Tagged: Konami

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.

Metal Gear Survive interview confirms Single Player and more

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In an interview with PlayStation Dengeki Magazine translated by Play-Asia a Metal Gear Survive staffer has revealed some intriguing new details. The most relevant being that there’s a single player component and it’s more difficult and stealthy than the 4-player co-op thanks to the swarms of monstrous new enemies.

Further detailing the zombie-esque horde seen in the trailer, the interviewee refers to them as “creatures” and describes the world of Survive as being similar to Ground Zeroes’ Side Ops. That specifically calls to mind the spooky Jamais Vu mission where Raiden has to identify otherworldly “snatchers” posing as human soldiers. The loading screen text for that mission may have also served as a jumping-off point for Survive. It lays out the vast possibilities for life on other planets and with wormholes involved there’s no telling who or what could be sucked into Konami’s new alternate universe.

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These guys have no heads to headshot!

So far it looks like the interdimensional Hoover has only scooped up the remaining Mother Base soldiers, both dead and alive. This sets the stage for character customization which the interviewee confirms and adds that players will be able to “develop your own equipment for your own play style”. And where do you do this R&D? At the remains of Mother Base which the interviewee mysteriously refers to as the “starting base”. So will we eventually move our operations to bigger facilities or was this just a quirk of the translation?

Developing gear and building up a base are the foundation of both Peace Walker and The Phantom Pain with it all tied together by a series of repeatable missions. Survive looks to follow suit here as well with the staff member indicating an escalating flow to the gameplay.

“Enemies will be surrounding the base and may attack at certain points.” When asked for a final comment on the game they add that “we’re bringing the highly enjoyed MGSV:TPP action and following it up with a little twist where you battle non-human creatures alongside a mass of difficult missions.”

Finally, there’s some vague confirmation on just who is making Metal Gear Survive. The interviewee reveals that several Phantom Pain staff members are returning indicating that this is more than just a lavish expansion from the Metal Gear Online team.

That’s a few more answers than we had last week but it’s already painting a brighter picture for me. Metal Gear Survive looks to retain the gameplay loop I loved in The Phantom Pain but stars the cast of underdog dorks I turned into badass soldiers in Peace Walker. I know it’s popular opinion to smother the game with scorn but I honestly can’t wait to see more.

Konami’s Snake Eater Pachislot hints at a new HD remake?

While everyone seems annoyed, pissed or heartbroken by Pachi Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater, I think it’s downright awesome. Not only are there a thousand things popping off in this EIGHT MINUTE INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO but the amount of footage from Snake Eater they’ve recreated in the Fox Engine seems staggering. Hmmm…

It’s almost like they recreated these scenes in an engine capable of running in real time on modern consoles and PCs for something other than a slot machine. With Kojima gone another HD remake of the series would be the quickest offering to turn out. The last HD versions are only a generation old and dumping them into the Fox Engine could be a potentially efficient way to keep the series out there while a new team works up a sequel of their own.

Or Konami really did pour all these resources into a slot machine. That’s pretty cool too.

Snake Eater Returns in Konami’s latest Pachislot Machine

There’s a new Metal Gear Solid coming in 2016… and it’s exactly what we all thought it would be: a casino game. Konami’s latest Pachislot creation, Pachi Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater launches this Autumn in Japan and most likely nowhere else. The cabinet features the familiar red exclamation, a glowing python, a peculiar keyhole and an array of mysterious buttons (and a pinball plunger?).  All the controls are discreetly wrapped around a huge 32” LCD screen that looks like it can be linked up to neighboring machines for a striking attract screen.

I was a little surprised at first glance to see it was based on Snake Eater but that was the last time the mainline series was really fun. They get to trade on the 60’s spy vibe and that fantastic theme song and it has a more colorful cast of bosses than later entries. Maybe Snake Eater was the most popular of the series in Japan or it sold extra well over there.

What surprised me the most is that they have apparently recreated Snake, Boss and a number of scenes from the game in a new engine. I don’t think it looked this sharp even in the HD collection which I just played a year or so ago. Is it rendered out from MGSV’s engine because it’s not quite full CG quality? Konami would be smart to leverage that tech anywhere they can after spending millions to develop it.

I can’t discern much more from the Japanese teaser for the game and I also don’t know how casino machines work in Japan so just enjoy the video. It’s definitely the most interesting slot machine I’ve heard about in a while.

Unboxing that Metal Gear Solid V Soundtrack on Cassette Tape

So that $50 edition of the Metal Gear Solid V soundtrack arrived and I did a quick unboxing video. I’d have appreciated it more if I weren’t reeling from a migraine and struggling through the absentminded haze it brought, but here it is! Definitely a functional cassette tape packed in with another MGSV soundtrack on CD.

The album is called ‘The Lost Tapes’ and contains most of the original music found scattered around the game world. It’s my favorite collection of music from the game but it’s not the all-inclusive album I thought it was. Looking through the liner notes I finally realized what the deal must be: all the songs (and most of the credits) go to lead composer, Ludvig Forssell. ‘The Lost Tapes’ seems to be a personal production of just his music and even includes new songs not found in the game.

It’s great to finally have an official release for some of these songs and the new tunes are a nice bonus. I’ll probably be writing more about it over on Original Sound Version one of these days.