Review: X-Men arcade game

The X-Men arcade game was recently made available on the Xbox Live Marketplace.  I'll admit that it was never one of my favorites in arcades, but it was definitely something I enjoyed still.  I love this style of gameplay.  Factor in the wide screen it had (it originally combined two TVs) due to the remarkable 6-player capability, and you have a very strong arcade beat-em-up.
X-Men is a bit of an oddball.  It was developed right around the time it had a hit cartoon series, and yet everything about it is outside of that style.  It works off the style before that, so a lot of what's in there was actually unrecognizable to its target audience.  We all knew Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm (even if it was rather unusual to see her holding some kind of dagger or wand).  I recognized Colossus from the episode of Juggernaut's introduction, so he was no problem.  However, I knew nothing about Nightcrawler (hadn't seen his episode at the time) and definitely not Dazzler (she appeared once as a totally unrelated mutant at the start of the Dark Phoenix saga).  I initially thought it was supposed to be Jubilee, but the different name really had me scratching my head.
 Ok, nostalgia aside, the game is a standard beat-em-up style game.  You had attack and jump buttons, plus some kind of advancing jump attack (Colossus got the short end of the stick for that).  I was instantly familiar from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Avengers, and Simpsons.  What really struck me as unique is that every character truly is their own thing!  Every character had their mutant powers with varying effects.  They all eliminated any standard enemies they hit, but they did so in different fashions.  Beyond that, even their normal stuff had variances.  For example, Storm damages downed enemies much more efficiently than the rest of the cast, Cyclops seems to have good range with his kicks, and Colossus's overall style is just generally bulky.  There's little things scattered around that make any character you pick actually matter.
The challenge is definitely up to par and then some.  There's way too much motivation for kids to just spam their mutant powers as much as possible, oblivious to the fact that doing so actually depletes their health!  Right away this weeded out the no-skill kids, who would really end up having to put in $100+ to basically just watch the mutant powers get used continuously.  Unfortunately, there's nothing at all preventing people from score-whoring in this manner with the downloadable version of the game.  Infinite lives see to that.  At least TMNT gave you just 20 lives when playing online.  Now, when actually trying to win the game like a stingy quarter-saver, this is absolutely hair-pulling.  I don't mind getting hit when trying to do a jump attack.  I call absolute shenanigans when I can be caught, like "grabbing your face" caught, from said aerial kick.  You really have to stick-and-move with these boss characters.  The stages themselves had plenty of long-range stuff trying to get you, even points when there's just nothing but shots being fired continuously.
 Of course, there are negatives.  As I said, there's no motivation for people to actually "play" the game, and every motivation to just spam mutant powers.  There even appears to be a respawn glitch where you can just spam powers, instantly respawn, do some more, and just keep going that way.   When playing online, you absolutely will get people trying to score whore this way, and it does not make for an interesting game at all.  It's basically to the point that I have to be playing with people I know so that I can convince them to not break the game.  Also, the graphics are sub-par.  Compared to the (earlier) TMNT game, it just looks like they're not trying with this one.  Again, they also used a pre-cartoon era setting, so half the characters are unrecognizable to the target audience.  I only know Wendigo from the board game I once had (very sexy furry character, BTW), and I still have no idea who the robotic boss character is.  Then there's the soundtrack.  It's not so much the music, which is perfectly fine.  It's the speech used.  Holy crap, it's like they got some little kid to write the lines to this thing.  Magneto calling me an X-Chicken?  Really?
Altogether, it's a decent game.  It's unfortunate that you have to put in your own rules to make the game interesting, but it's fun once you do.  I basically make it a quarter-counter.  See who can die the least, and play it on Japanese with more than 1 player so you actually get to use a bunch of powers reasonably.  Sadly though, this isn't one that'd go well with the current generation of players.  It's a nostalgia-only game due to how easy it is to break.  If you appreciate the X-Men franchise and are willing to mainly use standard attacks, it's well worth it.  If you just want a bunch of flashy mutant powers all the time, it gets really dull.


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