Konami’s 1992 arcade classic, X-MEN, was recently released on the Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network in HD. Re-releasing classic arcade games on XBLA has been a growing trend the last few years but is X-MEN a worthy port or is this one game that should have stayed in the 90’s?
X-MEN is a side-scrolling 2D beat ’em up that also allows for up and down movement which gives the illusion of three dimensions. Only three buttons are used for attack, jump, and mutant power. There are six different playable characters each with their own unique mutant power: Wolverine, Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, and the lesser known Dazzler.
Even on normal difficulty, X-MEN is punishingly hard. Many gamers today don’t realize just how hard games used to be back in the day. As an arcade game, X-MEN was designed to eat quarters with cheap deaths. Once most bosses knock you down, you won’t be able to get back up (if you are playing by yourself) unless you use a mutant power. This gets especially frustrating when the bosses have a much longer range attack than you.
That being said, this game is a little too easy on console because you have unlimited continues. Using mutant powers takes away some of your life. This was meant to deter players from using them too often since it can pretty much clear the screen of enemies. When you get down to one life bar, you can only use a limited number of mutant powers as shown by special dots. After those run out, you can start the whole process over again by dying.
Since you have unlimited continues, however, you can simply spam your mutant power all throughout each level without consequence. Sure you are using up your health and will end up dying a lot, but it makes no difference. You have infinite lives! This tactic could never be used in the arcade version because it would have cost a fortune in quarters, but on home console there is nothing stopping you. They really should have limited the number of continues on each play-through.
So on one hand, the game can be a little too hard when playing normally. On the other hand, it almost feels like you are cheating if you spam your mutant power because it is so easy. There’s no middle ground. What is the point of playing this game when it isn’t fun either way?
X-MEN was designed to be a game that doesn’t end. Even after you beat the game and the final cinematic is playing, a note at the bottom warns you that the game is not over. Instead, it starts back at the first level and continues to loop over and over again. In the arcade, this was meant to see how far you could get, but on console it’s just a measure of how much time you are willing to commit to the game in one sitting. Several players at the top of the leaderboards are only there because they spent seven to ten hours playing (one playthrough takes about thirty to forty minutes). They aren’t even particularly good. Many had over 500 deaths which would indicate they were using the “spam mutant power” technique. It’s hard to believe that anybody could have fun pressing the same button over and over for seven hours.
X-MEN doesn’t really withstand the test of time. As a home console game, it’s just not that good. Even with the nostalgia factor, it probably isn’t worth the 800 Microsoft Point price tag to download.