Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AA Look - X-men

Today marks the release of Konami's arcade classic X-men on the PSN service. Tomorrow X360 fans will get their chance to team up with friends to take on Magneto and his Minions. Over the course of nearly twenty years gamers have developed an opinion about the game. What made this game remarkable is usually attributed to nostalgia these days. I'd wax poetic about the glory days of blowing my school lunch money on games such as these but I know nobody wants to read about it. As it stands X-men is an important release because while flawed and a bit dated it is still a remarkable game and its release gives us hope that future titles such as Aliens Vs Predator will see a competent re-release.

First off let's talk the PSN/XBLA release. It was handled by Backbone and uh...ugh...it certainly shows. The new art is pretty tacky (which says a lot considering the X-men's look at the time) and while a smoothing option is nice there's not enough in the way of good video options. The real kicker is that the online-play suffers from input lag. Sure players that host won't notice but unless the ping is below expect 50 expect to notice a slight delay with every move. This will put off the more serious players who actually put forth the effort to use less continues and not just button-mash everything. At least the PSN version offers six-player local coop. The trophies are very easy aside from one requiring a completion time of under 25 minutes and I have no idea why scoreboards are included because X-men is probably the easiest arcade game to exploit for points.

Anyway let's talk the game itself. X-men arcade is seven stages of action where the six heroes punch and claw their way through legions of Sentinels and face off with a handful of different villains. On the surface it's pretty standard fare with its large number of enemies and an emphasis on moving around and positioning oneself correctly to take them out. Each of the six characters have mostly the same attacks though they can have slight differences in range, power, angle (for jumping attacks), and so on. Each of the X-men also have their own unique power that is better for particular situations. These cost mutant power orbs and they can be collected by defeating pink-armored sentinels. By the way power-ups are exclusive to the Japanese version of X-men which is included with this release, personally I'd never play the US/World version. With the JP version there are more opportunities to restore health and mutant power, which helps in the pacing of the game and adds to the fun.

Where X-men really works is in the multiplayer. Sure beatemups are always better with a friend but with X-men it becomes something more. There's a certain organization to everything and usually the best players pick their roles and carry them out effectively. Sometimes it's all about protecting a certain side of the screen or being the main force behind attacking a boss, with the rest of the team providing back-up. Furthermore thrown enemies can actually damage other players so disorganized players have plenty of opportunities to beat themselves up. This is not something anyone will see in 99% of the X-men games played online but it's rather brilliant if everything comes together. Beating the game without continues is still a distant dream for the most part but smart and efficient players can get through quite a bit of the game with minimal losses. However without that kind of team-work it just becomes messy as players chew through their mutant powers and waste all of their energy doing very little damage.

Those who go solo will miss out on this particular dynamic but the game is still solidly put together. The bosses could stand to be a bit more creative with their arsenal and there are quite a few cheap hits but in the end it's about as decent as anything Konami has put out in the early 90s. Still if you're waiting for that really great beatemup you may as well keep waiting. There's enough of a challenge to this game but some may prefer a bit more style and finesse. Still if you decide to pick it up give it a serious effort and work towards becoming good at the game. It's a more fun and rewarding way to play, even for a port like this one that relies so heavily on nostalgia to get sales.

Game Rating - 3 out of 5
My Rating - 4 out of 5
Port Rating - 2 out of 5 (Online-play needs work. In fact if online-play is the reason you want this port you may want to skip it unless local is an option)

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