Tagged: Xbox Live 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.

What a Pid-y

Presented with no further comment, here is the minute by minute recount of my time with Pid (so far).

11/1, 8:40pm I’m playing Pid and you probably aren’t.http://raptr.com/dionisio

11/3, 7:11am Pid may be more infuriating than fun. Good thing Bing basically covered the cost of this one. :

7:19am Remembering that some of the people behind Pid were responsible for Bionic Commando ReArmed would’ve helped me decide to pass on this one.

7:36am The soundtrack to Pid is the best thing about it. It’s slow, somber, melodies really help diffuse the seething rage at how hard it can be.

8:24am Pid is very pretty but I don’t think I really wanna stick with this. Very little payoff for the brutal, long-reloading platforming.

8:27am Timed puzzles that require you to take into account the animation priority pushed me over the edge. Done now… and for good?

Shortly thereafter I added Pid to my ‘Games I wish I loved better’ list on GiantBomb.com saying: Annoying load times between screens and deaths and stupid animation priority for timed puzzles pushed me over the edge. It’s gorgeous and has a great soundtrack but nothing more compelling to make it worth the time-wasting, challenging platforming.

Achieving the hushed silence of shadowy success

A little update on my approach to Achieving before today’s story. I’ve finally amassed enough friends on Xbox that the constant pips of them coming and going has really started to get in the way. I turned off notifications recently which also includes Achievement pop-ups so I’ve been playing games pretty much like I used to. After I finish the main mode I’ll pop open the guide and see what I’ve done and what else I can aim for; it’s shaken up the typical Xbox experience for me if nothing else.

I figured Mark of the Ninja would have a few for collecting its hidden haikus and completing its level-specific challenges so I ventured back to the stages I’d missed them in. The game also has Achievements for finishing a stage without killing anyone, finishing a stage without being detected and one for doing both in the same stage. I was determined to get all three Achievements in one go, presumably on the first stage as it would be the least challenging.

A Shattered Stronghold’ was the last stage I needed a challenge seal in, one of the most complex in the game with sandstorms that obscure your view and explosive traps all over the place. The challenge was to retrieve some keys without using any ninja items so I started out with stealth kills in mind. Nevertheless, I found myself avoiding detection altogether even though I was pretty sure this wouldn’t be the stage to do it in. “This is a stupid idea,” I thought as I approached an area with criss-crossing sniper sights. Later it was a narrow passage full of loose and loud debris with guards and dangling explosives. Even with the game’s most useful ability unlocked it was amazing to see there really was a way through without so much as raising an enemy eyebrow. Even more amazing that I was able to pull it off.

By the time I saw the tally screen above I had nailed four Achievements in one super stealthy go. In fact it was so stealthy the Xbox didn’t even ba~goink at me with notifications… oh, right. The only thing I have left is finishing the New Game Plus which makes things tougher but lets me keep all my ninja gear. It’s been great so far and even with the extra challenge I’m feeling decidedly ninja-powered in dealing with these fools a second time through.

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

Done Playing: Trine 2 (Xbox 360)

For my money the original Trine was pretty close to perfect. It taught its character-swapping gameplay and let you focus on the clever physics puzzles, it was absolutely gorgeous to look at and — most importantly — it didn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a lean, focused indie classic whose only fault is that its boring combat is mostly there to break up the puzzle sequences. Trine 2 doesn’t stray far from that formula and starts out strong but the additions to the gameplay managed to kill my excitement in the end. According to Steam and Raptr I’ve played both games for around eleven hours each but Trine 2 might as well have dragged on for an eternity.

Let’s start on the highest of high notes, though, with Trine 2’s presentation. The images here may look nice but they can’t begin to capture the wondrous sight of the game in motion. The title screen alone has more artistic majesty than the entirely of two or three contemporary games combined. My words do it even less justice so I’ll skip the descriptions and sum it up as whimsical. Whimsical as hell! There is never nothing to be amazed about while looking at this game. Seriously, this is what it looks like when unicorns dream!

(more…)

Our first year on Xbox Live

 

Here in this day where downloadable games get as big a push as retail releases and their price tags (and content) continue to swell, I sometimes forget what it was like in the early days. I’ve been digging through my Xbox download history, looking for games that have been delisted from the service, and managed to scroll all the way back to 2006.

We were a little late getting an Xbox 360 and didn’t get online until September of ‘06 when we promptly purchased the requisite Geometry Wars and Bejeweled (in which I still have zero achievements). Katy was into the time-management of Outpost Kaloki X and I was excited (however briefly) for a console version of Lumines. Even by today’s standards Lumines Live’s DLC packs are egregiously excessive. Upward of $20 in add-ons that bring such amazing features like ‘computer opponents’ and ‘puzzle mode’. I admit, I bought a few of them before growing tired of the game. The rest of our first year? Movie trailers and a Dynasty Warriors 5 picture pack. Groundbreaking strides in online ecosystems, eh?