The way X-Men: The Animated Series (opens in new tab) distilled the essence of its sizeable cast of mutants down to a series of vignettes only seconds long remains a masterclass in cartoon introductions. Someone was definitely paying attention, because the intro of the official animated prequel to Marvel's Midnight Suns follows it to a tee.
Each of the heroes shows off their power and poses near a bespoke nameplate that looks like it belongs on the cover of their solo miniseries, and then the team comes together to face their assembled villains by running directly into them. It's so good I wish it played every time the game loaded.
The prequel shorts are five videos that introduce the core members of this incarnation of the Midnight Suns: The Hunter, Scarlet Witch, Magik, Blade, Ghost Rider, and Nico, as well as their mentor Caretaker and their opponent, Lilith, the Mother of Demons. The videogame doesn't take place in exactly the same continuity as the comics and has a backstory of its own, so it's nice to have this extra context even if I'm only seeing it now, 60 hours into the game. (And still in act two. Look, I spend a lot of time each night looking for the damn cat.)
While episode one, embedded above, has the same animation style as the intro, later episodes switch to a more rotoscoped style. It's a good fit for the Ghost Rider episode, in which the Robbie Reyes incarnation of the spirit of vengeance images in a sweet car chase in his burning hot rod. Something seems to be up with the framerate in the final two episodes though, which introduce Blade and Nico Minoru. I thought it was my internet connection at first, but after braving a look at the pit of despair that is YouTube comments, it seems like I'm not the only one who noticed the constant speeding up and slowing down.
Still, these five videos are a rad bonus for anyone enjoying the videogame, which also understands what we enjoy about seeing superheroes get their bash on. As Jeremy Peel put it in his review, "Since this is a Marvel fantasy, every hero in your roster can one-shot a minion without breaking a sweat—and every fresh Hydra body is an opportunity to flex by flinging an opponent into an explosive barrel with Ghost Rider's flaming chain, or knocking them upside their head with a stack of New York newspapers. All the while, you'll take any opportunity to tip a lamppost onto a more significant henchman, chipping away at their health bar until you can deliver that final, match-ending knockout. This potential for weaponising the environment during extended, bloodless beatings in a cramped arena lends Midnight Suns the feel of hardcore WWE. Firaxis has evidently put in the hours to convey the impact of each collision—delivering the audio-visual FX equivalent of a bright-red, capitalised THWACK in a golden age comic."
The other side of Midnight Suns is an intensive downtime simulation, in which you explore the grounds of your mystical pocket-dimension home base, the Abbey, solving puzzles and hunting for collectibles. Also, it's where you chill with your buds in an in-depth friendship simulation that involves figuring out exactly which hangouts and gifts characters like Wolverine and Captain Marvel will like best.
It's a huge game, one that feels as stuffed as any crossover event, even before the addition of DLC that will throw in Storm, Morbius, Venom, and Deadpool as playable characters.
Here are the rest of the videos.