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Watch: Long-lost, never-released PS1 X-Men game surfaces from 1999

By Benjamin Bullard
Marvel Tales: Wolverine #1 - (CA) Jeehyung Lee

How cool would it be — and how doppelgänger freaky — to take the controls in a no-holds-barred face-off between Logan and Wolverine? A newly-unearthed X-Men fighting game demo from the original PlayStation era shows us just how close we were, at least for a minute back in the 1990s, to finding out the answer.

Gaming historian Andrew Borman followed a trail of binary breadcrumbs to unearth the forgotten 1999-vintage demo of a planned, fully-licensed X-Men game from developer Syrox — one unrelated, as he found, to the X-Men: Mutant Academy fighting game that did end up releasing on both PS1 and Game Boy Color in 2000. The demo is brief, it’s in the rawest-possible playable state, and it only lets you control Wolverine and Apocalypse — but the story of how he found it at all is almost as intriguing as the never-released game itself:

While rummaging around inside the software guts of a completely different game — Asteroids for Game Boy Color — Borman says he came across a file that “seemed to contain a demo build from July 1999.” Despite making the discovery inside a Nintendo game not even bound for PlayStation consoles, a little intuitive digital sleuthing led him to burn a PlayStation-compatible disc of the mysterious file and see what would happen if he slipped it in a PS1 console.

“I put it in the console and let it do its thing — and then something happened that I wasn’t even expecting,” he says in the video. “It booted!”

How’s that for some X-Men-worthy extrasensory ability? As you can see, the game was intended to be a single or two-player brawler; one that — at least in demo form — would have even let you put two versions of the same character in close-quarters combat. The setup pits the two combatants in classic Mortal Kombat style, with one on the left side of the screen and the other on the right. And although the non-player AI doesn’t offer up much of a fight in the demo, we get to see Wolverine unleash his (admittedly basic) set of skills — including a sweet finishing move — not only against Apocalypse, but against Logan himself.

In an even more tantalizing tease of just how prepared the developers were to draw on X-Men’s Marvel comic book lore, Apocalypse even squares off against En Sabah Nur, his own ancient alien progenitor. Borman goes on to explain that he’s not done looking into what became of the game (he even discovered a separate 1998 demo file that shows the game in a rougher, less-developed state) — so stay tuned for what we hope is more info on another star-crossed X-Men project that came this close to reality.