Impressions: X-Men Arcade

It often baffles me, the games chosen for revival through services such as the Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network. Konami’s X-Men Arcade is one of the latest additions, but for the life of me I’m not exactly sure why it was ever a delight to play through, even during my youth, the supposed heyday of 2-D brawlers. By today’s standards and pricing, it’s a bona fide relic of a particular time and place that even many of today’s most hardcore gamers might not be familiar with, let alone want to revisit digitally. It might be a quick decadent nostalgia trip for those who may have fond memories of standing in front of the original arcade cabinent, but your money, in terms of value and enjoyment, is likely better spent elsewhere.

Where exemplary departures in the genre relied on different move-sets and offered a veritable challenge (Final Fight comes to mind), X-Men Arcade is about as basic as it gets. You can step into the shoes and spandex of resident fan favorites such as Wolverine and Cyclops, but every mutant’s moves are exactly the same. Aside from a character’s special move, there’s no real advantage for choosing one over another. You’ll punch, kick, and throw baddies across scrolling screens in the same way, every time. It might be familiar, but it’s also downright lazy.

Every enemy encountered will be added to the pile of identical baddies, who you’ll grab, kick, punch, and beat to death until their corpse disappears from the screen. Lather, rinse, and repeat. The only real difficulty you’ll run into is losing track of your character amidst the seemingly endless stream of identical baddies as you progress.

Strictly speaking, since there’s no need to continually pump quarters into the game to keep playing, aside from the initial $9.99 purchase, there are absolutely no penalties for dying. In fact, as your health and mutant power reserves are replenished upon respawning, it’s almost a boon to die, to “reset” your character’s powers. For an arcade game designed to burn through quarters, that’s all well an good, but the at-home experience, for all intents and purposes, should offer more depth, especially for the price.

With the absence of this thinly-veiled attempt at keeping gamers feeding the machines, it becomes painfully obvious that X-Men Arcade should last only a half hour or long, depending on your skill level. If you care enough or are persistent enough, you’ll reach the end of the game. You’ll complete it, if you just keep pushing, because there’s nothing in your way. There are three difficulty levels, but they only give the illusion of there being any real addition of a challenge. You’ll take more damage and your health will drain before available robs, but as long as you’re willing to keep pushing along, there’s no real reason you can’t whip Magneto at the end of the game.

There are achievements to be unlocked, and online play as well. But beyond these minimal modern augments, there’s absolutely nothing here to merit the ridiculously inflated price of $9.99. For anyone who may have enjoyed the game in its original form, it’s a steep price to pay, even to re-experience a golden game from their youth. And for anyone else, there’s really no reason to plunk down a ten-spot for a title that can be completed twice, even three times if you’re good enough, in the space of an hour. These types of games are nearly extinct, and for good reason; they just can’t live up to modern expectations. X-Men Arcade is no exception, no matter how much of a mutant fan you are. Some memories are best left just that – or experienced via emulation.

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