Children of the early ‘90s let out a hearty roar of approval when the X-Men Arcade game was announced for online release a few months ago. It’s been in licensing purgatory for what seems like forever, and now, can finally be played at home (legally) for the first time ever. Anyone who played it in the arcades remembers the feeling of swarming bosses with a group of allies, especially if you had the entire 6-player cabinet filled up. Then, you actually had a chance to get through at least the boss level without too many casualties.
Honestly, before replaying this console version of it, I didn’t remember anything about it except the boss battles and a couple of the voice clips (like “NOTHING CAN BEAT THE BLOB“). Playing it so many years later made me a bit fearful at first because I wasn’t sure how well it was going to hold up. I’m happy to say that aside from wishing it had a run button, it’s held up remarkably well. It’s a very well-paced beat ‘em up and doesn’t drag on - you’ll go from battling enemies on-foot, to then having to fight aerial foes, to then battling bikers. You’re never stuck fighting one type for too long, and then at the end of the minion fighting, you’ll square off with the ever-memorable boss battles. These have held up tremendously well, and man are they tough. Playing them reminded me that this was definitely an arcade game made to kill you as swiftly as possible so you’d plunk another quarter in the machine in the hopes that you would FINALLY vanquish your enemy.
It’s another reason you always wanted to play it with someone else, because otherwise, you’d go through a lot of money in no time trying to beat the game on your own. With five others, it’s nigh impossible to get through without dying a lot. On your own, you’re toast - especially when you get to the end and have to face EVERY BOSS IN THE GAME one after the other, leading to the final battle with Magneto, who will definitely kill you without breaking a sweat many, many, many times.
The gameplay has held up marvelously, and the cinematics and voice over work are a billion times funnier as an adult than as a kid. When you‘re young, you really don’t get just how completely goofy they are. That reminds me a lot of the ‘60s Batman show because as a kid, you enjoy it for one thing, and later, you wind up enjoying it for other reasons. I enjoyed the Blob’s voice clip as a kid because he was a memorable character visually and the line stuck out. I was never sure why, but it did. Now, I laugh when it’s said, and laugh harder when the other, more ridiculous phrases are spouted, like Magneto’s “I AM THE MASTER OF MAGNET!”. That one in particular has me wondering just how the game was released without it being changed because it is completely insane. How I didn’t notice that line as a kid, I have no idea.
As far as the game itself goes, now, more than just the boss battles stand out, like sections where you fight mini-Sentinals who are basically identical to Iron Man visually, and then a group of them has the same color scheme as the Green Goblin. It’s a shame they didn’t throw in a blue and red-colored swarm so you could battle Spidey’s robotic doppelgangers. The core gameplay is fast-paced and it controls like a dream. There isn’t a lot to it, but what’s here is a blast.
Enhancements to the original are few, but surprising to see at all given the licensing issues behind the game. Online play has been added, and is lag-free. The PS3 version supports six players both off and online, while the XBLA version only supports six players online and four offline. You can also play both the U.S. and Japanese versions of the game, which are largely identical except for how you store mutant powers. Both versions support playing the 4:3 4-player version or 6-player widescreen version, with optional borders around the unused portions of the screen that simulate the idea of having cabinet art around the screen nicely.