Taken in a vacuum, Konami’s X-Men Arcade has all the makings of a bad game. The gameplay is incredibly simple, the presentation is underwhelming, and t-he voiceovers are ridiculously cheesy. Surprisingly though, by making a game that was so true to its arcade roots, Konami has created a title that rises above all of its problems and is actually fun for people who have fond memories of coin-op classics.
First things first, if you’ve never played on an old arcade machine don’t bother with X-Men Arcade, it will just make you wonder how people got by without HDTVs and online gaming. This is because Konami’s latest release is effectively a straight port of the cabinet original. Gameplay is simple: you take control of one of six X-Men which can jump, attack, jump attack, or use mutant powers. Because of these simple controls, most of your time will be taken up by hammering away on the attack button to kill sentinels. This becomes repetitive, but it always feels so pleasantly familiar that you can’t help but have fun.
Breaking up the constant flow of sentinels and lizard men is the occasional boss battle. These also display the same retro stylings, forcing you to balance use of your limited mutant powers and pattern memorization in order to survive. If they overwhelm you don’t worry, X-Men Arcade doesn’t penalize you for death. Instead, once your lives are gone you can hop right back in with a continue. Because death lacks repercussions, the game feels drained of difficulty and occasionally just seems like a mindless slog to stop Magneto.
The lack of any real penalty for dying compounds another problem: the length. Because this game was originally designed to be in an arcade, it is short to the point that can easily be finished twice in one sitting. This wouldn’t be much of an issue were it not for the fact that after the first run through, there isn’t a whole lot new to experience. Sure, teaming up with friends or on Xbox LIVE is fun, but outside of that the only other settings available are difficulty level and whether to play with the near-identical Japan cabinet. In spite of this, if you’re a fan of the arcade game, the experience should stay nostalgically awesome for multiple sessions.
More than anything else this highlights both the blessing and the curse of X-Men Arcade: it's straight from the arcade feel. Fans of arcade classics will love it because it delivers a fun, albeit short lived, trip down memory lane. However, if you either didn’t play or didn’t enjoy the game when it was in a massive cabinet, there is very little reason to believe that you will now. In this way, Konami’s decision to port the game straight from the arcades onto consoles is both a blessing and a curse, delighting retro gamers while shunning others.
[X-Men Arcade]-800 MSP