We here at Co-Optimus.com are always on the lookout for content for our users. This article is the first of a new column, "Co-Op Classics", that will come your way every Friday. The focus of this series is great co-op games of the past. We'll be looking at all sorts of older games that featured co-op, from the golden age of the arcades up to the last generation of home consoles. Some of the titles we feature might be available today, perhaps on XBLA or Virtual Console. For those games we feature that aren't available, well, perhaps we can get the powers that be to do something about it! As soon as I knew I'd be writing this weekly column, my favorite arcade game came to mind instantly. I knew I had to use it for the first Co-Op Classic!
Older gamers likely have fond memories of video arcades. Back in their heyday, arcades were wildly popular, filled to the brim with video games of all types. These days, there are few arcades, and those that remain are focussed on DDR, Claw machines, and light gun games, for the most part. But back then, it was different. There was no feeling like walking into an arcade with a pocketful of quarters, and spending an afternoon with a buddy trying to beat high scores and talking trash to each other. In all my time in the arcades, though, there was no other experience like that of X-Men: The Arcade Game.
The first time I saw the cabinet for X-Men, my jaw dropped. It was enormous! Easily, this game was twice as big as your typical cabinet. And it had two monitors, too! Six, count 'em, SIX joysticks on the control panel. It was arcade heaven. My friend and I played all our quarters out, right then and there. The gameplay was fantastic: a marriage of Double Dragon and the X-Men comics, cranked up to 11. We tried all the characters, hopping around to the different controls each time our credits ran out. They all played a bit differently due to their mutant attacks. As a comic fan, seeing Cyclops unleash a screen-clearing volley of optic blasts from his visor was the bee's knees. Nightcrawler teleported around the screen like a bolt of lightning, knocking out all the enemies. As a purist, I cringed at the huge burst of sparks from Colossus and the laser-like energy that came out of Wolverine's claws when they used their attacks. However, in the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter, because the game was fun, a quarter eater of the best type!
Later that weekend, I did what any self respecting co-op lover would do: called 5 buddies and went back to the X-men game. We waited impatiently for the two guys who were at the machine to finish, then dove in. The arguments over who got what character were priceless. Everyone wanted to be Wolverine or Colossus, for obvious reasons. We all laughed at the poor schmuck who ended up with Dazzler. Not only was she a girl (eew), her mutant power was a huge pink burst of light! You can't make this stuff up. The crazy dialogue and voice acting was unintentionally hilarious... "Welcome... to DIE!" It was so easy to reach over and grab your buddy's controls to run his character off a cliff, and hear their character scream all the way down; that's video game gold! We laughed, we punched each other, and in the end, we saved Professor X and defeated Magneto. Then we did it all again. And the next week, we were back for even more. It was months before our fervor for the game diminished.
There were standard sized versions of X-Men: the Arcade Game, one for 4 and one for 2 players, but they paled in comparison. Once you have played 6 player co-op on two gigantic monitors, anything less just won't do. I always played it over the years, though, out of a sense of loyalty, anytime or anywhere I saw any version of the game. But the game is extremely hard to find these days. A few years back, I took my two sons to an arcade at a hotel, and when I entered, I saw it, in all it's bright primary colored glory: the six player version of X-Men! I ran over, hands in my pockets, grabbing for quarters. The dreaded "Out of Order" sign was taped on top of the coin doors. I let out a wail worthy of Darth Vader in Ep. III at my poor fortune. When I made my own MAME arcade machine, X-Men was one of the first games I tried out, though sadly, only the 2 player version worked. Still, the kids and I have played it over and over; the game has a great appeal even these many years later.
X-Men: The Arcade Game is absolutely worthy of a release on XBLA or PSN. Super heroes as a genre are as popular as they have ever been, and new cartoons and movies featuring the X-Men are set to come out soon. Any super hero loving kid of today would be begging to buy this game. The wide screens of today's HDTVs would be a perfect fit for the double monitor version of the game, as well. There would be no need to slap some HD graphics on either side of the screen here! Just show the whole game in all its glory. SIX player co-op? That's a huge draw right there! And can you imagine the Achievements? "Grrl Power: Play through the entire game as Dazzler." "AAAAAAHH!: Run off a cliff 10 times in one game." It just makes sense, doesn't it? If Frogger and Bullwinkle can get on XBLA, why not the mighty band of mutants known as the X-Men?
(Thanks to the Killer List of Videogames for the pictures.)