over and over, you start to figure things out. This is where the game's strategy comes into play; through its level design. At the beginning of each stage, you get to choose one of six playable mutant to tackle the stage. Some have better powers than others for the task at hand, and learning these strategies come through trial and error.
Wolverine can climb walls and heal himself from the brink of death, Gambit throws Kinetic Card projectiles, Cyclops uses his trademark eye blasts, Beast is powerful but slow but has wall jumps, NES Batman style, so on and so forth. These characters are balanced well enough, and are needed, since you won't be able to get through this already tough title using only one of them all the time. There are many times I ran into bosses or stage hazards I couldn't complete with Psylocke due to her lack of projectiles, so Gambit or Cyclops would be the better choice. I may be talking about character selection a lot here, but for a 16-bit action platformer, this really adds depth to the game, and this strategy is where the meat of the gameplay itself comes from. Not to mention, these characters, as they stand alone, are great AS characters, and to see this game get all of their mutant powers correctly is exactly what any X-Men fan would want in a game.
Graphically, this game is gorgeous. Releasing late in the Genesis' life cycle, X-Men 2 boasts some incredibly smooth animation, large, detailed character sprites, parallax scrolling and art based on Jim Lee's work. As far as I'm concerned, the game is graphically perfect. Each stage has its own vibe, colors and shading are used to a great extent, and there are even some incredibly impressive, pseudo-3D looking models. This is hands down the best looking game on Genesis, for all the right reasons.
Sound design isn't as great, however. The Genesis itself had a rather inferior sound module for its heyday, and it shows here. This is especially apparent during the bland story segments told through text on the Cerebro. While the story it tells here is actually very good and thoroughly interesting to any X-Men fan, the way it's presented is certainly not. Along with a wall of text you'll hear a very high pitch, rather annoying Genesis sound squeal. This is the only time the sound ever really gets in the way, though. The music in this game isn't bad, it just isn't memorable, and this game's sound department is its weakest asset.
There are a huge number of stages here, ranging from the inner workings of a sentinel to a dense jungle, and the variety pays off. The game isn't short for an action platformer, usually taking 2 hours for a single playthrough. The good news is, you never feel like you're playing the same sort of stage, and each of them have their own enemies with different strategies of attack and defense tied to them. Toward the end of some of these stages, you'll face off against some of my favorite boss battles of all time. Apocalypse being one of the most memorable (as well as visually pleasing) to a really clever, albeit short, bout with Magneto, after which, Magneto joins you and you can now play as him. Yet another character added to an already impressively large amount.
X-Men 2 also supports 2-player functionality that is handled exceptionally well. Both characters tout separate health bars and lives, and the death of one character won't impede the other's progress. It's a really fun 2-player experience, even with someone who's new to the game.
I really have nothing bad to say about X-Men 2. If I had to, it would be its sound, but the actual sound effects of the action are handled exceptionally well. It is, by all means, a perfect video game that anyone with a Genesis needs to play. Just be warned of its somewhat steep learning curve, and expect to experiment with all of the characters until you find a good fit.