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Look, ma! Three eyes!
By: Jeff Walker
Welcome true believers! For many of us, comic books were the first step into a life of fantastic wonderment and sometimes over-the-top storylines of evil twins, nefarious doppelgangers, and plot devices galore. For some, no comic book was more loved than that of Stan Lee's classic X-Men. Although the X-Men have spawned off into many sub-comics and spin-offs, they still are the one team of super-human mutants we all know and love. Now, they've invaded the RPG world, and this time they manage a mediocre showing at best.
One of the best and possibly worst parts of X-Men Legends comes in the form of the battle system. The best place to start when describing the battle system is to note it is a real-time system of running (or flying in three cases) around a map. Your powers and ability to attack are always available, and only disabled when you enter into a story-only area like the Mansion. Every mutant has four unique powers, but not as unique as some may like. Each power is assigned to a button on the right side of the controller and activated with the pressing of the shoulder R2 button. After you press the R2 button to bring up the mutant powers, in the left hand corner appears a diagram showing you that each button has a corresponding button on the right hand side of the pad. In the case of weather-manipulating Storm, this means the player can press 'X' and summon down lightning, 'Circle' and summon a tornado by spinning, 'Triangle' and use her super power hurricane, or 'Square' and protect herself with a wind armor. In the case of scrapper Wolverine, 'X' brings a quick 3-strike attack, 'Circle' is another mighty claw attack, 'Triangle' makes him attack viciously, and 'Square' enters him into a controllable 'berserk' rampage. All 'triangle' attacks require an extreme power token, gained by fighting enemies. The player can see when they have these tokens at the bottom of the screen.
There is a lot more to the combat than just running around using your powers, though. Each mutant has the ability to take one of three "trees" of combat using the main stats: Strike, Body, Agility, or Focus. The first “tree” is to heavily rely on just combat, throwing more of your stats into attack stats Strike (Attack power) and Body (HP). The second path is the path of a mutant power user, putting more stats into Agility (Defense) and Focus (MP). The third, and obvious, path would be a hybrid, putting stats into everything for an all-around attacker and ranger. After you decide your status points, you then get to decide your powers. As stated above, you can use mutant powers by selecting them from a menu and putting 2 skill points to activate them, and 1 skill point to upgrade them. You cannot, however, choose a skill that is outside of your range. On the list are 4 mutant powers with 3 upgrades each and 1 upgrade unlocked when you reach a certain level. Below them are the status increase skills, such a skill to raise Body or Focus. Scattered for every mutant is a general mutant-specific skill, such as flyers getting a skill to help with flying taking less Focus. Others get strength increases, help with their ranged attacks, or passive healing abilities. To round out the list are melee-assistance skills, giving each mutant a physical assist by passively using their power to help.
The final parts of the combat system include the exclusively used L3 knob for movement and the ability to switch around your control using the D-Pad. To add a final depth to the combat are stage-specific areas where you can use a mutant power to trigger an action. Magma, Jean Grey, or Iceman can be used for making bridges for both assistance and to meet an objective. Storm, Cyclops, or Jubilee can weld together metal in one level. Colossus or Rogue can destroy some walls and life heavy objects to get into select areas. Jean Grey can throw objects around simply using her telekinetic mutant power. All HP and MP can be restored using capsules found during fighting.
Thankfully, the controls come as somewhat of a breeze. Fans of Square-Enix's hit Kingdom Hearts will once again be happy to know you use the L3 knob to move around. Sadly, this means you'll be running around with 3 other mutants, and sometimes you end up with the AI blocking your way. The menus are easy enough to navigate, with only minimal confusion with how to go from menu to menu. The voices and the text are almost all spot on with only a few character errors, such as Storm no longer being African, and Rogue sometimes losing her southern accent.
The originality of the game is near to nil, only reaching into the ability to review loading screens, movies, collect comics, paintings, danger room discs, and the danger room itself, which is a hotbed of experience and occasionally gives you items for rewards. The co-operative Danger Room pretty much extends to mutant(s) vs mutant(s) fun.
As for the storyline? Well, it is as weak as RPG fans have come to expect from some action RPGs. Reaching only to a bunch of missions strung together by a common objective to get to the end and fight the bad guy. The actual main storyline involves everyone's favorite comic book villain, the apparently immortal Magneto. In-between the missions, you gain a chance to talk to people in the mansion and have some elements filled in for you concerning the pasts of the characters. Almost all of these can be skipped by going to the next mission. In the end, the story is weaker than the weakest of comic book storylines.
The music is almost completely absent on the impression of this writer, which means it most likely a very generic soundtrack.
The next element on the list would be the graphics. Seen completely from one of three vantage points, the default was used for this review. The default view is an over-the-head view with your chosen mutant in front of the screen. At best look, the environments are nicely done with very few glitches concerning environment. The characters are all done in a cel-shading style that almost improves upon past cel-shaded PS2 games.. The powers all come out looking great, if not perfect, full of sparkles and flashes.
The difficulty of the game really depends on what characters you use and how you build them. In the end, though, this game certainly is not a walk in the park. However, the relative short play time makes up for the sometimes very hard missions.
To put it in simple terms, this game is a must-have for X-Men RPG fans. There is nothing more fun than playing as your favorite mutants. There is a lot to be desired when it comes to mutant powers, as the limiting to a core 3 offensive, 1 defensive power really does not do the X-Men justice. If you're looking for a game full of mutant action, then this one is for you. If you want a deep storyline, twists, turns, and an epic adventure you'd be best suited to other, more traditional RPGs.
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