If you visited an arcade back in the early 90's, it is almost guaranteed that you spent at least a handful of quarters on the X-Men arcade game. Thanks to Konami, Marvel and Backbone, X-Men the arcade game recreates that nostalgic arcade multiplayer joy and is now introduced to a new generation of gamers with online multiplayer and leaderboards.
The problems with X-Men Arcade are so clear that a blind man can see them: very simple and straightforward gameplay, repetition, laughable dialog and a ridiculous plot. But yet, the game is still so damn fun–if you take it for what it is worth–and is a great way for you and five friends to loose an hour or two of your time.
Backbone has done a great job bringing the original experience to the XBLA (and PSN). The game really couldn't be more simple – playing as one of six X-men, you must fight your way through legions of goons and an occasional boss using nothing more than an attack button, a jump button, and a mutant power button that can make easy work of enemies. But going with the "it’s so bad, it’s good" mentality, the player will fight through endless waves of Sentinels, alien-blob things, and strange crocodile enemies that have nothing to do with anything. The dialog is composed of nothing but horrible Engrish too. With lines like "I am Magneto, Master of Magnet." you cannot help but chuckle as you know the game never takes itself too seriously. In fact, there is even one Achievement that encourages you to listen to the goofy dialog.
X-Men Arcade was designed to take every quarter out of your pocket which is a feature that rarely translates well to home consoles. Because of this, players are basically given free reign to spam mutant power attacks. To give the game extra legs, Backbone included both the US and Japanese version of the game in this one download, but both versions can be taken advantage of. When playing the American version, using a mutant power will consume some of your health while the Japanese version uses mutant power orbs with each orb granting the use of a single mutant power attack. However, once you perish, the player is free to make the easy sacrifice of health for a high powered attack. Because of this, Colossus' moan will become very annoying by the time you see the short credits screen roll. Sure, deaths are tallied on Leaderboard postings, but the player receives no real penalty for perishing.
Luckily, the netcode is very stable with little to no lag and the game has full drop-in, drop-out qualities. Searching for a Quick Match will instantly place you in a game in progress or loading up a Custom Match can start up a game with the settings that you specifically want enabled. The game overall supports up to six players, but the 360 hardware is limited to four for local multiplayer. However, finding other players online should not be a problem.
While Backbone did a great job of bringing the original game to consoles, fans might be a little disappointed to learn that no extensive new features have been introduced. Sure you can switch between the Japanese and US ROM at will, and the Smoothing option can be tinkered with, but no new characters, bosses, or stages have been added. But for what it is worth, the game's menu screens have been created with care and are very easy to use.
If you take an analytical eye to X-Men Arcade it is easy to see flaws in the repetitive mindless button mashing. However, this port's biggest draw is the nostalgic factor. Even though the game isn't truly bad in a solo environment as enemies and bosses are automatically scaled in difficulty, X-Men Arcade should always be played with as many people as possible and this game's engineered netcode takes this into high consideration. Playing this game with five other people will bring a smile to your face, even though the enjoyment might only last a couple play-throughs of the 30 minute quest.
You know this game is repetitive. You know this game has the most simplistic gameplay. You know this game has a terrible plotline, graphics, and audio qualities. You know spamming attacks is an incredibly cheap tactic that throws off the balance of the game. But with all the negative aspects going against it, X-Men Arcade is still absurdly entertaining – a quality very few games possess.
Better Than: Double Dragon (XBLA)
Also Try: TMNT: Reshelled
Wait For It: The Simpsons arcade port
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