The X-Men Arcade game has long been one of my top co-op games of all time. The late 80s and and early 90s were the peak period for the arcade brawler. Classics such as Aliens Vs. Predator, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Dungeons & Dragons series sucked down roll after roll of quarters from the pockets of teamwork-loving players. But it is X-Men Arcade that remains my favorite after all these years. But now that the game has been released for Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, do the fond memories from almost two decades ago hold up?
One of the unique aspects of X-Men Arcade was the enormous six player cabinet. Roughly twice as wide as a standard stand-up cab, there was a whole lot of real estate on the control panel. Allowing half a dozen players to play at the same time was innovative in 1992, and it's above the norm even today. For the new release, the same six player co-op is still available. On the Xbox 360, up to four local players can play at once, due to controller limitations, while the Playstation 3 allows for six, if you have enough controllers and room on your couch. Online players can fill in any empty spots (even on 360), and you can mix and match local and online players as you like.
I was able to jump in several full six-mutant games online, and experienced only minimal lag. You can join a quick play session, or look for specific games that match your beat-em-up criteria. Level selection is one option, which is nice for those who are looking to obtain specific achievements or trophies. Another nice addition is the inclusion of the Japanese version of the game, which deviates from its North American sibling in that power ups like energy pills and mutant power orbs can be found. Another minor change is the way mutant powers are used in the game; in the US version, using mutant abilities takes health first, then power orbs, while in the Japanese version, this is reversed.
So, apart from online co-op, what other modern polish has been applied to X-Men Arcade? Surprisingly little. There is no high def makeover here; apart from a smoothing filter (which can be disabled), the game is gloriously pixelly. Since the original game was two standard arcade monitors wide, the display is now nicely letterboxed, filling most of the screen on a widescreen TV. The character portraits, life bar, and other HUD information have been moved into the letterboxed area, so as to not obscure the game itself. An optional timer can be displayed, as well. These elements are all nicely detailed, and very slick looking, as are the menus. I was somewhat disappointed that a full-on HD remix wasn't included, but apparently this was a licensing issue more than a technical one. In any event, the game still looks like a comic book come to life.