Friday, December 17, 2010

Video Game Tribute #14 – X-Men (Arcade)

I had all but forgotten this little gem from my childhood until XBox Live and PS3 revived this masterpiece of beat em' up arcade history... X-MEN!!! So just to clarify, the world of Arcades has gone through a few phases in our time... In the 70s and 80s, it was all about Asteroids, Centipede, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong... Simple pixelated shapes doing simple pixelated actions. Soon thereafter the 16-bit arcade era hit the gaming world like a sucker punch from your disgruntled Italian grandmother and trips to beach became less about the beach and more about the boardwalk arcades... Oh, it was glorious... Though I was raised in New England where the beach water is black and the temperature is 30 below... So the boardwalk makes sense.

In any case, this era was all about beat em' ups. The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... And the one, the only, X-MEN. Granted there was nothing all that distinguishable about this game, it played like the others; supermoves that drain your health, enemies which were little more than color swaps to distinguish difficulty, bosses which would eat your quarters faster than the parking meters in Portsmouth, NH. What drew so many people to this game, however, was the fact that it was SIX PLAYER. That's right, the arcade itself was amongst some of the first wide screens ever... Or maybe it was two arcade screens next to each other... I honestly can't remember, all I know is it was HUGE. Especially when you're 9 years old. on top of this, comic books were all the rage, and the X-Men always took the cake, so we were all finally getting to interact with some of our favorite characters including Wolverine, Nightcrawler and... Dazzler... Okay, that was an odd choice, but still, the other characters were well worth it. I typically chose Nightcrawler cause let's face it... he rules. Usually the last person to join got stuck with Dazzler. Nobody wants to play as Dazzler.

Also memorable was how not every character was known for any kind of projectile mutant power, so the game had to improvise so each player could wipe out a screen full of badies... So Wolverine suddenly had the power to shoot shock-waves from his claws, Colossus would just emit a huge burst of energy from his metallic body (cause that makes sense), and Nightcrawler ran around the screen super fast and killed everything... What are you gonna do though, it was the early 90s, nobody cared about logic. Now people just think they do.

Also memorable (and I don't even really need to bring this up cause everybody already knows) was the broken English translations... Naturally, the game was made in Japan (cause what awesome game back then wasn't?) so you'd get one very epic moment where Magneto would appear on the screen and shout "X-Men! Welcome to Die!"... Oh man. I love it. Though, I can't really add this moment to my childhood memories because arcades were always so loud that you could never actually hear any of the dialogue coming out of the game you were playing... It could have been chanting antisemitic curses and nobody would have known... I discovered this catchphrase in High School when the PC program "MAME" came out and I was able to play this game on the emulator. I miss those days.

I finally got to play this game again last night when I downloaded it on XBox Live and I must say... It is just as I remembered and twice as fun... Sure I'm not getting the grandeur of playing in an arcade with my brothers and friends, surrounded by people watching us slice through hoards of multi-colored Sentinels, but I am getting the satisfaction of playing this game on an HD TV in the comfort of my bed with a coffee in hand and a song in my heart! I'm also reliving the frustration of fighting Magneto... I'd be broke if the XBox took a quarter out of my banking account every time I had to continue... It's like Magneto is literally jumping out of my screen and magnetically pulling the spare change from my pockets. Oh what fun times...

Welcome to DIE!
~ Mark

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