Some of my best childhood memories were had on the X-Men 6 arcade machine. It was the first game me and my friends would run to when we were unleashed into the arcade. But does it hold up? Check out my $5 play-through and see for yourself!
Well it is an X-Men game, which gives it a considerable head start because X-Men are awesome. Compared to other beat ’em ups it is certainly above average. Let’s do a quick run down.
To begin, let me give some attention to the special power system. Although I hate the idea of Cyclops loses life when he uses his eye laser, I understand the convention. This was simply the status quo in beat em ups of the era. Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Turtle in Time, King of Dragons, and Knights of the Round all used the same life loss mechanic to offset the power of the special ability. However X-Men does a much better job of it in two ways.
First, the mutant power in X-Men auto kills every single enemy in the game except bosses. It’s WAY more powerful then any of the other beat em ups mentioned. In those games the specials simply do a set amount of damage, often not enough to kill even the basic enemies. Trading life to “hurt” enemies is almost always not worth it. Killing the entire screen often is.
Second, you get one free “desperation” special move per life. Next to your life bar you have one blue power orb which you use if your life is at 4/10 or lower. This means at least once per life, you get to use your power! Finally, you are encouraged to use the special. Do you know how many time I have seen Leonardo’s sword spin move in Turtles in Time? Probably zero times, because it’s a bad idea to use 100% of the time. At least I get one free use in this game.
Combat variety is another thing worth talking about. In this game you have exactly 3 basic attacks: standing attack, jump attack, and quick jump attack. There is a grab, and a ground attack but they happen automatically and only in special cases (although they do visually add considerable variety to the combat). Despite this seemingly simply combat system, each character does feel very different. This is more than I can say for some other games like Turtles in Time and Knights of the Round.
Enemy variety is where this game really lacks. The sentinels come at you like M&Ms, and like M&Ms they are all the same aside from the paint job. Other than sentinels you have some other various monsters but nothing makes you act differently to kill them other than mini-bosses. There certainly could have been more to this game in the enemy department.
The bad does not even come close to overpowering the good in this classic. It does a few things wrong, but so much right. Even today, this game remains one of the best arcade games. Play it alone, play it with your friends, but totally give it another play-through.