The X-Men fight Magneto… again.
One of the coolest arcade games way back in the early nineties was X-Men. Much like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game before it, it was the closest you could get to being your favorite heroes at the time. Also like TMNT, X-Men is a classic arcade beat-um-up, just the way I like them. It featured graphics that were once visually impressive. Up to four or six players can play this X-Men romp depending on what machine you can find. Or if you’re playing it via the magic of MAME, you can play it however you want. I remember that the biggest arcade version was a beast featuring at least two screens that kind of looked like a widescreen movie presentation of the game and I was suitably awed.
The different X-Men at your disposal include the unfortunately unitard costumed Cyclops, Colossus, and Wolverine in his all time coolest looking brown costume. There’s also the fairly okay, but I don’t know why anyone thinks she is cool Storm, the kick ass Nightcrawler, and Dazzler. Dazzler? I’ve got no problems with her, but I mean Dazzler? Was she ever cool? There are so many X-Men to pick from even from the era when the game was made like… I don’t know… Banshee? Phoenix? One of the Japanese designers must have had it in a bad way for the disco singing super heroine.
Control of each hero is simple, with a standard three button layout of attack, jump, and super move. There are a bunch of little details in each hero’s move set that keep the game fairly entertaining, like when you beat down on your fallen enemies or give them a good toss. Another cool detail is how Wolverine always has his claws out for super mutant face slashing action. No stupid “that’s his special power so he can only have his claws out for so long” seen in lesser X-games. He’ll also pop his claws in and out when he’s not fighting. Yeah, I know it’s a dumb distraction, but it was entertaining at the time. Speaking of mutant powers, X-Men has one of the most stupid limits on the X-powers I’ve ever seen. Each hero has a special ability that’s stored like bombs in a shooter type game. If you have more than three bars of health then you'll damage yourself when you activate this power. For example: shooting Cyclops’ laser eyes will result in him losing life. In what stupid world does this happen? Also, the whole special power thing doesn’t work out for all the characters. Wolverine shoots some magic projectile laser blades and Colossus has an energy freak out.
The limited animation and character designs are close to the comic, but also look strikingly familiar to the Pryde of the X-Men pilot series that could have been a much better animated X-Men cartoon than the one that eventually came about on Fox Kids. Kitty Pryde herself even appears in the game looking much like she did in that pilot 'toon. I almost expected Wolverine to bust out with his weird-ass Australian accent.
Any way you shake it, you’re going to need all the X-Men help you can get. According to the opening narration, in the 21st century Magneto leads the evil mutants and tons of small sentinels (its never explained how he gained control of mutant-hating sentinels) against humanity who is powerless against him. The only hope is for the X-men to walk from left to right, beating up countless enemies as they go. Most of the enemies are the same variety with only slightly different color differences that repeat over and over like most beat-um-ups. We weren’t as picky in the early 90s I guess. The bosses are the best reason to play the game, and they include such classic X-Men villains such as Pyro, Blob, Wendigo, Mystique, White Queen, and of course Magneto. Unfortunately, the bosses are only really cool in the looks department. They don’t do a whole lot and seem to have not spent much time training on how to counteract a simple punch or kick multiple times. The hardest boss to defeat by far is Magneto, as it should be.
The levels themselves vary from the streets of an unnamed city to Magneto’s base on Asteroid M. Most of them are pretty generic and serve as simple platforms for super powered action. Once you get to Asteroid M you must go through all his bosses once again. If that wasn’t bad enough, sometimes there are two of them on screen at the same time. I can see why I never had enough quarters to beat this damn game when it was popular.
In the sound department I was excited to hear the classic opening music and the strange jungle beat during the Savage Land-like level. As far as the voice-overs go they are pretty bad and contain a few instances of poor grammar, or poorly translated Japanese. Either way, it’s not half as bad as the arcade classic Captain America and the Avengers.
When you finally do get to the main man himself, surprise! It’s Mystique again! God, I hate that bitch. Good old Xavier then tells you basically, “I’m sorry Mario, Magneto is in another castle.” You move into what looks like the next room and Magneto pops out of the wall saying, “I am Magneto, Master of magnet!” Aside from the poor translation, I would have thought the X-Men would have caught on to that by that point after all, his name incorporates the word magnet. I could only imagine Wolverine asking, "What's this Magneto guy do?" and Cyclops responding, "I think he has power over bunnies or something." The version of Magneto that you fight is one of the best Magnetos ever, when best means awesome in a corny way. He will kick you with his magnet powered kick boots, and shoot you with magnet rays a lot like King Ghidorah, all the while taunting you with things like, “X-Chicken!” He’ll laugh at your pathetic efforts to defeat him and he’ll scream kind of like Howard Dean in the democratic primary of ’04. (My X-Powers tell me that no one is going to get that allusion in about two years). When he's finally defeated you'll give yourself a high five, because we all know if you're playing this you probably don't have friends.
The most irritating thing about the game aside from the repetition is that you don’t get to select different X-Men when you die. Instead, the game runs on how many quarters you deposited for each life. If you’re playing at home, don’t get crazy depositing quarters and picking an X-man that you’re not going to want to play as through the whole game. Other than that, this arcade game is much like it was back in the day, mindless fun. Sure, as a beat-um-up it’s rather limited, but it’s got X-Men!
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