Tagged: arcade

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.

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.

Marvel Games Retrospective 2: Captain America And The Avengers

This is the second in my series of reminiscing on Marvel games of the past and present, and this time I present to you a game from 1991 and a title featuring heroes who have in recent years become the flagship of the public’s Marvel consciousness: Captain America and the Avengers!

Captain America and the Avengers

The Avengers!

As the 16-bit generation and the power of comic book licenses started to kick into full gear, Japanese arcade game publisher Data East released Captain America and the Avengers in the arcades. At that point, the Avengers were not a household name with an all-star line-up; Iron Man was B-list, Hawkeye was well lower on the totem pole, and who the heck was Vision? In fact, it was just as likely that as many people associated the Avengers with the British TV series (which spawned a notoriously awful film) than the comic books, or just as likely that neither one was in anyone’s mind. They needed a headliner, and fortunately, Captain America was the perfect candidate.

Firstly, the background visuals are outstanding. Even to this day, the lush pastel and incredible detail is something special to behold. The characters maybe don’t live up to the same standard as the backgrounds, but they do have a kind of look to them which feels particularly anime and that, in my opinion, is actually kind of cool for its time.

avengers2

Hey, Juggernaut, why are you wearing the Gem of Cyttorak on your face? Why are you even in this game? Ooof!

It also mixes it up by placing a few horizontal shooting scenes in between the action fighting core. While you can’t expect an R-Type or a Thunder Force IV here, it’s nice to break the monotony and the only couple of times you will see Wasp in the game.

avengers3

As a kid, I did not know that the word “tako” meant “octopus” in Japanese. Neither did the translators, it seems. So, we all were puzzled why they called it a Mech. Taco.

There are more than a couple of problems in the whole of the game though. The control isn’t really that good; hits don’t connect, certain attacks come at random, and the power attack is a two button press that doesn’t need to be. This also extends to the shooting part of the game, which is much more forgiving but nonetheless less than stellar.

The game is also brutally difficult. The characters lose health like crazy, and Quicksilver only shows up every once in a great while to throw a health pickup and even then it’s not enough. The way to expand your energy most effectively is also the most awful: you pump in more quarters. Now, keep in mind, this was in the era where machines were mostly 25 cents a play, although 50 cent machines did exist, but it was still the perfect way for an arcade owner to pick clean a kid’s weekly allowance. It’s not robbery, more like gambling where the only thing you win is the satisfaction of punching in the Red Skull’s teeth. Still, the combination of the health system and the difficulty made it far more of a candidate of console conversion than not.

avengers4

A visual comparison of the three versions, arcade, Genesis, and SNES. Porting to consoles? Why should it goes well?

Unfortunately, the console conversions do not do this game justice, for one reason or another. The SNES version was completely outsourced; Mindscape, the developer of that version, had to build the game from the ground up. The only thing that remained were the voice samples. Everything else was redrawn, or even re-written. The visuals as a result take a big hit, and the control of the game isn’t so great, although they managed to add a third action button for the power attacks.

Despite the arcade version’s flaws, it ended up being a fun game to play with friends, even if you ended up having to pump five dollars worth of quarters into it in order to get much anywhere. It doesn’t hold up these days to the games that have come after it, but at the time, it was a good time to be had if you really, really wanted to play as an Avenger. And believe me, I did.

Sega reveals elaborate Three Kingdoms strategy arcade betting game

101713-worldofthreeAt the recent ‘Sega Private Show 2013’ in Japan the company showed off some upcoming arcade titles including the incredibly inexplicable ‘The World of Three Kingdoms’. It’s like real-time strategy meets the Three Kingdoms inside of Derby Owners Club and, naturally, it’s never coming out of Japan.

I don’t know much about the game itself but there seems to be a lot of betting and brightly colored, domed buttons. Not wanting to get too excited for a game I’ll never play, I didn’t bother translating any details but I did embed this flashy trailer if you want to see the game in action.

Active Minute No.7: Public Sweat Show

Did Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do totally put me off of motion gaming? Not at all! I’ve just been so exhausted these past couple weeks to tweet because Katy and I have spent an impressive number of hours (and dollars, and calories) hopping around our local Pump it Up machine. Located at Dave & Buster’s, it’s the same old machine I’ve been dancing on pretty regularly since 2001. They’ve updated the monitor a couple of times and the software a surprising number of times given that only a handful of us regulars pump money into it.

The latest version — Pump it Up 2011 Fiesta EX — includes several songs from some of our favorite modern k-pop groups. In previous versions it’s been 90’s/early 00’s k-pop that I’m more familiar with leaving Katy without much context, or enthusiasm. I do like the new stuff but wept a single (but powerful) nostalgic tear at the sight of all my returning favorites. New modes, lots of custom play options and an insane 350 songs to choose from has us far too eager to throw away our money getting sweaty at a very public arcade.

Active gaming. Not for the self conscious.

Though the logo may be heavy on Kinect, ActiveMinute is my attempt to justify all motion gaming peripherals I’ve collected over the years and get a little more physical activity into my day. Sessions last for only a few minutes and are chronicled on Twitter with the hashtag #ActiveMin. I’ll post a frequent recap here but feel free to follow along, comment or join in yourself. Just use that hashtag!