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Marvel Games Retrospective 3: X-Men by Konami

This is the third in my series of reminiscing on Marvel games of the past and present (although almost three years late!), and we’re going to revisit the mighty mutants of Marvel, the Uncanny X-Men, in their first arcade game! [Read Part 1 and Part 2 here]

X-Men was a unique title in that it had three cabinets available for play: there was a two player cabinet, a four player cabinet, and a massive six player, two screen behemoth. While multiple screen arcade games weren’t new, as Darius and The Ninja Warriors had multiple screens, X-Men’s six player count was definitely something that hadn’t quite been tried before and wasn’t quite duplicated afterwards. The game was released in 1992 and was an instant hit in the arcades, a time in which arcades in the US had been revitalized thanks to the success of Street Fighter II.

Wolverine is pretty sure this place is gonna get real crowded real soon.

Panorama!!!

The source of the arcade game was inspired by the 1989 animated pilot titled “Pryde of the X-Men,” wherein Kitty Pryde is introduced to the team in quite a hit-the-ground-running kind of fashion. It featured Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, and of course, Wolverine, against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by Magneto, taking the fight all the way to Asteroid M. Now, retrospectively, “Pryde of the X-Men” isn’t very good. There’s a lot wrong with it. And for some bizarre reason, Wolverine is given an Australian accent, which may or may not have foretold the future where Hugh Jackman was to faithfully take the claws for about 17 years. But if you’re a Marvel loving kid waking up in the wee hours of the morning in 1989 to watch the Marvel Action Universe, a syndicated block of cartoons featuring reruns of old Spider-Man (And sometimes His Amazing Friends) episodes and, for some reason, Robocop, seeing that was a very pleasant and very welcome surprise.

A couple years before that whole Adamantium snafu....

Wolverine against Magneto??? That’s crazy talk!!!

The art style in the game is very much influenced by that pilot, although with a slight anime touch, and it looked great as a result. Time has worn that away a little, but it still looks pretty good even if a bit sparse. The screen fills with enemies, explosions, and fire and it still keeps up with all the action. It was a step up from the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game in every way.

The gameplay is simple. Like TMNT, you fight in a wide plane in all eight directions. You get three buttons: attack, jump, and mutant power. You can combine attack and jump, but the mutant power is a little tricky. You get a limited number of them, which only refill by one at the end of a stage, and on top of that, using one will drain your health by four points. And that’s the kicker: this game is hard, designed to do nothing but suck down your quarters like nobody’s business, and unless you’re bringing a full posse, you are inevitably going to spend a few dollars on this game. Forget about going it alone, too. Shawn and I did beat it in the arcade once, with a random third player, and I’m pretty sure by the end of it we were all tapped out of money. The Japanese version is a little more forgiving, with the insertion of health packs and bonus items, but not by much.

Kitty's going to be fine. It's the Master Mold who should be worried!

The game even features some characters not featured in “Pryde of the X-Men,” like Mystique, the Wendigo, the Master Mold, and Bonebreaker of the Reavers.

Of all the characters, Wolverine was of course the best melee character and Colossus had the best mutant power, so people went to play those two first. Cyclops and Nightcrawler were average, and Storm was fine in a pinch, but why does she have to fight with a staff? Nobody wanted to be Dazzler though. Dazzler was lame, they said. Why play as Dazzler? Well, I’m going to shock everyone here and say that Dazzler is an OK character. Sure, she started out as a rollerskating disco queen, and sure, she was basically thrown away after the 1991 X-Men comic reboot, but there is nothing wrong with Dazzler. In fact, in the game, she even has a neat flip throw that gets her out of some situations and her mutant power is not bad when used efficiently. Would the world have preferred Jean Grey, Rogue, or Psylocke? Sure, but they weren’t in “Pryde of the X-Men.” Dazzler is fine.

Alison Blaire is blowing up the charts, her new single is fire

Dazzler’s power is to turn sound into hard light. She can handle herself.

Another thing that I should mention is the sound. Not just the music, which was really good arcade style music, but the voice samples throughout the game are pretty much legendary. The game starts off with a short narration and then after Charles Xavier asks you to “Go and SAVE the CITY!” we are off! Now, it is highly doubtful that any of the voice talent from the “Pryde of the X-Men” were available for the game in the same way that some of the X-Men animated series cast was used for Capcom’s later X-Men: Children of the Atom arcade game, but the voices are pretty great. One of the more fun things to do in the game is to interrupt the level boss as they make their introductory speech. Memories of “Pyro will—ugh!” and “Nothing moves the—” are pretty fresh in my mind and always fun to replicate. Of course, everyone remembers Magneto’s “Welcome to die!” and it always gives us reason to laugh while we punch him in his face. Or, better yet, use Colossus’ mutant power and get him to yell a very satisfying roar. This game was very loud, and since arcade operators were not shy to turn the volume up on the cabinet, all the explosions and yells drove home how epic this game felt.

"Welcome to die?" How about I welcome my fist to your nose, buddy?!

“Welcome to die?” How about I welcome my fist to your nose, buddy?!

X-Men was released at the height of the battle between the Genesis and the SNES and everyone at the time wondered why it never came to consoles. Turtles In Time made a very nice SNES game, so you could imagine that a little work on Konami’s part might make for a decent translation, right? While that could have been possible, the problem came down to the same situation that has mucked up a lot of Marvel’s properties throughout the years: licensing. The X-Men were already licensed for home consoles by Acclaim through its LJN—yes, the same LJN that produced the execrable Marvel’s X-Men on the NES—and Flying Edge labels, and they had just released a terrible game called Spider-Man and the X-Men In Arcade’s Revenge; the next year would see the really good Genesis X-Men game by Sega, and in 1994, Capcom’s X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse would appear on the SNES, leaving no room for Konami to port their title.

As time went on, people took it as a given that the only way to play Konami’s X-Men was to emulate it through MAME, but in the unlikely year of 2010, it finally reached home consoles via the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It even saw a release on the iOS and Android! Ported by Backbone Entertainment, the game featured internet multiplayer (only four players though!), the usual graphical options for emulation, and the inclusion of the Japanese version just in case you wanted to experience some of those power-ups they took out of the American version. It was pretty good, but by 2010, gamers who had decided action fighters were long past their sell-by date wrote it off (and many of these same people wax nostalgic about the Simpsons arcade game, also made by Konami, which is something I don’t understand at all). At some point, between Konami’s retreat from the gaming sphere and Marvel’s insane licensing situations, it was delisted from all services, and as of 2017 it leaves MAME, once again, as the only place to play it.

You left Jean Grey for who???

Ten years after this game, these two would hook up.

Is Konami’s X-Men dated? Yes, of course. But is it still fun? Yes, there’s lots of fun you can have with it. Bring some friends together; it’s not actually a terribly long game and you’ll be immensely satisfied once you beat the stuffing out of Magneto. Or better yet, find a young kid who’s just getting into superheroes and have them experience it. They’ll love it.

And stop hating on Dazzler.

Shawn’s Note: Sure enough, it still pleased the nephews back at Christmas. It’s colorful and kinetic enough that even without knowing who the X-Men are they were having fun. At one point they unexpectedly got into a fight over who could put in the most credits though. Explaining arcade games might be the hardest part about playing it with them.

Quick Tallies on the Switch’s Software Lineup

Quick Tallies on the Switch's Software Lineup

Am I trying to justify not buying a Switch or do I just like making spreadsheets? With the news of “This Week’s Switch Releases” going around I decided to copy all the listings from Nintendo.com into Excel and do some quick tabulating. Of the 53 current Switch titles on Nintendo’s official site:


26
games have been released

There are 14 Switch exclusives, half from Nintendo

38 of them are (or will be) available on other platforms

29 titles are old, from 2016 or earlier


Run all those numbers through the Shawn filter and it distills down to five.
 I’ll even throw in the unlisted Spelunker World and Vroom in the Night Sky to make seven games I’m interested in playing on the Switch. Between the lacking library, JoyCon-gate and docksocks I’m having a really hard time overriding my rational, adult brain. I’d love to be enraptured with Zelda like everyone else and posting my own musings about the hardware but until there’s a deal I’ll keep busy with NieR and all my other personal projects.

Capcom Cashes in on My Childhood with The Disney Afternoon Collection

Capcom Cashes in on My Childhood with The Disney Afternoon Collection

It honestly doesn’t even matter what The Disney Afternoon Collection is because, for me, it starts and stops with this artwork right here. The wavy shapes, the day-glo colors, some of my favorite childhood characters and that font on “Collection”. It’s too perfectly 90’s. This is practically a cover of Disney Adventures magazine, another childhood memory I cradle in the warmest cockles of my heart.

The collection itself could never compete with that kind of nostalgia but it’s a good bundle nonetheless. Ducktales 1 and 2, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 1 and 2, Darkwing Duck and TaleSpin are getting the Mega Man Legacy treatment for $20 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam. And it’s out this Saturday the 18th! I don’t have a lot of time to write more so I’ll leave it with the press release text and a few final thoughts:

“All six games are new and improved HD versions of the originals and feature a number of filtering options that replicate a classic retro look and feel. This collection also offers new ways to play with Boss Rush and Time Attack modes for each game. In Boss Rush mode, players battle through challenging boss encounters consecutively, while Time Attack mode encourages time-based gameplay and provides online leaderboards that track the fastest times for each game.

A new “Rewind” feature makes these challenging titles more accessible for newcomers, with the option to rewind time and enjoy a swift recovery from blunders. Additionally, the in-game Disney Museum will provide history buffs with a wealth of content to celebrate the era of the original releases, such as concept art, advertisements, character art, and music – all preserved in their original glory.”

  • Yes, this is being handled by Digital Eclipse and should hold the same esteem for the source material as their previous Mega Man Legacy Collection.
  • Yes, I think Capcom may be running that Ducktales license dangerously close to the ground between this and 2013’s remastered treatment.
  • No, these wouldn’t be my personal six favorite Capcom/Disney titles but I can’t argue with the package and its appeal.
  • Finally, no, I’m probably not ever going to buy this… but I sure am glad it resulted in that artwork up there!

Achieving: 200 Miles followed quickly by a Satisfying Death

I’d been working my way towards Mile 200 in The Flame in the Flood since January but after a hospital visit, weeks of feeling terrible and then a Disney vacation I didn’t get to finish it off until just this past weekend. There are 6 parts in total if you want to watch a longer leg of the journey but it really wraps up nicely in the final episode above.

After hitting the 200th Mile *DING* I decided to end my run as spectacularly as possible by dying from 10 simultaneous afflictions… amid a bear attack *DING*. Then I remembered that there’s a Director’s Commentary mode so I started a new game, listened to some early dev talk and managed one last Trophy for staying on the river for 10 miles without stopping *DING*.

Achieving: Tales of Pointless Self Reward retold in brief posts whenever we feel like it.

Catching up with Jambo! Safari after 17 Years

Earlier in the week I recounted my sub-par experiences with pinball during our vacation to Disney World. But just a few feet away from those janky machines was one of the best surprises of the whole trip: Sega’s Jambo! Safari. I probably haven’t touched the game since 2000 and at the time it wasn’t as appealing as Crazy Taxi, Emergency Call Ambulance or any of Sega’s other wild arcade racing games. I may have played it five or six times in my life but just recently I’d been thinking about it more intently.

This also reminded me of the pseudo-port/sequel that Sega released on the Wii in 2009. Jambo! Safari: Animal Rescue has some of the same gameplay as the original but it’s also inflicted with Wii-itis: the compulsion to throw in kid-friendly motion controls and minigames. On top of that it looks like a slow paced zoo sim that requires you to pet, feed and manage your animals. Look, I’m just here to powerslide around Africa… at least that’s all that I remembered about the arcade original.

The machine we found at our resort was in the streamlined stand-up cabinet which made managing the brake and gas pedals a little tricky and uncomfortable for me. Nevertheless I was happy to dive in and rediscover what set Jambo! apart from the rest. “It’s like car fishing,” Katy and I agreed. Jambo! Safari takes the race-the-clock design of Crazy Taxi and mixes it with Sega Bass Fishing of all things.

After you rope an animal you have to manage a tension meter to wear them down until you can finally line up a second shot to net them. If it weren’t for the timer it would be painfully easy but as the seconds tick away you push to be faster which brings out the game’s hilarious shenanigans. Grappling a large animal or powersliding too sharply can send your jeep barreling into comical spins. As animals elude you they’ll throw up a mocking emote while the broken English text chides you.

Some of the “Final Research” missions are coin-gobblingly sleazy if you aren’t ready for them but overall it was a surprise and a treat to play again after nearly 17 years. Check out the 2-part video above for an overview of the machine that we found and a few brief rounds with this unsung Sega classic.