There’s a hierarchy of arcade titles that sit atop the throne of vintage gaming. Tastemakers, LLC and Arcade1Up have done an excellent job of creating cabinets to bring these into homes at a much more affordable price. After offering the top fighting games of the 1990s in its home arcade cabinets, Arcade1Up has begun to branch off into popular beat ’em ups as well, including introducing a four-player cabinet option. One title that was noticeably missing from the Arcade1Up lineup was the classic X-Men Arcade and thankfully this has been rectified with one of their best cabinets to date.
The X-Men 4-Player Arcade Machine offers this cult classic with two other games: Captain America and the Avengers and The Avengers in Galactic Storm. This cabinet offers a taste of what Marvel Comics was in the 1990s, but the shining star is X-Men. If you’re unfamiliar with this origin of the X-Men Arcade title, this wasn’t based on the 1990s X-Men Animated Series. Marvel had produced an extremely campy one-off pilot that never took off called Pryde of the X-Men.
This starred Kitty Pryde, Charles Xavier, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Cyclops and an Australian Wolverine. Marvel entered bankruptcy before it could take off, and while the animation of the series was great for the time, the series never took off. Strangely, this pilot aired in 1989 and Konami didn’t release the arcade game until 1992. The Animated Series that was wildly popular already started hitting television screens on Saturday Mornings.
There are a lot of tropes about the X-Men Arcade game itself that bothered a lot of X-Men fans. While Magneto was the leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants and other known antagonists such as the Blob, Pyro and the Juggernaut were featured as bosses, the majority of it didn’t feel canon. Small Sentinels, much like the Foot Soldiers from TMNT, were the major amount of enemies you would take on. There’s one giant Sentinel in the game that unleashes some punk rock human mech tanks (best description), but Sentinels were never human-sized. The White Queen (Emma Frost), never being affiliated with Magneto, is an enemy in the game and on the pilot show. The absolute killer was the poor dialogue translation featuring Magneto’s famous “Welcome to Die” line.
When looking at X-Men as a pure arcade game and throwing anything canon out the door, it’s one of the best. The emulation on the Arcade1Up cabinet is flawless. Colors are rich and the machine can handle tons of enemies on the screen. The art was the closest thing outside of the comic books at the time and destroys the pilot show. The strange soundtrack and overall audio experience is fantastic. X-Men came after the original TMNT Arcade and right before Turtles in Time, and there are additions to combat here that were seen in the latter. Ground hits were important as well as throws and back attacks. Mutant Powers are granted that basically wipe everything off the screen. There are also varying jump attacks from each of the six X-Men that offer small advantages over one or the other. Combat and movement is rather slow in comparison to the TMNT games, but the heaviness perfectly fits the game. This was the only beat ’em up that featured six player configuration in actual arcades inside this giant cabinet with a plexiglass cover.
While Tastemakers has received some flack about the recent pricing on new cabinets, the X-Men feels like the best option to justifying the $749.99 price tag. The cabinet features artwork directly from the comic books of the time with the characters on both sides. This includes the light-up marquee that features the classic X-Men logo and a shot of Wolverine and Storm. The screen borders shows the bio of each playable X-Men in the game. The cabinet also features the coin doors, which come off as more impressive in person as opposed to what has been seen in pictures. To couple off the package, Arcade1Up included the 4-foot Riser to heighten the playing experience that features Cyclops on the front along with a metal barstool featuring a cushioned seat that also dawns Cyclops.
Wi-Fi connectivity has also been included to allow easy access to join or be joined in battle. Leaderboards are included along with a list of current live games happening for each game. I found it easier to host a title and have people join as opposed to trying to join as this errored out a bit. When someone joins your game, however, it does bog down until the connection is made. The game is short and can be completed in one run in under an hour. This Arcade1Up cabinet does have the most options out of any that I’ve encountered. You can set difficulty settings for each game, add some scanlines and some other smaller customization. The durability of the joysticks and buttons have done well in taking the smashing that has been given so far.
As for the other two titles included, one is understandable as the other is questionable. Captain America and the Avengers always seemed to be the game I jumped to in the arcades if X-Men was full. Both of the other titles were done by Data East and with Captain, it lacked the presentation and polish of the X-Men title. The combat and movement was faster and it allowed you to play as Vision, Captain America, Hawkeye and Iron Man. Rather than having a health meter, each character was assigned a points value that would trickle down to zero. All of them had special moves and could hurl objects at enemies. There are also side-scrolling shooter missions that changed up the flow. The comic strip cutscenes in-between missions embodied what the Avengers were in the 1990s. What didn’t do this was the other title, The Avengers in Galactic Storm.
The third title is a fighting game developed by Data East that seemed to join the ways of the mid-1990s Killer Instinct craze. The characters looked like bad 1990s CGI, the movement is awful, but if it wasn’t for Galactic Storm, tag teams and assistance would not exist in fighting games. That’s right, this was the first fighting game to offer this, but too bad the game is clunky. It’s also based on a random comic storyline from the 1990s and really only features Captain America as a known playable fighter. This does, however, basically conclude every notable Marvel arcade title from the 1990s being available across the Arcade1Up cabinets.
If you’re like me, you’ve been hoping for Tastemakers to create an X-Men Arcade Cabinet, but this comes down to being a fan of that original game. This is a cult classic but also an awesome beat ’em up. The same can be said for Captain America and the Avengers. This doesn’t appeal to a majority of people like TMNT would, however, as these games typically took a back seat. If you are a fan of these games, it comes down to that $749 price point, but there are more options included in this setup that would justify the price more than others. Arcade1Up X-Men 4-Player Arcade Machine is an excellent looking cabinet that includes three games with fantastic emulation and sound.