Tales Of The Arcade – TMNT and X-Men Co-op Goodness
There are few moments in video game history than when the TMNT and X-Men Arcade game cabinets debuted. In the early 90’s, it seemed as if it was too difficult for game developers to properly represent our favorite heroes or movies with an enjoyable gaming experience. Fortunately, Konami had the formula for success. Around that same time, it seemed as if the Avengers and Spider-Man were decent renditions of beat-’em-ups but didn’t quite compare to the other juggernauts of the arcades. But where these games failed, TMNT and X-men didn’t.
TMNT was the perfect example of what a great comic or superhero arcade game should be. The Turtles had the benefit of a killer cartoon show run that had the most memorable theme song in recent memory. Kids would gladly stand near the cabinet when they didn’t have the money to play just to watch the Turtles in action and to occasionally hear the theme song play as the pixelated Turtles hopped out of the sewers into action!
The appeal in this game had the Turtles using the environment to help them dispose of the Foot soldiers as various items around could be used to smack the Foot soldiers against or with. The fast paced music that seemed to wonderfully score the Turtle action also made watching the green team leap and kick their way through the game. This game was a blast to watch and play. Little kids would always crowd around these cabinets as people played talking about their favorite Turtle or attempting to tell the player what they should do to beat each of the bosses. Ah… great times!
I remember always wanting to play as Donatello as his bo staff was able to smack home-runs with Foot soldiers up against nearby walls which defeated them pretty quickly. Fighting up against all of the bosses (Bebop and Rocksteady, among others) from the TV show as well added to the “I’m a Turtle” appeal for the game as well. Cowabunga indeed!
But where the Turtles had 4 characters, the X-Men had many different-sized teams. Though the team they picked wasn’t perfect, it worked quite well in arcades filled with mutant-loving geeks!
Okay, I know you’re thinking… why Dazzler? Okay. I am as well. Somehow, the selection didn’t bother anyone thanks to the fun-time gameplay. As I said before, having any kind of game that put the X-men front and center in the arcade was a welcomed thing. Captain America had a fun brawler by Data East and Spider-Man even had a good brawler in the same spirit by Sega. All of that superhero goodness begged for a quality representation of Wolverine at the very least.
So as these cabinets dominated arcades across the land, one thing was for sure…the X-men were a force to be reckoned with! That same year (1992) saw the debut of the X-men Animated Series. To this day, it was clear that this edition of the X-men was one of the most accurate and lovable to date due to how closely the cartoon stayed towards the comic book stories. Kids would watch the show and then run to the arcades to play their favorite X-men.
Of course, this X-men cabinet was a bit different from all the other co-op coin cabinets of superheroes before. This one hit arcades with a massive two screen display that held tall close-ups of each of the heroes. It allowed six people to be able to play together at the same time! Having a full team when playing was a site to behold that even Gauntlet couldn’t compare to. The screen would get super busy, of course, but as beat-’em-ups go, this was a huge draw!
Oddly enough, Colossus and Dazzler weren’t big time favorites when I played. Many other gamers hated Colossus’ regular punching attack as it looked as if he was jabbing with his off hand. It didn’t have much reach so the feeling of being the powerhouse of the team wasn’t quite there. His ‘mutant power’ was decent as it was a huge area electrical surge about him that cleared the riff raff. Dazzler was okay with her mutant power since it threw an energy grenade on the ground. Still, her regular attack left much to be desired as she had a short range axe kick that never seemed to hit when you needed it to.
Favorites were Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Cyclops as their mutant powers seemed easy to control accurately and their regular attacks seemed to have a decent range. Nightcrawler would hop on top of downed enemies while Wolverine would claw them from above. Cyclops had a legendary eye beam attack that always got the job done when it came to packing a punch against bosses. Nightcrawler’s teleport surge sped across the room to do a lot of crowd clearing along with a well needed knockdown against bosses. Wolverine’s attack was more of an across the screen Guile sonic boom that typically worked out pretty well. These three were always missed in play sessions where a full team wasn’t possible.
Boss battles didn’t seem very hard once all six X-men were in the game. It was typically easy to beat the game with a full squad. Less than that could prove a little bit challenging though. The same could be said for TMNT as well. Most bosses could be knocked down to give the team the chance to set up for a well placed mutant power attack and then once they were almost dead, their attack patterns usually changed and got a bit harder. The Blob always felt like the easiest to defeat while Juggernaut and Living Monolith were difficult as well. For some reason, though, you never really fought Sentinels. The Foot soldiers you battled were basically man-sized versions of sentinels but they were nowhere near as difficult as the comics portrayed the legendary Sentinels.
Still, the appeal was being able to have the full teams on the screen for whichever game you played. Looking back, I didn’t really realize how bad the music was for the X-men, and that the cut scenes felt really hokey. Again, TMNT didn’t have that problem but somehow both cabinets were always a welcome sight when the quarters were flowing. A quick 15 to 20 minute session could easily beat each of these games and the difficulty felt like it was just right.
I’m certain Konami made out like fat rats on these cabinets as they were a mainstay in arcades for quite some time.