X-Men Arcade Review

It’s scary to me to think about how old this game is. Though this game will forever be linked to my childhood, I’m sure that this game is alien to 95% of gamers who weren’t born in the mid-80s or earlier. This game lived and died in the early 90s as a 4-player or 6-player arcade cabinet and was never legally available anywhere else…until now.

If you’ve played this game during the hey day of the arcades, I do not need to sell you on it. You know enough to judge whether or not you’re ready to spend money on this experience again. For everyone else, here’s what you’ve missed out on (or what you’ll get if you decide to pick this up).

X-Men Arcade was one of the definitive arcade experiences in the early 90s. Even in an era filled with beat ’em ups, X-Men Arcade stood out for three reasons:

1. It starred the X-Men.
2. It was a pretty good game for its time.
3. If you found an arcade with a 6-player cabinet and five other people to play with, you were set for a good time.

I remember playing this game a number of times at the arcade as a youngster and I remember enjoying it every single time.

These home ports of X-Men Arcade give you some options to play with, which come in handy. The most notable being the fact that you can either play the 4-player version or the 6-player version, which mirrors the two different cabinet configurations. If you play the 4-player version, your game will run in the game’s original 4:3 aspect ratio with borders. Why would anyone choose to play the 4-player version over the 6-player version? If you look at how 6-player is displayed on your television, the answer will be obvious.

In order to support six players in the arcade, the cabinet was built with two 4:3 televisions linked together and placed side-by-side. This creates a screen with an uncommon aspect ratio. In order to make this work on a 16:9 television, the game runs 6-player in letterboxed widescreen. It’s great to have the extra width, but you lose height in the process. This leads to characters that appear a lot smaller than you remember them to be. I’m fine with making that trade, but the aspect ratio is not arcade perfect and can be make your experience with the game worse if you’re playing this on a small television. You can also choose between the US and Japanese versions (minimal changes) and adjust the difficulty, which is a moot point in a game that offers infinite continues.

Otherwise, the game runs just as it always has, for better or worse. You can still choose from one of six different X-Men characters. While their move-sets vary, the only real difference between each character is their special attack, which eats up about 1/3 of your health every time you use it. I prefer to use Wolverine or Storm, but who you choose doesn’t really change how you play the game.

Unlike modern beat ’em ups like Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, there is not much in the way of progression to X-Men Arcade. You don’t level up, your characters only gain one or two moves throughout the experience, and you can power through the whole thing in about 30 minutes.

These points may be a major turn-off to you, but this is how this game was originally designed almost 20 years ago. This was meant to be a short game that ate up your quarters, and purists wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a game that you can play in short bursts and come back to every now and then and it’s definitely more fun when you have others to play it with. The ability to play this game online is a bonus, but from the times I’ve been online it’s always suffered from various levels of lag.

All things considered, does X-Men Arcade hold up after all these years, or does it coast on nostalgia? I had fun playing through it with my brother, but the aging gameplay and really short experience will probably alienate anyone looking for something as deep as Castle Crashers or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Even at $10, there are meatier beat ’em ups you can get at that same price point. However, if you liked the original, and want to play it again at home with the benefit of online play, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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