Review by Skinny Pete
"This one came out of left field!"
This game was a total shocker to me. I'm in High School now, but I used to be completely obsessed with X-Men. On a recent shopping spree, I grabbed a copy of X-Men: Mutant Academy 2, hoping to get a few happy hours of pleasant nostalgia. I didn't expect a quality fighting game. Boy was I wrong!
X-Men sports a nice sized cast: Cyclops, Wolverine, Gambit, Storm, Beast, Phoenix, Toad, Mystique, Sabretooth, Magneto, Forge, Nightcrawler, Havok, and Rogue make up the standard roster. Also included are four ''hidden'' characters, including a certain wall-crawler. Also included is a special ''Pool Party'' mode...
Each character has a decent array of special moves, all simple to pull off and surprisingly pleasant to watch. Each character also has a small movie unlocked by beating arcade mode and 1 unlockable costume (to add to the two or three each character starts with). Every one of the 18 characters has specialized and often entertaining victory poses. Finally, some characters have exclusive movie art from the recent X-Men motion picture.
Graphics: The battles themselves look pretty, with cool special moves. The massive light shows characters use to batter opponents look marvelous and don't distract the player from the battle at hand. I especially enjoyed the ''Matrix''-like moves used by some players. Movies are mediocre, but capture the comic-book feel rather well. The backgrounds, however, are a tad disappointing. They're just so close to being unique, but many levels just look too similar to be impressive. Also missing is a certain level of environmental interaction. But maybe I'm just spoiled from Virtua Fighter 4...
Sound: I find it hard to rate sound, because most game music bores me. I'm the kind of person who mutes the game and pops in my trusty Linkin Park CD. XM: MA2 is no exception. Sound effects are run-of-the-mill, music is boring and monotonous. The only thing saving this game from the mute buttons was the character dialogue. Before and after each match, and during some attacks, characters spit out cheesy catch phrases. These get old fast, but the voices are perfect! From Sabretooth's raspy growl to Rogue's southern drawl, each and every voice is perfect. They are true to the comics, fit the characters, and even matched well with the short-running cartoon show. These great voices saved the game's sound from total crappiness.
This game has absolutely nothing new. The battle system is not innovative or creative in any way. Even if you've never seen X-Men before in your life, you've probably played this game. But I can say this: what the game lost in innovation, it made up in sturdy gameplay. Even though a button-mashing newbie can smash a master with one cheap move after another, there are many combos to master. Moves can be linked, and fighting is intense. This game is great to pick up and play with a friend.
The AI is solid as well. Opponents range from the nearly-comatose first round punching bag to the final ass-whupping demigod. While seasoned fighting game fans won't find much of a challenge, X-Men remains a solid fighter.
Story: What story? This game really has no story. Unlike the masterful Tekken series, this is just a bunch of mutants who feel like beating on each other. To be fair, the game is based on the premise that these mutants are coming together to learn to harness their power. But that's no story! Therefore, I really can't give this one a score. Besides, I've yet to meet a gamer who chooses a fighting game for its story.
Replayability: Okay, here's the scoop. The game has 4 modes:
Arcade: Fight your way through a series of computer opponents. At the end, watch a movie. Simple. This mode can get pretty challenging at times, so beware! This is also they way to unlock the hidden fighters.
Versus: One on one. Fight a friend or an AI opponent. Nothing special here.
Academy: Professor X teaches you all your characters moves, including some tricky combos. However, you will be scolded for insane and uncontrolled button-mashing, so follow the instructions! If you want some more freedom in your practice, you can try the Free Training part of the Academy. Completing all of a character's listed moves nets you a new costume.
Survival: Fight against an endless stream of AI opponents to see how long you can last. Points are awarded for each win. This mode houses a secret costume for one X-Woman, and is rumored to be the key to the ''Pool Party''...
Bottom line: first time through there is a ton of goodies to unlock. Once everything's open, you can continuously try to beat high scores in survival. This game is also a great two-player experience. So if you have someone to play with, you'll be hooked on this game for a while.
A solid fighter with minimum innovation, X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 is perfect for any X-Men fan (past or present) or anyone looking for a decent fighter. Hardcore gamers may want to stay away, but I recommend at least renting this great game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/15/02, Updated 04/15/02
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