X-Men Arcade Review
Developer: Konami / Publisher: Konami / ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Fantasy Violence) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $9.99
Any arcade worth its signage in the early 90s most likely housed an X-Men arcade cabinet, whether it was the six- or four-person version. Chances are if you saw this game you either played it or wished you could have played it thanks to its rich colors and catchy music, and, of course, the ability to play as one of six awesome X-Men! Konami now delivers an entirely new generation the chance to experience 90s arcade bliss with the first home console release of the X-Men arcade game on the Xbox 360. Have the past 18 years been good to the X-Men, or has nostalgia gotten the best of the game?
Originally developed as an arcade game, there isn’t too much in the story tank. The evil mutant Magneto has kidnapped Professor Xavier, and it’s your job to travel all over the world (and even to outer space) to stop Magneto and rescue Professor X. As you start your journey you can select one of six X-Men: Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Dazzler. Each mutant has similar basic punches, throws, and attacks, but each has a unique mutant power to destroy their foes. Cyclops uses an optic blast, Storm calls a tornado to kills enemies, and Nightcrawler teleports and destroys enemies on screen. Mutant powers are the only things that truly distinguish one X-Man from the next, as all other attacks are the same for each character.
There are two versions of the game to play through: the American and Japanese version. Both are essentially the same, but the USA version has some extended levels and is a bit more difficult. The Japanese version has enemies that drop power-ups like extra energy or mutant power orbs, which aren’t a part of the USA version at all. The six levels vary greatly in background but not in enemy design, as you’ll be fighting the same four or five palette-swapped Sentinel enemies. Each stage is capped with a boss battle against powerful mutants like the Blob and Juggernaut, offering a new challenge. The game will take around 25 minutes to complete entirely, and with unlimited continues the only reason you’d get a Game Over is if you opt to quit out. It is a faithful port of the arcade game, and as such comes off a bit too easy when the challenge of playing on quarters for as long as you can is removed by actually owning the game.
Easily the biggest draw to the actual arcade cabinet was the ability to play with up to five other people. The home version of the game emulates this well, allowing for local co-op with up to four players and online co-op with six players. Multiplayer gameplay is where X-Men Arcade shines, as the frantic action on-screen when all six mutants are dishing out the hurt is straight up fun. Playing online is very smooth, with only a few instances of lag in higher ping games. Voice chat is available if needed, and the experience can be tailored to your liking by selecting the level, difficulty, and version of the game you’d like to play online. One huge flaw with the online game comes, again, from having unlimited continues. Without the penalty of death (and dwindling supplies of quarters), you’ll quite frequently join games involving people spamming the mutant power buttons over and over, killing themselves off, and getting a new life with a restock of mutant powers. While it is somewhat funny to keep hearing Colossus roar with rage again and again, after the first playthrough it becomes annoying. An option to have limited continues would have been ideal, but as it stands playing online isn’t as thrilling as it should be. Overall, multiplayer is still the best part of X-Men Arcade, but the abuse of mutant powers hampers the experience.
X-Men Arcade looks just like it did way back in the 90s, which isn’t really a bad thing: if you played the arcade game then you know what to expect. Backgrounds are bright, enemies are colorful, and the frame rate remains steady even when there are handfuls of enemies on screen. Konami has added an optional graphics effect to smooth the jagged edges off the characters if you’d rather try a more updated look. Each stage appears vastly different from the last, ranging from a destroyed city to a jungle, and even Magneto’s nefarious Asteroid M floating above the Earth. The experience is drenched in nostalgia, so don’t expect to be blown away by anything extraordinary.
Those familiar with the arcade version are sure to remember some of the ridiculous dialogue. I’m proud to report that all of the original voices and lines are back! Famous quips such as “X-Men, welcome to DIE,” and “I am Magneto, master of magnet,” sound as crisp as ever and are just as hilarious as they were so long ago. Taunts from bosses and the dialogue during cutscenes with Professor X are equally cheesy and funny. Aside from the voices, X-Men Arcade has a decent soundtrack, with some catchy tunes, in particular the intro theme and the jungle stage. In general, the game sounds great, and is sure to put a smile on your face as you play.
As much as I enjoyed reliving a fond memory of my past, I can’t entirely recommend X-Men Arcade to everyone. The game is a faithful port of the arcade game, but the appeal to purchase it is really only for fans of the original seeking a dose of nostalgia. New players might not see what the big deal is about. Regardless of your past experiences with the game, X-Men Arcade still offers a fun beat-’em up that is true to the arcade experience, albeit slightly modified to fit the home consoles, and a great multiplayer romp.
7 / 10