The X-Men is an awesome group of superheroes, no one really denies that. Unfortunately most of the games they’ve been featured in the past have been less then stellar. There have been the somewhat enjoyable 2D sidescrolling games and such, and the rather entertaining arcade machine. But when it comes to an overall feeling, X-Men games just haven’t truly captured that particular comic book universe. To be brutally honest, most X-Men games really could only be enjoyed by the most hardcore fans of the comic book team. This however, dramatically changed with the release of X-Men Legends. Raven Software was indeed taking a risk pitting a comic book superhero team into a role-playing environment, but someone finally got the formula right!
Alison Crestmere is an 18 year old girl who all of a sudden discovers that she has the power to create lava and control boulders. This suddenness causes the Brotherhood of Mutants to strike. For whatever reason, Mystique, Blob and Pyro of the Brotherhood attempt to kidnap this young lady in BROAD daylight. This boldness beckons the call of a certain X-Man in the ever popular Wolverine!
Wolverine takes the streets in pursuit of Blob who is on fast tracks to get this girl out of the area, and he has plenty of Brotherhood supporters to deal with! So your first mission is simple, find Blob, find Alison and find out why the Brotherhood tried to kidnap her in broad daylight!
X-Men Legends is a game that you can either play by yourself or with up to 3 additional people. So a human player can actually take control of one of whatever available X-Men there are for your team. Unfortunately the first mission only focuses on Wolverine for about 90% of it until you meet up with Cyclops. Then two people can play the game, but only until the second mission after you go through the X Mansion with Alison do you have at least four team members at your disposal. This can indeed frustrate some people who want to play, so it’s almost best for you to go through the first mission all by yourself to avoid the boredom of your friends.
But once you get through the first action packed mission with Wolverine and Cyclops, it’s an absolutely blast to play from then on in!
One of the many beauties of X-Men Legends is the fact that it takes little time to learn all the main controls of the game!
You have two main buttons for melee attacks, one button for jumping, one for opening doors and accessing new areas and then various two button combinations to regenerate team members and use their various powers!
It’s safe to say that after about a half hour or so you really should be quite familiar with all the game’s main controls. Plus if you read the instruction booklet beforehand, then it might take little more than ten minutes to be able to play the game well. There really isn’t much else to say here, the game is just easy to learn, and that’s a great thing!
This is one of the biggest areas in which Raven Software truly shined in developing this game. X-Men Legends sports a very cel-shaded type of graphical layout that really does a superb job of making the player feel like he or she is truly experiencing the comic book universe of the X-Men.
Now what makes it even more unique is the fact that many of the character avatar designs were created to be sort of “modernized” in a way that isn’t a direct copy of the comic book/tv characters. None of the X-Men are wearing any “special” costume they might be wearing in the comics or on tv, they each have their own unique set of apparel. Now that doesn’t go to say that some of the costumes they wear don’t mirror the look of their comic book or tv counterpart, because some actually do. But the sort of comic book and modern feel of their looks really make them just look great and independent.
Then there are the little things that are apparent with some of the X-Men members which just makes you proud of Raven Software that much more for working hard! Each distinct claw of Wolverine’s is easily seen in this game, and watching the animation of them going in and out of his hands is pretty darn cool! Then you also have others like Cyclops’ “visor” in which he projects his eye beam attack through. You also have Colossus’ “metal-like” body and even the “devil-like” tail of Nightcrawler. The attention to detail of each X-Men member featured in this game is just amazing in certain regards. The only thing that really could be thought of as disappointing is when the characters actually talk to each other, their mouths never move, and that’s something Raven really should’ve done to make the experience even that much more immersive.
But when the characters talk in the game’s various FMV sequences, their mouths move! Oh yes, X-Men Legends is probably one of the best games available on the GameCube when it comes to the right number of quality FMV sequences! There are probably around 15-20 of them total, with some lasting around ten seconds to the longest lasting around 45 seconds give or take. That is definitely a great thing Raven did because with the number of missions and how long they are in this game, the FMVs do absolutely nothing but make the experience even more enjoyable! They did a great job deciding when and where to put these sequences to give a nice graphical flair of a plot push to the game and they most certainly won’t disappoint! The best ones are probably near the end of the game, but each one has something unique to bring, and are enjoyable to watch!
When it comes to special effects, they are just as much eye candy as the characters and environments are! Whether it’s the very powers that your X-Men team members display on a certain mission to the various effects that you see from nature like fire, they all look superb! It would be a lie to say that it’s not great to see every time that Cyclops lets go one of his optic beams or Storm lets loose a nice lightning bolt or tornado. Even seeing the “color blur” effects of Wolverine’s claws or Magma’s fiery melee attacks will make you drool as an X-Men fan! The water, ice and fire effects in this game are truly impressive as well. Fire and water are two elements that you will encounter a lot during your adventure and the realistic yet comic book look of each are almost incomparable! X-Men Legends is definitely a game that satisfies the every day special effects junkie!
Finally, we have the best part of the game which is downright impressive on all levels, your environments! There are so many different unique areas in this game that it can truly blow your mind. X-Men Legends will take you from the very streets of New York City, to the infamous X Mansion to even one of the largest aircraft carriers available to the military!
The attention to detail in each environment is absolutely astounding. The name of game of X-Men Legends is interactive destruction! That’s right, every single environment you encounter in this game has countless things that you can destroy as you please! This can be anything from simple wooden crates to benches, trash cans, computer equipment and factory equipment! The possibilities are virtually endless, and that’s part of what makes this game so much fun! What makes it even better is that you’re encouraged to destroy your environment since you can find hidden pieces of equipment and regenerative items within the very things that you can destroy! So when you’re done going through this game for the first time, chances are you’ve destroyed millions if not billions of dollars worth of materials and equipment!
Now when it comes to what you can actually see in your various environments, the impressive level is still very much there. One of the areas that you will encounter quite a bit throughout your environment is the very headquarters of the X-Men, the X Mansion! The “worldly” name of this institute is the “Xavier Institute of Higher Learning” which makes it look like a prep school to the outside world, but the main purpose of the facility is to help any and all mutants realize the extent of their powers and how to control them! Professor Xavier (or Professor X as some call him) is the “unofficial leader” of the X-Men and a mentor to all the young mutants going through his program. But with that aside, the attention to every little detail in this place is jaw dropping. Outside you have your various gardens, an Olympic sized pool, a basketball court and a beautiful lawn! Inside you have various rooms like the kitchen, a dining room, a game room, a classroom and even Professor Xavier’s office! Upstairs are two hangout areas and the various dormitories that are designated to each member of the X-Men team! Then below you have the Subbasement which is incredibly impressive because it really mirrors that of the one in the movies and comics! You have a very authentic looking Cerebro, the X-Jet hanger (although the X-Jet in this game looks more like a stealth B-2 bomber), the laboratory that Beast loves the work out of, the War Room that starts all briefings and missions and even the very infirmary that Jean Grey uses to treat the X-Men for their various conditions!
Really the only thing that could be said disappointing about this game along with the characters’ mouth not moving to the dialogue is there could be more X-Men! Now there are actually 15 playable X-Men characters once you get to the final mission of the game, but in a universe that is as expansive as the X-Men’s and how cool each individual member is, there should be as many as possible! The more X-Men and their powers to look at the better! But in an overall sense, the graphics in this game simply couldn’t be more impressive. The attention to detail with all the environments and characters along with the “interactive destruction” that is featured with each environment is enough to satisfy any action RPG fan!
X-Men Legends is obviously an action packed RPG. The music was composed to deliver on that feeling. Virtually every mission that you’re involved in has very dramatic and upbeat music that will keep the pace of action going until you see the very words “Mission Complete” on the screen. Now while it’s all good and dandy that the music is indeed that way, the sad thing about it is a lot of it tends to be repeated. There really are only a few generic themes that were made for this game, and chances are after the first few missions, you will have heard them all. That is because each time you transition into the next newest area of a certain mission, the music tends to change. Now that is definitely a good thing since it gives you something different to listen to, but after a while you tend to just ignore it and focus on beating the living daylights out of the people trying to take you out!
The music is definitely well suited for whatever you’re doing, because whenever the action picks up, it tends to increase in tempo and dramatic feel, but there really could’ve been more variety to it. Really the X-Mansion is the only location that has a slightly different mood when it comes to the musical theme. But since you hear it every time you have to navigate through it with Alison, it almost defeats the purpose. That doesn’t go to say that it’s not nice to listen to, but when it comes to variety in the music overall, this game is somewhat lacking.
But where the music is lacking, the sounds and voiceovers definitely make up for it! When thinking of what GameCube games have superb voice acting, games like MGS: The Twin Snakes, Tales of Symphonia and Second Sight come to mind. Well, X-Men Legends can just as easily join those titles when it comes to the quality of the voiceovers! Each characters’ voice sounds incredibly authentic when connecting them to their comic and tv counterparts. Wolverine has his “gruff and aggressive” sounding voice that sounds like he wants to tear you apart. Cyclops has his rather “nerdy yet intelligent” sounding voice. Even the various accents that some of the characters carry like Rogue’s southern accent and Nightcrawler’s German accent are truly evident in their dialogue! Raven should be commended for choosing the right people to voice these characters because there isn’t one that seems a little off or out of place, it’s virtually perfect! Heck, even Patrick Stewart who’s played Professor X in the X-Men movies provided his voice for this game, it’s just awesome to hear that!
As for actual sound effects, there are PLENTY of them in this game, and they do nothing but wow you at times! When you have a team like Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Magma, there tend to be a lot of explosions and stuff being destroyed. Well when a big combo is executed and there’s a lot of destructible things in the area, you tend to hear a big “bang” when that happens. In the latter levels, there’s plenty of chances for this to happen and it’s great to hear! Even the powers themselves have really cool sounds. If you’ve seen the tv shows or the movies and know the sound of Wolverine’s claws coming out, it’s the EXACT same sound! Storm’s lightning bolt and tornado powers have sounds too, and they sound just like they might in real life! The only real downside to the sounds deals with the voices in missions. Each character has those beloved preset one-liners that just get repetitive after a while. Now that doesn’t go to say they’re not entertaining, because they really can add to the experience. But once you get to a certain point in the game, they become pointless rhetoric. There’s just something about one-liners that never seem to come off well in a game, so developers really should either do away with them or come up with a lot more.
X-Men Legends runs on a real-time and active battle engine. That basically means that action is taking place at every second because you’re always doing something. Whether it’s navigating your team through a certain area, doing battle with the Brotherhood’s minions or learning more about the story of the game in the X Mansion!
Four members of the X-Men will be active during each mission and you have 15 to choose from. Members like Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey and many others are at your disposable. Unfortunately for all the missions you pretty much have to stick with who you choose as your beginning four for a good while. That’s because the only way you can actually exchange members of your current team for new ones is through the Extraction Points. These are basically big blue circles with X’s inside of them where you have the option of saving, changing your team, visiting the Danger Room and eventually two people that you can purchase goods from. These can be far and few between in certain missions, so if you want to use all the X-Men in the game, you will have to find good combinations quickly or else it really isn’t any use.
But with that small issue aside, the actual game itself is simply a blast to play. Each X-Men member has his or her own unique powers according to the comics, tv and movies and they all feel incredibly authentic! Wolverine has his slashes of rage with his adamantium claws, Cyclops has the beams that come out of his eyes, Storm has her weather-based powers and so on. Each power is access through the use of the R button being held and either of the four face buttons. The A and B powers tend to be the more offensive minded ones, the X power tends to be a defensive or offensive boost and the Y power is the ultimate power for that particular member that can be unlocked at level 15. As pertaining to experience, your members gain it by both defeating your onscreen enemies as well as completing the mission objectives. What’s crazy about that is during the last few missions of the game, you can receive upwards of 5,000,000 XP for simply completing one objective!
As for characters leveling up, that can only be done in the actual Character menu accessed through the pause menu. Then you access the “details” of each individual member and you can either assign the points that you received through the level up manually depending on how you want that member to be or you can simply hit Y for an auto level up which the computer handles for you. It’s really best to do it manually as tedious as it can be simply so you have the party like you want it to be. Plus it can be fun to choose which particular power or power boosting stat will receive the upgrades and experiment with it a little bit!
Then depending upon whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends, the characters’ heads will be displayed on a HUD in the bottom left of the screen. If you are playing by yourself, you can actually take control of whoever you wish by simply pressing the D pad direction of the character’s respective position on the HUD. But if you have others playing with you it doesn’t really matter since you only control your own character.
Now as for the combos that was briefly mentioned before, these are actually very important to focus on during battle. Combos are done between two members of your team, and it can be any of them. Now it actually isn’t as difficult as it might seem as first. All you really have to do is perform one of your powers while another member performs his or hers around the same time on one particular enemy and the damage inflicted by both will combine into one massive attack that is given a cool name with extra damage and bonus experience! Some of the best combos in the game come from the work of Wolverine and Storm. Metal and electricity is a deadly combination for just about anything!
Now each character also had a set number of health points and energy points available to him or her. The health is obviously drained when you are attacked and the energy points are drained when you use a particular power of that character. When you are low on health and don’t have Regeneration like Wolverine, you simply hit Z to use a health pack. You can hold as many as ten at the beginning of the game and as many as 25 near the end of it. Then if you need to replenish some of your energy because you’re in a tight fight with a good number of enemies, you simply hold X and press Z to use an energy pack. Your health is noted with a red bar, your energy with a blue bar and the experience you have with a thin gray bar underneath both.
As for any downsides, there are a couple. One is that depending on how much you torture your enemies, especially with Storm’s tornado powers, they can end up caught on a wall or something like that which almost makes it impossible hit them with melee attacks. That can be annoying when it happens but thankfully it’s not very often since they quickly fall back down more often than not. Another is that the intelligence of your computer controlled players if you’re playing by yourself can be rather stupid at times. They like to stand in doorways preventing you from walking through them at times so you have to hit L to call them back. They also like to go off by themselves to fight enemies even if they have spit for health left and that can make you rather aggravated if you don’t have many health packs left. However, they do tend to be helpful more than not and it’s actually impressive at times when you thought they wouldn’t do what you would want them to.
One thing that makes all RPGs great is to have a pretty tough and memorable final boss. Well, X-Men Legends may actually surprise you with who the actual final boss is. Because the second you think you know who it is, you are actually incorrect. The final boss of this game can be quite tough if you’re not careful and don’t have the right people fighting alongside you. It also doesn’t help that you have to fight off about 20 of the toughest enemies in the game to actually even get it to show up first. Then by the time that happens you’re down to your last few health packs and energy packs so you’re already in a tight knit. But the final boss does bring a nice, hefty challenge while not being ridiculously difficult. The ending cutscene is always pretty cool although a little short, but at least it provides insight into the sequel of this game, Rise of Apocalypse!
The X-Men universe is quite expansive, and so is this game. There are plenty of things that can make you want to play this game over again. One is the fact that it’s just so darn fun to play either by yourself or with your friends who love RPGs and the X-Men! Another is that there is an area in the X Mansion called the Danger Room that was briefly mentioned in the gameplay section. This is where you can train your team in various scenarios that you unlock by finding “Danger Room Discs” that are hidden throughout each mission. They each bring their own challenge and you are awarded not only experience for your efforts, but you can get your health and energy packs back since they drop quite frequently in these scenarios! This area can be accessed either in the mansion, through the various Extraction Points or even the main start menu of the game! There are also features you can unlock like the Extreme Costumes for each member of the X-Men and that’s downright cool! So there are things that should motivate you to go through the game at least twice if not more, and therefore it’s a great RPG because of that!
Raven Software is probably the first developer to finally get the formula for a quality X-Men game correct. They are to be commended for their efforts and this goes in hoping their sequel Rise of Apocalypse will be even better than this game! The cel-shaded look that gives this game the comic book look it was intended for is jaw droppingly detailed in virtually every aspect possible. The characters and environments are simply awesome to look at and there’s no arguing that. The music, while repetitive, suits the entire game and really helps keep the action going. The voiceovers are absolutely incredible with each character having awesome people backing up their role. The sound effects are very nice to listen to, and the explosions will always put a smile on your face. The gameplay, while some of it can be tedious, is really rather intuitive and experiencing every X-Man is as entertaining as can be! All this combined with great replay value makes this to be a must own RPG for all fans of the genre and fans of the X-Men!