X-Men Legends - Reader Retroview  

Call All X-Men!
by JCServant

Click here for game information
Less than 20 Hours
+ Slashing people is always fun
+ Flexible leveling system
+ Familiar themes for comic fans
- Poor quality FMV
- Story is cliché
- X-Men lack detail
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   When I was a wee lad, I used to run to the convenience store each month to buy the newest X-Men comics that I could find. I love the artwork, exciting stories, and of course, the characters. I would often imagine myself having such cool powers. I may have aged a bit since those days, but I still love the X-Men. While I do not collect the comics, I definitely jump at any chance to watch any new movies or, in this case, play one of their videogames.

   X-Men Legends follows the action / RPG formula found in similar popular games such as Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath. You start off the game playing Wolverine, sent on a mission to save a young lady who was recently discovered to have powerful mutant abilities. After saving her, you follow her growth into the role of an X-Man as she watches, and helps them deal with a growing threat from an old enemy. Needless to say, the story is not very original if you have ever read a few X-Men comic books or seen any of their cartoons or movies. However, by speaking with the various X-Men around the mansion in between missions, you can find some interesting interactions and even an occasional ‘flashback’ mission, which allows you to play out important event in the X-Men’s past.

   With the camera above you in an isometric point of view, you use the left analogue stick to move your heroes around. The face buttons control normal attacks and jump, while special attacks are executed by holding a shoulder button and one of the face buttons at the same time. With a simple button press you can change which of your team members you currently control. Normally you run with four X-Men at a time. However, you can switch your team members out with any of your reserve X-Men at any of the extraction points. Including a few secret characters, you can have over a dozen X-Men. Aside from standard and powered attacks, you can pull off combos by timing your special attacks with your team members, resulting in bonus damage. Finally, “X-Treme” attacks are limited, powerful attacks typically damaging all foes on the screen.

“Excuse me, but can you tell me the fastest way to get past this ugly cut scene?” “Excuse me, but can you tell me the fastest way to get past this ugly cut scene?”

   Combat is fast and furious. You will fight multiple foes at the same time with your group of mutants. Foes include famous faces from the X-Men’s gallery of rogues such as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the Sentinels. You can quickly use potions to replenish your health or energy (which oddly enough seems more in place in a fantasy RPG such as Final Fantasy than X-Men). Gameplay can be a little imbalanced with certain foes and bosses being much more difficult than others. One boss in the middle, in particular, had me reaching for a hint guide to figure out what was keeping him alive.

   As with most action / RPG games, looting also plays an important role. Each X-Man can equip three different pieces of armor. They provide bonus to stats and powers. Again, balancing issues plague this system. Several pieces of armor I found end up becoming much more important in the end than other, similar level items. Since there was no early indication that one may need those particular pieces over others, I could certainly see players selling them non-discriminately, and later facing a much more difficult end-game. Despite these gripes, I enjoyed combat for the most part. Each X-Man has his or her own unique attacks and power sets. In battle, many of the powers hit hard as you expect them too, with combo attacks feeling particularly gratifying.

   As you level, you can distribute points into various attributes for each X-Man. Furthermore, you are given a point each level to choose a new power, or upgrade a current one. In a normal play through, you will not have enough points to fully upgrade and choose every power, so you need to choose carefully. Interestingly enough, even X-Men who normally attack from a distance have melee attack upgrade options. You truly have a lot of ways to create your X-Men dream team. X-Men who are not participating in battle still gain experience points, so they are rarely more than two levels below your favorite team members. This adds flexibility to change your teams often when you start getting bored.

“We lost an engine.  Now don’t panic.  Those of you who fly will be just fine.  The rest of you… God speed.” “We lost an engine. Now don’t panic. Those of you who fly will be just fine. The rest of you… God speed.”

   The story reveals itself through in game cut scenes throughout each mission, and some full motion video. Unfortunately, neither looks good up close. The full motion video reminds me of some of the stuff I would see on the Playstation 1. It lacks detail and the awe factor that FMV usually invokes. And, as an action RPG, X-Men Legend’s character detail is understandably lacking. You don’t need to see facial detail when you are fighting a half dozen bad guys from an isometric point of view. However, this same engine is used during many of the up-close interactions used to move the plot. Unfortunately, the beauty and attractiveness of the comic book artwork is replaced with blocky, stale polygons. As a further offense, the characters are in their newer, more monochrome uniforms, making it a little more difficult to differentiate them.

   Thankfully, you spend most of the game fighting. There, the graphics hold up their end fine, though they do not totally impress. A lot of the graphics are reused and recycled in different areas. However, they do the job, and everything moves smoothly. Sounds effects are equally adequate with explosions, and powers sounding as you expect. I enjoyed most of the voice acting. The characters say things as certain actions are taken, and they sound good (though it can get a little grating if you play the same characters for too long.) I give a big thumbs-up to Patrick Steward who did a great job reprising his role from the movies as Professor X.

   The game clocked in around 15 hours for me. It ended at a good time, as I felt if it was much longer, the gameplay would have not held up. While some items, powers and foes were annoyingly imbalanced, most of the combat and character growth elements were satisfying. Some of the graphics and FMV disappointed me, but the voice acting and a few hidden surprises made me smile. This game supports a second player, which, like similar games, enhances the overall experience significantly as they go through the campaign with you. If you are an X-Men fan with a passing interest in action RPGs, you will have a good time here. Other RPGamers may still pick up this now bargain priced adventure for a nice break from the standard swords & sorcery epic.

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