Genre: Beat ’em Up
Developed by: Konami
Published by: Konami
Platforms: Arcade, PSN, Xbox Live
Feeling Like: The Sinister Six
Many of the 500 were enjoyed with a specific person, or group of people. X-Men: The Arcade Game was enjoyed with every single one of my friends. All of them. Anybody that had the least amount of interest in video games, anybody that was near me that had some time to kill was wanted, and welcome, to join me in quarter eating, button mashing, Marvel Mutant Madness. I was OBSESSED with the X-Men from ages 8-35, so this was a dream come true. We’d purposefully tell our parents the movie started earlier than it did, so we had the excuse to kill time with Wolverine and Nightcrawler.
It’s not deep gameplay, by any means. You feed the machine a quarter, and start beating up various hordes of alligator men, robots and other diabolical villains that answer to the master of magnets. Aggressive elevator music greeted us – this is one of the 500 that doesn’t owe ANY of its placement to the soundtrack. Every song is cringey, cheesy goodness straight from the early 90s. If you want to hear “eh, eh, eh, eh, x-men” 4000 times, by all means, have a listen.
The audio sampling is equally embarrassing. Various boss clips have become memes, none as infamous as “X-MEN! WELCOME TO DIE!” You begin to wonder why they included it at all, until you remember that this was the golden age of Arcades. Random voices shouting at potential customers was a MUST. How else would they catch your ear and eye in a sea of cabinets and choices?
Just LOOK at this damned thing. Apparently they had to use two monitors and some mirror shenanigans to make it function properly. It was one of the few arcade machines I can remember to have SIX player capability, and therein lies the secret of the success of an otherwise forgettable Beat ’em Up. Six players, simultaneously playing, was unheard of. This reduced the amount of time you had to wait for your turn, or removed a queue entirely. Of course, a group of strangers didn’t mind you joining. Come on in! I do recall the far left/right joysticks were a bit awkward, particularly since some institutions didn’t have the foresight of placing this Beast with adequate space in mind. God forbid this was right up against a wall, or it became a 5 player experience.
The animations are smooth, the mutant powers are incredibly satisfying to use against small armies and the boss fights are appropriately tense. Bonus marks for being able to beat down an enemy that’s temporarily stunned on the ground. It always bothers me when games don’t let you do that – why WOULDN’T you let me attack my enemy who, due to my incomparable skill, has been temporarily situated to the ground and completely defenseless?
It wasn’t necessarily the pinnacle of arcade brawlers, but it certainly arrived at the perfect time. This genre would be dated and obsolete by the late 90s, but in its heydey, no type of cabinet gobbled more quarters than multiplayer beat ’em ups. To boot, the wildly successful animated X-Men TV Show would air 8 months after the release of X-Men: The Arcade Game, launching the franchise into fever pitch territory among young adolescents.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the star of the show, Colossus. Each playable character has a special ability that launches a devastating attack at the cost of some health (or energy if you were playing in Japan). Most would require you to aim in a general direction of the enemies. Since the screen often gets filled with enemies, you’re going to hit SOMETHING…but perhaps not the something you want. Enter Colossus.
It’s unforgettable. He bellows a Russian roar as a blast emits from his body, engulfing nearly the entire screen. If you’re not spamming this move when you’re surrounded, or fighting a boss, you’re not playing X-Men: The Arcade Game correctly.
I can still hear it now, and thanks to an updated version on the PSN and Xbox Live, you can too! The game is cheap, quick and offers online capability so you can jump in with strangers and defeat Magneto at your heart’s desire. Not so different from Johnny Zees back in the day.