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One to six players can play at once depending on the cabinet setup (the six player version featured multiple screens set vertically reflected by mirrors to the player). Players can choose to be different members of the X-Men, choosing between Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, or Dazzler. Each character had a basic attack they could combo, the ability to jump, and a character-specific mutant ability that would damage all enemies on the screen. Players can attack enemies while downed, as well as change the type of attack depending on the direction of movement. Each member of the X-Men also had different characteristics to their movement and attack abilities ( Nightcrawler can change direction while jumping, Colossus cannot but has a stronger attack).
The game played in a traditional brawler style. Players would fight hundreds of Sentinels and other weaker enemies, eventually fighting a X-Men Universe villain as a boss at the end of each stage. The sprites and animations of the characters were based on a pilot X-Men TV episode from 1989 produced by Toei. The X-Men arcade game served as a continuation of the plot of the episode, wherein Kitty Pryde and Professor Charles Xavier are kidnapped by Magneto and are rescued by the X-Men.
At New York Comic Con 2010, it was announced at the Marvel Games panel that it would be re-released in HD in downloadable format for the Xbox 360 and PS3. The game has 6 player Online co-op and 4 player local play on 360, while the PS3 version has six player co-op for both online and local play. It also feature online leaderboards, HD menus and drop-in drop-out co-op for online and local play. Players also have multiple difficulty levels to choose from, a feature not available in the arcade version without access to the service menu. This game was released on both platforms on December 15, 2010 and costs $9.99/800 Microsoft points.