Metamorphic Force is the Arcade Not-Sequel to X-Men You Never Knew About

Without question, Konami was the king of the arcade beat’em up in the 80s and 90s. Classic after classic released with that iconic squiggly Konami logo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, X-Men, (LIST OTHER GAMES HERE), and the list goes on. Sadly the decline of arcades came with the rise of home console games. As the 90s brought up the arcade experience at home on the Playstation and beyond, the time of popping quarters into a machine and getting a few minutes of entertainment was dwindling. Until semi-recently a lot of those aforementioned games remained in the arcades, never to be enjoyed by gamers unless their old Pizza Hut still had a machine up and running.

But at the very least these games got a release, arcade or otherwise. As I got older and started to branch out into game collecting and tangentially a bit of gaming history, I discovered a lot of games that are still arcade only, with no home console ports some 30 years later. Worse, there were some games that saw very limited release or no release at all. And that’s what brings me to today’s topic: Konami’s forgotten and long lost arcade beat’em up Metamorphic Force.

Release in 1993 exclusively on the Mystic Warriors arcade board (We’ll get to that one soon), Metamorphic Force is a 4-player co-op beat’em up game. The hook with this one is collecting a power-up that transforms your character into an anthropomorphic animal. You’ve got were-jaguar, were-bears, and more, one for each of the four characters. In your beefed up, totally not a rip on Altered Beast, form you deal more damage, move a bit faster, and have access to a special move that can clear a screen of enemies. Other genre staples like combo attacks, hitting enemies while they’re on the ground, environmental hazards, and more pop up as well rounding out the package. If you’re thinking this sounds incredibly familiar, that’s because it is.

I cannot stress enough how alike Metamorphic Force is with Konami’s own X-Men game. The character animations appear to be done in the exact same art style, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Movement and jumping and attacking all feel the same as well, so if you consider yourself one of Professor Xavier’s best students you’ll fit right at home helping the goddess Athena save the world. If you replaced Metamorphic Force’s characters with Wolverine, Colossus, and the rest you’d be forgiven if you thought this was some bonus stage at first glance. I do wonder if this had something to do with the game not seeing a wide release: it was perhaps too similar with X-Men that Konami may have thought the game would flop. Why play Metamorphic Force when X-Men is right there?

Well I can tell you why you should play Metamorphic Force: it’s awesome! With a group of friends and a proper emulation (or being close to one of the extremely limited physical locations that houses the cabinet) you can have a great time for an hour. If you like beat’em ups, this one is top notch. Punches have impact, the bosses give a good sense of variety, and the overall polish is excellent. Growing up and playing all of Konami’s other arcade games and loving them to death, I might be a bit biased here, but I would happily recommend the game to anyone looking to scratch that itch one more time. You can certainly do worse.

Unfortunately Konami is a shell of what it used to be: they’re still around but seem to be focusing on other ventures aside from video games these days. When they do give us a new game it’s either a compilation of past games, or something no one was really asking for. While I would be shocked if they released a brand new beat’em up in the style of these 90s classics, it wouldn’t be entirely unheard of. Tribute Games/Dotemu’s recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and Streets of Rage 4 before it proved there’s room for the genre in today’s gaming landscape. Another Simpson’s or X-Men would be absolutely amazing, but seeing how Metamorphic Force can take the concept and remove all the licensing and still give us a game worth playing is promising.

It’s a longshot, but here’s hoping the future is bright for retro arcade beat’em ups!


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– Jason J

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