My mother absolutely loved Walt Disney World, and it seemed like no more than two to three years would pass in my youth before we’d drive down to sunny Florida from buggy New Jersey yet again to spend a week walking the parks, seeing the sights, and eating like royalty. We always stayed inside Walt Disney World, but rarely at the same resort, and for all intents and purposes of today’s post I’m going to be talking about the time we stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs. I was definitely under ten years old then, but many details remain fuzzy. I do, however, remember there being an arcade at the resort, an arcade with air hockey and Pac-Man and, most importantly, an X-MEN Arcade cabinet. I think the game itself was just called X-MEN, but that can be rather misleading and generalizing so we’re tossing in arcade for good measure. So, this arcade…it used quarters, not tokens or playcards, truly a relic of the past. I never had to beg for change from my parents, and I have this sort of LOST-style flashback of myself running up to my mother on one of the bike paths, watching in boyish anticipation as she fished around in her vacation belly-bag, and pulled out a handful of quarters—all mine.
As a kid, I thought the X-Men were just the coolest. Nothing cooler than a team of crazy-looking superheroes fighting even crazier-looking supervillains, in fact. I had the comics, the collectible cards, the TV series recorded every Saturday morning. And if I had my way, I would totally have been born a Mutant. My power? A cross between Kitty Pryde and Colossus, which is funny if you know anything about their history together. I’d basically like to either phase through walls or simply bust through ’em. But yeah…videogames. The X-MEN Arcade cabinet always had a crowd thanks to its ability for six people to play at once. It was definitely the most popular cabinet at the resort’s arcade—at least in my eyes it was—but it was worth the wait.
X-MEN Arcade is the continuation of the plot from 1989’s Pryde of the X-Men, an animated film I watched so many times that the VHS tape eventually disintegrated, wherein the X-Men go after Magneto for kidnapping Professor Xavier and Shadowcat. Six characters are available to play as—Wolverine, Cyclops, Dazzler, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus—and each plays pretty much the same save for their special moves. I usually selected Nightcrawler because his superpower could easily clear the screen of enemies. However, I never completed the game in the arcade—didn’t have enough quarters, didn’t have enough other players to help out, didn’t have the skills to beat the Blob without using up all my lives. Many, many reasons. And I never did find another X-MEN cabinet back home in New Jersey, and so that was that. Other X-Men games came out, but none quite like the arcade version.
Jump ahead in time like Bishop to 2011, and I’m playing X-Men Arcade again. This time, it’s very different. It’s silly, it’s easy even on the highest difficulty setting, and it’s unbelievably short. I beat it twice so far. When I played the game in the arcade, I never got farther than beating Wendigo, and I was surprised to see there was only a couple more levels to go. You have unlimited continues, which seems weird, and each level is more or less the same: walk left to right, beat up every enemy, continue on until you hit the level’s boss. It’s a perfunctory brawler and bland, but because it’s the X-Men, I’m okay with that.
Last October, my wife and I went on our honeymoon to Walt Disney World. Amazingly, we stayed at Coronado Springs, too. Here’s us waiting for the bus:
The arcade is no longer located in the resort’s main building. Instead, it’s been moved over to one of the pool areas, and we did see signs for the arcade, but we just never got over to see it. The hot tub was too soothing, too comforting. I’d like to imagine that the X-MEN Arcade cabinet is still there, still eating quarters.
The XBLA version is both a port and completely different take on the game. Go in for nostalgia’s sake, and you’ll have a good time. Otherwise, it’s nothing amazing these days. However, the experience of playing it again some twenty years later means a lot to me. I just wish I could tell my mom how much.