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X-Men (Arcade) artwork

X-Men (Arcade) review


X-Men (Arcade) image

I'd forgotten about the pleasure derived from stepping into an arcade and beholding scores of brawlers. More importantly, I'd failed to remember how awesome it was to drop a quarter into one and commence beating thugs senseless. Sadly, my region lacks the facilities necessary for revisiting the face-beaters of yore, so my only recourse is to boot up one of those suckers via MAME. Sure, I miss the crowd that would gather around me as my buff cartoon character manhandled legions of goons. Just as much, I miss the feeling that came with honing my skills and making a dollar's worth of credits last longer than before. Most of all, I had a few games in particular that I still long to play now and then, X-Men being among them.

A recent replay of the game reignited some of my neurons and sent me into a state of nostalgia. Indeed, I had my rose-colored glasses on, but not so tightly that I didn't notice the petite areas where the game failed its audience: the cheap boss battles where you couldn't get a blow in without taking damage (e.g. the boss encounter against Living Monolith), the repetition of constantly mashing mini-sentinels into a fine gravy, the stunning lack of Sabretooth, and the idiotic inclusion of Dazzler over a much cooler playable combatant like Gambit, Beast, Psylocke, Rogue, or Iceman. Thankfully Colossus and Nightcrawler were there to party, so it was easy to ignore Dazzler's ironic dullness.

X-Men screenshot<X-Men screenshot

All the same, leaping into this adventure proved to be a superb waste of time. Though you get to pound a lot of the same enemies to jelly, the game features a decent array of foes, from dome-headed robots to anthropomorphic crocs to man-eating plants and enormous wasps. One might say that the game's bestiary was pretty contrived, but such a rogues gallery was a wiser decision than, say, inundating the game with waves of generic humanoid mutants who would have been no different from the gutter punks inhabiting most vigilante tales at the time. Bashing monsters and breaking bots is a nice change of pace, even if the creatures aren't instantly recognizable as part of the franchise.

There's something about brawlers that I can't quite put my finger on that makes them enjoyable, and X-Men nails it. It could be the sound design, and the fact that each time a fist connects with a face, the game produces a satisfying biff that accentuates the action. It could be the fluid animation that makes for deft combos and wonderful double-teams without the accursed slowdown that comes with many beat 'em ups. Personally, I think it's the fact that playing a brawler, especially one patterned after a license you appreciate, is like a digital means of playing with action figures. The only difference is that with a licensed beat 'em up you don't have to spend a weekly allowance on nabbing loads of figures one or two at a time.

Crunching your opponents' frames and watching them explode can also be cathartic. It's especially elating when you flex Colossus's massive biceps or swipe Wolverine's slicing claws in an effort to silence the irritating powers of evil. For instance, I've always adored beating Pyro's face in at the end of level one, mostly because I freakin' hate his hair and think he sounds stupid. The same goes with the throw down against Wendigo in the third stage, where you hear the snowy white beast constantly utter his own name as if he were a homicidal Pokemon. Most of all, though, I enjoy knocking Blob on his wide ass and pummeling him into next Tuesday. That is, of course, assuming I'm able to avoid his spiked mace and kung-fu grip.

X-Men screenshotX-Men screenshot

You can also get some sick pleasure from unleashing the heroes' powers and watching bodies pile up, even though said abilities don't precisely reflect the ones from the comic. I will admit that it was a bit disappointing to find that Wolverine's ability turned out to be a flurry of slashes rather than advanced healing, but it's still pleasing to see those adamantium blades rip through tons of adversaries. Heck, I even got a kick out of zapping my victims with Cyclops's eye lasers, or warping around the vicinity with Nightcrawler, or summoning a brilliant burst of fireworks with... hah, no... Man, I couldn't even finish the joke. Dazzler sucks so much.

The main attraction, though, arrives in the third stage. There, executing a god-like descent from the sky, the ultimate mutant greets you. This is a man who has survived the Holocaust, who ruled his own nation, and who has "died" in the name of comic book sales more times than anyone would care to count. Magneto appears, regards you as the pissant you are...


His maddened, raspy voice booms, signifying the beginning of a spine-tingling speech about the boundless glory of homo superiors and the works of The Brotherhood. But before he can blather on about subjugating the humans, he delivers one sharp, stinging message:



Of all the adaptations of X-Men out there, the arcade iteration is the only entry that portrays Magneto as a very successful numbskull. Some might pan Magneto's horrible dialogue as clumsy translation and scripting, but I can't imagine the game any other way. It just wouldn't be the same if the journey didn't culminate with Magneto bursting onto the scene and declaring that he is "master of magnet." You know, just one magnet...

X-Men screenshotX-Men screenshot

Perhaps the best feature this game boasts can be spotted before you even drop a quarter into the cabinet. Peering down at the control panel will reveal six--count 'em, SIX!--joysticks. Although it can be troublesome to locate a working cabinet, it might be worth your while to find five other friends who are willing to relive the glory of the early '90s by blasting through a brawler like X-Men together. The only drawback is that one of you will have to play as Dazzler.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (July 29, 2014)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Germ posted July 30, 2014:

Just wanted to say this is one of my favorite reviews in a long time. Love the comparison of dumb brawlers with action figures. Never thought of it that way, and it rings completely true and brings back a lot memories. Great stuff!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 30, 2014:

Thank you!

This game, Bucky O'Hare, Final Fight, and The Simpsons were some of my favorite arcade brawlers. I played the crap out of those, and even some of the lamer ones like Crime Fighters. There's also a handful I've wanted to play again and review, like Eight Man, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, and Aliens. I haven't bothered to see if I can get them to run on MAME yet, but maybe one day...

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