X-Men: Mutant Academy Review
The X-Men comic book series is without a doubt the biggest domestic comic book franchise that Stan Lee or any other artist has created. Cyclops is the leader of the X-Men, he possesses the power to shoot laser beams out of his eyes. Storm she is the god of wind, she possesses the power to control the climate and weather. Gambit (my personal favorite) has the power to charge up any object with kinetic energy and when the object is thrown, it explodes on contact. Wolverine (another fave) has no real powers except the ability to retract bone claws out of his hand and his whole body is made out of adamantium steel and technically he can never be killed. Beast is the most unusual X-Men and you can't help but feel sorry for him. Beast was exposed to an enormous amount of radiation, though it didn't affect him mentally, his whole body mutated in the form of a blue 'beast'. Beast is arguably one of the strongest X-Men. Phoenix (Jean-Grey), the wife of Cyclops (Scott Summers) has telekinetic powers which allows her to move objects out of the way and even an annoying human being. Telepathy helps her read other people's minds.
Take it for what it is, but you know you loved watching X-Men on Saturday morning, anxiously waiting for that moment when Wolverine would beat the snot out of Sabretooth or Cyclops destroying a Sentinel's leg. It seemed as if everywhere you go and everything you do revolved around the X-Men, they were never as big as Pokemon but they were always popular and not just a short term hot thing. Comic books, lunch boxes, stickers, shirts, TV show, toys and videogames where the biggest highlights, a comic book cartoon has never been praised this much before. For awhile the X-Men craze calmed down the cartoon show stopped airing but the videogames were still pouring in, and now all of a sudden a blockbuster movie is announced and it will be based on none other than the X-Men! What has been my wish for years has finally come true, a movie is being made out of the X-Men, dazzling special effects, original cast of X-Men characters (though I haven't seen Gambit or Beast around) and the same old X-Men action that we grew up with. But where are the videogames based on the name? Though there is no specific adventure game based on X-Men: The Movie, Activision has you covered with their very first Playstation X-Men fighting game. And now without further a dou' I present the beginning of my X-Men: Mutant Academy review, see if this title is worth $40 when it launches on the 19th of July.
Capcom's X-Men games have always been 2D, X-Men: Children of the Atom started everything, the game had a hearty list of X-Men characters, everybody from Wolverine, to Juggernaut to Iceman. Later we saw X-Men vs. Street Fighter, which I always felt was inspired by Akuma's appearance in Children of the Atom, following that was Marvel vs. Street Fighter, after that was Marvel vs. Capcom and finally arrived Marvel vs. Capcom 2 which is currently available on DC. For some reason I have the urge to compare Marvel vs. Capcom 2 to Mutant Academy, both have a majority of the X-Men characters right? So why not. Visually MvC2 brings the more comic book feel, while X-Men: Mutant Academy brings out the more cinematic and realistic feel of the characters. It's a tough call between the two but I think I would prefer a 3D X-Men character over a 2D one, mainly because I've been there and seen that. Don't get me wrong although MvC2 has much superior visuals to X-Men, I just prefer 3D fighting gameplay over 2D now a days, or if possible a mixture of both (a'la Street Fighter).
The visuals in X-Men have been worked on a lot over the past two years. There was a lot of trouble with the game and Activision hired Paradox to re-create the whole game engine from scratch. As progress continued and more and more screens were released, my excitement was building drastically, the day when the demo of X-Men arrived and we delivered new shots that was the day that I knew X-Men would be a blockbuster on the videogame charts. X-Men's character detail portrayed each mutant very accurately, though not very comic book seeming like Capcom's games, the X-Men truly never looked better. Body structures are solid, no clipping, no flickery characters, and best of all the joints are all smooth and connected. The backgrounds are definitely not as mind-boggling as MvC2 but for PS visuals they certainly aren't bad. Some backdrops you will see Sentinel's flying around, others space rockets getting ready to fire and even Professor X moving in the window. All of these little details make X-Men one of the more prettier titles to look at. CG animation is breathtaking, Paradox's CG animators have certainly gone near and far to give this game one mighty nice polish in the visual area, we'll let the screens finish the job.
X-Men's gameplay is on a two dimensional plane, meaning that you are still only allowed to move back and forward, but the characters are 3D structures. Instead of the usual super attack followed by super attack extravaganza, X-Men plays it cool. To master this title you have to go through many training sessions, this is in no way as easy to pick up as any of those Capcom games, no sir Bob. Each fighter in X-Men has different methods of pulling off a move or a super move for that matter, playing in Academy mode (training area) a lot will get you acquainted with these moves. Like any other fighter on the market, X-Men characters have their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Cyclops is an average fighter will excellent range, good speed and strength but minimal healing. While a character like Wolverine has perfect speed, healing, and excellent strength, he has bad range. Character strengths also reflect on your style of fighting, picking a character like Beast will show that you are more of the tactical fighter, while a fighter like Magneto or Gambit will show that you are always ready to attack. X-Men: Mutant Academy has a pretty good counter system which works by tapping the counter button. So when Phoenix is pummeling away on you you can always tap the counter button precisely and she will be flying across the screen.
X-Men's character selection may not be as impressive as a Capcom game, but it is still good. Ten X-Men characters are available, five from the start and then the other five are unlocked by beating the game a few times. But the heart of X-Men doesn't lie in opening characters, actually the heart of X-Men's replay value lies in the Cerebro mode. This is the mode where you view all of the goodies that you have unlocked from Survival mode, Academy mode and Arcade mode. You have two different endings to unlock for each character, one from completing Arcade and the other from Academy. The game is jam packed with FMVs, CGs and pictures straight out of the comic books that also have to be unlocked, even an awesome trailer of X-Men the movie is included, thankfully its open right away. There are so many more things to be said about X-Men, but I think I covered the all of the big topics.
The tunes in X-Men: Mutant Academy are nothing like you've heard before. Instead of lounge music, gamers will fight along with techno beats that really set the mood of the battle. Voices by actual X-Men voice actors have been added to the game, everybody from Professor X to Wolverine have voice acting sequences. The sound is a very good category in X-Men, I like the techno songs and the great voices.
Controlling your X-Man is quite simplistic and easy since your fighting plane is 2D. But pulling off their moves can be a bit tricky if you've been playing nothing but Capcom titles. The Academy mode will teach you how to pull off every Super and Special with your desired character. The three bars are also used for three different types of Super Attacks. The first bar is for the weakest attack, the second bar is for the second attack that can be powered up, and the third is for the supreme attack. And did I mention that you can also use either analog stick to fight with?
X-Men has risen way beyond my expectations being one of the best fighting games that PS has to offer. Though the game may start out slow you have to climb your way up the ladder and with the rewards you are given, the climb will certainly be worth it. I have so far put over 20 hours into X-Men trying to unlock everything, including the behind the scenes footage of X-Men the movie. X-Men: Mutant Academy will be available this July 19th, make sure you pick it up.