Ah growing up in the 90's. The decade where Yo-Yos were popular. The decade when every disagreement was settled by rock, paper, scissors. The decade of the Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. Ninja Turtles, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, and some of the worst rap music in history. Excessive sports movies, really slow internet and printers that took two minutes to print a single page. OK fine, maybe not everything in the 90's was awesome, but you get my point. One thing I missed out on in the 90's was all the Superhero animated shows though.
I recently watched through the entire 90's x-men Animated Series for the first time. As this show doesn't have any nostalgic factor to me, I feel that I can give it a fair review.
Overall, the show is actually really good. It was also revolutionary as it was one of the first animated TV shows to have a continuing storyline throughout the first few seasons.
(Cyclops and Rogue)
Rather than creating exclusively new story lines, the show based most of its episodes on well known events from the comics. Stuff like the ultra-famous dark phoenix saga all the way to a modified version of Days of Future Past that included the time traveling mutant Bishop. From what my research can tell, most of the episodes changed details here and there, but the basic premise remains the same.
The animation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, still shots look very good for a 90s cartoon. Both characters and environments are finely detailed and even facial expressions are usually well done. On the other hand, it usually doesn't look too good in motion. The frame-rate is often choppy and at times characters in the background are just standing still. There are occasional continuity errors as well, like characters swapping outfits between shots for example.
(Professor Xavior, Storm, Cyclops and Wolverine)
Characters are generally portrayed well in the TV show. The main team in the show consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee.
Professor X, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Gambit are all portrayed well in the show. I found some of their voice actors were a little off-putting at first, but as I watched they grew on me. Rogue in particular was very well portrayed and voiced.
I wasn't quite as fond with the portrayal of Storm or Jubilee however. Storm was alright, but having her constantly talk about what she was commanding the weather to do got annoying at times. Does she have to verbally command the wind every time she blasts enemies with it?
Jubilee though, holy crap she gets annoying. In the comics she's a spunky teenager with plenty of energy and tries to find as much joy in life as possible. In the show, well...they captured the spunky nature, but does she have to be so obnoxious about it? Her powers aren't explained too well in the show either. In the show, she shoots out sparkly things from her hands that sometimes explode, often with firework sound effects. Rather than trying to explain her real powers, I'll just copy paste from Wikipedia:
"Jubilee had the mutant power to generate bright bursts of multi-colored energy plasmoids from her fingertips. She referred to these globules as "fireworks." The globules obeyed her mental control, traveling where she directed them, arranging themselves in balls, streamers, and other shapes, and exploding when she wished. The strength of the energy varies in degrees of power and intensity, and could range from a multitude of colorful sparkles capable of temporarily blinding a person to a powerful detonation capable of smashing objects and destroying property, or a precision burst inside a human brain, simulating the effects of a massive stroke. Jubilee could absorb the fireworks back into her own body without harm. Jubilee often referred to her powers as "pafs." "Paf" appears in many instances as onomatopoeia for her powers.
While training in Generation X, Emma Frost described Jubilee as having the untapped potential to detonate matter at a sub-atomic level, which in theory is the equivalent of a fusion bomb. Her moral stance on taking a life was observed by Emma during the "Phalanx Covenant" when Jubilee explained her fear of killing someone should her powers ever flare up again as they did during the "Acts of Vengeance" storyline in Uncanny X-Men where she destroyed an entire house during a panicked moment. Emma Frost stated that Jubilee had unlimited potential and was one of the most powerful mutants she had ever encountered. Her Age of Apocalypse alternate had minimal qualms in this regard, and made liberal use of her full powers."
(Jubilee is so much better in the comics)
In other words, Jubilee is a walking atomic bomb of potential firepower. Well, she was anyway - she was depowered among with 90% of mutants. Instead, she's a vampire now - at least she's back in the spotlight after 5 years of near absence.
(The unstoppable Juggernaut aka. Xavior's step-brother.)
The show has a great spotlight of different villains as well. It features everyone from mega villains like Magneto, Mr. Sinister, and Apocalypse to smaller villains like Vertigo, the Juggernaut, and even the Brood. Mr. Sinister in particular is very well portrayed in the series, and we even get a simplified version of his origin story in season 5.
(Magneto and Vertigo)
Rather than walking through the entire show, I'm going to talk specifically about four episodes: Two really good episodes, and what I think are the worst two episodes.
Beauty & the Beast
This episode has the distinction of being the most dramatic episode of the series by far. What happens is that Beast develops a special procedure to allow blind people to see again. He and his first patient end up falling in love, even though he's a mutant with blue fur. She gets kidnapped by an anti-mutant group and Beast goes berzerk. Meanwhile, Wolverine infiltrates the same group and uses his brain to split them up. It's a well done episode that really makes you care about Beast, and the temperment switch between Beast and Wolverine is not only entertaining, but completely believable. There are several better episodes, but this one really stands out in it's dramatic tone.
(Bishop, the time traveling mutant cop)
This two-parter is probably the best part of the entire series. The story includes two time-traveling mutants, Bishop and Cable, both trying to save their future from an engineered plague. Bishop heads into the past first, trying to stop the plague from ever breaking out. The problem is that Bishop's somewhat rash methods end up destroying both the X-men and Cable's future. Cable travels back to stop Bishop, but ends up saving everyone's future thanks to one character's unique mutant abilities. I won't spoil it in case you decide to watch it, but it's a very satisfying conclusion to an epic two-parter.
(Cable, the time traveling mutant soldier - also Cyclop's son.)
It doesn't hurt that Cable is quickly becoming one of my favorite comic book characters, and he's portrayed fairly well here. I won't talk much about the character here because, well, you could write a novel about his convoluted history. I'll save him for later. For now, let's just say he's the son of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey.
This episode is annoying, very annoying. I don't know that much about Mojo, and after watching this episode I wasn't the least bit curious about this freak show. From what I can gather, he's some powerful TV host that kidnaps powerful beings from around the universe and forces them to perform in a violent TV show. I know that's confusing, but the episode doesn't explain anything that's going on. Mojo himself is the most annoying character in the entire series, constantly blabbering on about his ratings like he came from a crappy loony tunes cartoon. I hate this episode and I never want to watch it again.
Jubilee's Fairy Tale Theater
This episode is loosely based of a charming comic from way back when Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat aka the girl that can walk through walls) is reading fairy tales to Collosus's young sister Illyana. In this episode, Jubilee is leading a group of kids through a cave, and starts telling them stories after they get caved in.
Jubilee is easily the most annoying character in the show's regular cast, and this episode proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt. The fairy tale is stupid too, and I cared about as much as I cared about the son of the man who saved the world. If you ever watch the TV show all the way through, skip this episode, I beg you.
(Cyclops and Wolverine are best of friends)
Final thoughts? If you have any interest in the X-men and want to try out the comics, this is a decent show for finding out some of the franchises back-story. It's rarely as good as the stories it's based on, but it's easier to find and for the most part, it's an easy watch. Most of the shows episodes can be watched on Marvel's official website for free, but I watched the show on the DVD volumes (the entire series collected in 5 DVD sets.) When it's good, it's great. When it's great, it's better than the movies. On the other hand. when it's bad, it's really bad.
I'd recommend not starting with the first two episodes and either starting with Enter Magneto (episode 3,) Days of Future Past (episodes 11 and 12,) or The Dark Phoenix Saga (episodes 40-43.)