Tagged: PSN

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.

Spelunker World is out in America and it’s a Beautiful time to be Alive

This is it! My life is complete! Minna de Spelunker Z is finally out and completely comprehensible in English as Spelunker World. It’s free-to-play on PlayStation 4 and hilariously brutal and you should all go download it and we should play for a while. Check out my first 45 minutes with the game that I streamed last night and all the simple revelations I had simply because I could read text prompts.

I got my $10 parting gift from Sony

free-s3money

I finally turned on the PS3 again and found my “loyal customer” payoff waiting. Sony started giving out these $5 and $10 bonuses last week and I had a feeling it was some kind of pre-event damage control. With the news that current PSN games won’t be playable on PlayStation 4 I can’t help but feel justified by that assumption.

It’s like Sony saying “sorry guys, have one last game on us” or “at least when you get a PS4 you’ll have $10 to spend”. I appreciate it and will gladly spend it but I’m suddenly terrified of downloading anything for our current consoles. I’ve got plenty of things plugged into the TV as is and was really hoping I wouldn’t need to keep a PS3 at the ready right next to a PS4. Ah well, thanks for the bucks anyhow, Sony!

So I won a weird, old Japanese game from Raptr!

Typically I’m the one who finds out about some contest or freebie long after the offer has lapsed. I blurt out my favorite movie quote on twitter or post a comment about how I’d love to win an Avocado Slamwich from Subway and THEN realize, oh, it’s over. But yesterday I managed to hop on a Raptr Reward in time to redeem the code (nevermind that image).

The free mystery PSone download codes were fronted by MonkeyPaw Games who most recently brought one of my favorites back to life on PSN: Tomba!. I was hoping my code would reveal a free copy of Tomba! but instead I got Kyuiin… oh. Of all the games that the codes could potentially have been for I got the one game I had never, ever heard of.

A side-scrolling shooter starring kids who are sucked into a fantasy book to save a fairy land from a bad dream, the pair ride the skies on the backs of vacuum cleaners. I think the vacuums may be sentient as well, I dunno, it’s all in Japanese! The game itself is kinda neat, encouraging you to stop firing so much, get in close and let your dancing vacuum hose suck up enemies. This refills a super shot meter which handily manages the enemies and bullets on screen but gets you no points for whatever it kills. It’s a surprisingly well designed system that I wasn’t expecting from what looked like ‘My First Shooter’.

Maybe I’ll post more about it at some point but redeeming the code and firing up the PS3 reminded me that this is the week for free episodes of The Walking Dead for PS+ members so I jumped over to that after a few rounds with Kyuiin. Tomba! or Yakiniku Bugyou or even Chou Aniki would’ve been great but I’m really happy to have won something peculiar and Japanese from MonkeyPaw and Raptr, thanks guys!

Done Playing: World Gone Sour (Xbox Live Arcade)

World Gone Sour is another one of those increasingly common games that I buy not for its apparent quality but because of how it revolves around real people I know online. When certified real person Adam Boyes (from co-developer Beefy Media) plays the game alongside equally real Giant Bomb co-founder Jeff Gerstmann, their banter is more than just a PR dude trying to sell a press guy on the game. They’re friends and though they may not call me the same, I feel a friendly connection to the two from years of Giant Bomb podcasts and tweets. It was during this quick look that Boyes mentioned a Giant Bomb logo hidden in the game which further blurs the line between things I like. If that wasn’t weird enough context to come into this review I also just earned enough free Microsoft Points from Bing to cover the cost of the game. Let’s just qualify it as “individual results will vary”.

World Gone Sour is a game about Sour Patch Kids candy but like in the days of Cool Spot and M.C. Kids it doesn’t shove candy or soda or happy meals down your throat. The licensed property is just there to set the scene, in this case a world where candy that doesn’t get eaten goes crazy and builds contraptions and obstacles out of everyday junk. You’re a saintly sour patch candy whose quest to rescue his friends has suppressed the madness. What that sets up is a Pikmin-lite system where you find other Sour Patch Kids and hurl them at switches, precariously placed pick-ups, or absorb them to grow bigger and enable new powers.

Those powers include growing and shrinking in size, doing a ground pound move and using your buddies like a bowling ball to take out enemies and explore the side-scrolling levels. It’s nothing cerebral like Fez or daunting like Super Meat Boy and paired with the mellow music and narration of Creed Bratton the whole game feels largely subdued. I’d even call it a nice change of pace from other platformers of late that feel like they’re out to prove something. World Gone Sour is also subdued (in a bad way here) in its visuals with textures that almost look out of a PlayStation 2 game. I like the Toy Story scale of things and the depth of field effects but I didn’t expect to be squinting at blurry objects to make out the gag labels in a modern game. That Giant Bomb logo looks crisp though, oh, and so do the Sour Patch Kids themselves. You can practically taste the crystals of high fructose corn syrup that cover them.

World Gone Sour is aware of what it is — a platformer based on a licensed piece of candy — and it tries to make it special. The narration is clever in spots and the Method Man video takes itself perfectly seriously but it doesn’t go far enough to be really memorable. If you don’t also have a strange meta connection to those involved with its production I can only call it a palette cleanser that isn’t as sour as you’d expect from a pun that bad. It’s cheap, lasts for a couple of days, has local co-op play and you’ll likely get all of the Achievements without much extra work. I hate to call it a throwaway diversion between bigger games but given the sugary nature of the source material that may be the most fitting way to put it.