Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The X-Men Arcade Game

Pop Quiz.

People who ever wandered into a video arcade in the early 90's undoubtedly saw this behemoth lurking near the front:

So, who was the second best character to play as?  I mean, we all know the best character was Nightcrawler.  He was short enough that several attacks would simply whiff over his head, his special attack had the most reach of any character across the screen, and his "hit them when they're down" animation was to actively jump up and down on the enemy.

But the second best?

That'd be this one.

No, that's not Wolverine.  It's Dazzler.

Trust me.  Dazzler was the second best character, if for no other reason her "hit them when they're down" move was to kick robots in the crotch.

The arcade game based off of the X-Men was one of the biggest quarter magnets I saw in arcade machines before Dance Dance Revolution came along.  Sure, your classic fighting games might have a small line of kids waiting for their chance to be beaten by that one jerk who actually learned the proper way to do a combo, but X-Men allowed six players at once.  Six people could, at any given time, be arguing over who got to be Wolverine!

The game, which was humorously based on a single episode pilot for an animated series called X-Men: Pryde Of The X-Men.  Sadly, the technology wasn't enough to allow Wolverine to have his fantastic Australian accent from the cartoon, so we had to make do with just the villains and Professor X talking with such classic dialogue as:

"X-Men!  Welcome.... to die!"

"The White Queen welcomes you to die!"

"I am Magneto, master of magnet!"

"Thank you, X-Men!  But Magneto is in another place."

Because they're always somewhere else.
Here's a bit of advice for people who always have their nostalgia goggles on when they think back to games like this.  It might have been possible to complete the game on one quarter, but I seriously doubt it.  The game was designed to get quarters from kids, so bosses were designed to not even pause in mid-beat-you-down when you struck them, and some could even walk right through your special attacks to clean your clock when the effect wore off.

Your bosses had a wide range of effectiveness.  Someone like Pyro, for example, could be defeated without even being struck once if you knew what you were doing.  You might be able to get past the Blob without needing another quarter, though I would usually be able to get him to "flashing" (meaning he was low on health) before he'd suddenly strike me out of mid-jump with a surprising amount of speed for a guy whose sole superpower is "nah, I don't really want to move right now."

After that, though, good luck.  Between Wendigo, Juggernaut, the White Queen, Mystique, the Living Monolith (seriously?), and Nimrod (why is a mutant-killer robot from the future working for Magneto?), you were going to need to bust open a roll of quarters to get to the last stage...where you could fight them all again.

The game play was buggy, random monsters would wind up being either ridiculously easy or mindbogglingly frustrated (see: flying bug monsters with swarms of tiny ones to help them out), and while it is fun to knock an enemy into a pit to instant-kill them, letting them do it to you making you lose your life in one fell swoop is always cheap.

But I loved this game, and even bought it a few years ago when it appeared on X-Box Live Arcade.  I think a bit of the intensity is gone once you realize "oh, I've spent all the money I'll never need to on this game," since the stakes aren't monetary any more, but even now, if I put the game on, I can still find myself setting my jaw and focusing, because I'm keeping a mental score of how many times I've died before I manage to complete it.

This count usually goes flying out the window by that last stage because it is way, way too easy for the bosses to gang up on you and kill you before you can throw a punch.

Fun game?  Of course!  More fun with friends!  Certainly!  One I recommend looking up some time if you're feeling nostalgic for a classic piece of arcade history?  You betcha.

Just remember, the game was designed to be hard on purpose.  After all, they wanted you to put the quarters in this machine, not Mortal Kombat or Lethal Enforcers.

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