X-Men Arcade (XBLA, PSN) Review
The video game world was a different place 18 years ago. Not everyone and their grandmother had a console, and the only way to play multiplayer was to have the person sitting next to you. But perhaps the biggest difference was that back then arcades actually mattered. There was nothing like going out and spending every quarter you could find on all of your favorites, and for a lot of people X-Men Arcade was one of those games. While I unfortunately missed out on the initial run of the game, I did get a few chances to play on the original arcade cabinet, which helped it to stand out amidst the other games. It featured two screens and up to six players at once, which led to large crowds gathering around to see the X-Men do combat and save the day once more. Nearly 20 years later, the game is released on PSN and XBLA, but how does the game stack up once you take it out of its natural habitat?
Those looking for nostalgia will be happy to know that the gameplay has not changed at all, though players looking for more depth will be disappointed to hear that nothing has been added, either. This means that the repetitive nature of old-school brawlers is still present here, the dialogue is cheesy, and there are plenty of cheap tactics used throughout. In the end this doesn’t play that big of a role in the final outcome of the game as it’s just as fun to play now as it was all those years ago.
As mentioned earlier, the game is a direct port from the arcade classic, meaning many people are going to feel at home right away. You pick one of six X-Men, including Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, and, of course, Wolverine and then attempt to stop Megneto from taking over the world, until you eventually battle with the villain himself. It’s not the most in-depth story, but you have to think of the context in which this game was originally released. It was meant to eat your quarters, not make you think about the choices you make and their consequences.
That arm hair will forever haunt me.
If you do decide to think about consequences and the events surrounding you, you’ll notice a lot of logic holes. You’ll be fighting endless hordes of Sentinels who look oddly similar, along with other supervillians such as Mystique and the Juggernaut. Each character has their own mutant powers, such as Cyclop’s eye blast, Nightcrawler’s teleporting and Wolverine’s claws. These powers use up a bit of your health, which required you to carefully plan your attacks when money was on the line. Now that you don’t have that restriction, you can essentially spam the power button constantly, but that’s no fun. Unless you want to pretend you’re a rich kid from the early 90s who spends his parent’s wealth on X-Men Arcade, which then it’s entirely ok to do.
All of the X-Men are decked out in their original 1992 costumes, which makes the game a neat little time capsule for Marvel fans. In one of those rare cases where it works, they also decided to not change any of the game’s original horrible dialogue (my favorite being “I am Megneto, Master of Magnet”). The Engrish is everywhere in this game, as is repetitive, slightly catchy music. Modern gamers who never experienced these styles of games are going to quickly be turned off, but long-time fans will appreciate every poorly written line.
Online play works great as well, with lag only noticeable when all six players are using their mutant powers on one boss. You can jump in and drop out on any game, and even customize your search for optimal results. You can even decide what version of the game you want to play; the US or Japanese version. In an odd twist, the Japanese version is actually easier than the US version, as mutant powers are powered by Power Tokens, and other items are dropped by enemies as well. You can also select difficulty, which you’ll want to switch up depending on how many players you have in your game.
X-Men Arcade isn’t going to wow anybody with its presentation, story, or even gameplay. It’s a shame they couldn’t add extra characters or even an option for updated graphics, but at the same time it helps the game keep its original charm. Most players who didn’t spend all their quarters on this game aren’t likely to understand why people are so excited about this release, and they’ll scoff at the 800MP (or $10 on PSN) price tag. While I think most people would agree that 400MP (or $5 on PSN) would be a fairer price, the nostalgia is worth every penny if you experienced it nearly 20 years ago.