The X-Men Return to the Arcade
A '90s classic has finally returned.
Few arcade games shaped the lives of kids in the early '90s like X-Men. Though Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat were sweeping the nation, Konami's side-scrolling brawler stole the hearts and minds of kids already obsessed with Marvel's comics and animated series. Based on a television pilot for a show that eventually evolved into the classic cartoon we all know, the game followed Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Dazzler, Colossus and Nightcrawler as they fought Magneto, his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and a fleet of Sentinels, with the lives of Professor X and Kitty Pryde in the balance.
As Microsoft and Sony's digital download services evolved, and as many classic arcade games started resurfacing, X-Men remained absent. The cause of that absence was never in much doubt Konami simply didn't own the license. While gamers across the globe were getting games like X-Men Legends from Activision, Konami was prohibited from producing or re-releasing a game featuring those characters. But never say companies don't listen to fans. With more and more people asking Marvel about their classic "beat 'em up," the company struck a deal between itself, Konami and Activision, paving the way for a direct port of the game to Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network. Comic book fans, your wish has been granted. This winter, prepare to face off with the evil "Master of Magnet."
Quite honestly, this is the port you've all been waiting for. All six characters are here, complete with their original moves, special moves and animation. The voice acting had to be re-recorded for this release, but Konami found extremely good likenesses, in all their cheesy glory. When the classic "Nothing moves the Blob!" line echoes in your room, it'll be like you never left the arcade. Oh, and don't worry, the ludicrous story is back, complete with the giant Sentinel that looks awesome, but never actually fights you. Back then this was surely a sore point with many gamers, but now it's downright hilarious and honestly adds to the charm of the whole thing. We wouldn't have wanted a single bit changed and Konami certainly honored that. The graphics remain true to their sprite-based glory, seemingly untouched from 1992 and they look great. Menus and the heads-up display at the top of the game have all been redone however.
Up to six players can play, mixing and matching online and local participants to round out a team. The one catch for Xbox 360 owners is only four people can play locally as the system will only allow four controller connections but two more can still join over Xbox Live. As in the arcade, you can't duplicate your characters. Yes, someone does have to be Dazzler. Rounding out the online experience will be leaderboards, which ranks statistics like points scored and continues/lives used. There are unlimited continues in the game, and Konami currently doesn't plan to allow players to tweak that element of the game you can keep playing as long as you can press the Start button. You can also skip to any level from the start menu.
Konami has included a clever twist on the conventional port by adding the option to switch over to the Japanese version of the game. Much is the same here (aside from Japanese text during cutscenes), but enemies will drop health and power items, which greatly alter the challenge of the game. Characters will also not lose health immediately when using their powers power "orbs" are used first, then the health is drained. The reverse is true for the U.S. version, which used the orbs only after a player was low on health. The Japanese version makes a bit more sense, but again, it's a far easier game particularly against the bosses.
It's not as though X-Men was all that challenging to begin with. Really the only limit we had when we were younger was the amount of money in our pocket. With the re-release, that "obstacle" is eliminated. But Konami has been thinking about this, and has included multiple difficulty levels that increase the number of enemies that flood the screen. Even on the toughest difficulty six players should have little trouble, but there is a certain level of manic fun that comes with the flood. Bosses don't seem to be more challenging, however.
No doubt many of you are wondering if the game features any upgrades new costumes, enemies or levels. Unfortunately, given the added complication of Activision having the license for X-Men video games, Konami was prevented from doing anything with their port that moves beyond the original. A simple, genuine replication was all that was permitted. But who knows, if this game cleans up in the marketplace, maybe an old-school sequel can be developed in the future? Stranger things have happened in this industry. (Yeah, we're looking at you, Mega Man 9.) We've already seen what fan demand can do this release is testament enough to that.
No price point or exact release date have been determined. Konami is aiming for December of this year, but that could slip depending on how development progresses. Based on what we saw and played of the game, which was all of it (twice) locally, the game is shaping up nicely indeed. The one key element to all of this will be the online experience, something that is still a bit of a question mark. Regardless, within the next few months, a piece of our childhood is coming back, and we're beyond thrilled.