X Marks the Spot?
Konami hit on a good thing when they snatched up the video game rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and put out its arcade game for it. Little did they know that they’d be setting up the gravy train for years to come. The TMNT game gave rise to several ports that came after including several more turtles games, The Simpsons, The Avengers and also X-Men. With arcade ports seeming to be very popular with the gaming set these days, XBLA and PSN both recently re-released the X-Man game again via Backbone Entertainment.
Upon seeing its availability I wrestled with getting it. Just wait ’til Christmas, I kept telling myself, but I have a will of tinfoil. I picked it up on Sunday evening after loading up with just enough points on my XBox 360 and sat down with my roommate to play it.
It is quite the trip down memory lane. It’s an almost stupidly straightforward game, just like it’s TMNT predecessor. Select any one of six X-Men characters (Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, Colossus, Storm or Cyclops) and beat the ever-loving crap out of wave after wave of assorted bad guys. There’s seven levels, and at the end of each you get a signature villain like Pyro, the Blob, or the Juggernaut (bitch!) to do battle with.
The controls are simplicity itself as the game only had three buttons in the arcade (strike, jump, power). Want to grab an enemy? Get in close, strike him, and Colossus grabs a Sentinel by its head and throws it. Need to hit a guy while he’s down> Walk over to just above his prone body and hit strike to demonstrate how the X-Men hate their enemies’ genitals (this is particularly funny when you play Nightcrawler who essentially curbstomps his foes).
While there’s a sort of juvenile fun to it all, the game gets rather boring very quickly. The primary challenge to the game back in the day was that you had to maximize your quarters. The game was ridiculously difficult in arcades, and once you cleared the first level (which inflated you with a sense of invincibility) the gloves came off and beat you into submission. When you pay for X-Men for keeps and buy it on your modern console, however, you’re not beholden to playing with quarters (though MMO subs or XBLA Gold will still hit you where it hurts). You come to realize with a giddy glee that the game is not difficult anymore. You will never run out of quarters. Once you realize this, fighting end bosses simply becomes a matter of using your mutant power four times, letting the boss kill you, then jumping back in, fully loaded with mutant power again. Rinse. Repeat. Even on the Expert difficulty setting, this strategy works time after time. So, if you were looking for challenge, perhaps you want another game.
The game required little by way of touch up (maybe the colors are a little brighter and they’ve sharpened up the status bars) and it ports more or less as you’d have expected it to. However, it does throw a couple curve balls in there. There are modes of difficulty (which are obviated by infinite lives in all versions) and they even throw in the Japanese arcade port in which you can get health and mutant powers in the form of enemy drops (pills).
Overall, the game really doesn’t offer much but nostalgia, and I’m pretty sure that those who didn’t play the arcade game in the early nineties won’t get much of a kick from it, simply because it lacks any kind of depth. Nostalgia however gives it that last point it needs to give it a three out of five rating, much to my regret.
Platform: XBox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3 ; Genre: Arcade Port ; Players: 6 ;Publisher: Konami / Backbone Entertainment ; Cost: 800 MS points for XBLA / $9.99 on PSN