Retro Replay: X-Men Legends

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X-Men Legends is an action-RPG title that I always described as a dungeon crawler, which is fitting considering how many people compare it to Diablo and Gauntlet with superheroes. The story sees Marvel’s titular mutants going on various missions around the globe to try and uncover the plots of a large anti-mutant group and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The plot was written by writers who had actually worked in comics and it was decided that many of the sections would be told through the perspective of a new mutant, Magma. Allison Crestmere (a.k.a Amara Olivians) first appeared as a lava-slinging heroine in New Mutants #8, back in 1983, and the character was seen as a good fresh face for the game and new fans. This title allows the player to control up to fifteen classic characters from the comics. It is one of the few games that will let someone play as Professor X—even if only on the astral plane—and I didn’t know until researching recently that Angel was supposed to be a part of the cast, but was cut late in development.

The art for this game looks fantastic, especially for the time, with cel-shaded character models and costumes that are based off of the Ultimate line of comics, but there are classic uniforms for the X-Men that can be unlocked. Loading screens come often, but they bring some fun images with them as well, and there are collectibles for more art if players just can’t get enough. The heroes inhabit varying stages that range from noon day city streets and sewers to outer space and otherworldly planes. Many of these backgrounds feel like they come straight from the panels and although they aren’t detailed, seem right for the characters to fight in. My favorite part might have been the mansion. Xavier’s Institute acts as a hub for talking to NPCs and starting missions, but players can also re-watch cutscenes, do scenarios in the Danger Room, or do the comics quiz for extra XP—there were a few questions that even I didn’t know. I just enjoyed exploring the area though, because I felt like I was finally in this place I knew so well from the comics and cartoons, running into characters I loved just hanging out in the hallways. That may have been me getting too into the RP side of the game though…

X-Men Assemble

X-Men Legends Team

The voice acting kind of helps with that. It isn’t great all around, but I enjoyed hearing certain characters that didn’t get much time in other mediums brought back to life, and hearing Patrick Stewart as Professor X again was a treat. Magma as well, as she is voiced by a veteran in the field, Cree Summer, who many will know from Inspector Gadget and Tiny Toon Adventures. This is also the first time that Steve Blum took up the role of Wolverine.

I am a big fan of the way the game plays. The controls are good, with the exception of how to activate focus packs on the Gamecube, because it just ends up using a health by accident and then I have to try pressing both buttons again to get the energy I needed urgently several seconds ago. I recommend the controls on Xbox more because each pack type has its own button, and some will say that is the best version of the game overall.

Still A Challenge 

One of the coolest parts of these games is assembling the team. I, the kid who read about all of these characters and constantly imagined MY team of X-Men, could now do that in this game. This whole time, I wanted to be in control of the comic, and this is pretty close. I put together some of my favorites from the roster and get to level them up and choose their abilities. I love the stat system, but think it needs a little more refining and detail. Like how many of the powers and abilities are the same mechanic re-skinned, or when some stats don’t seem to have much effect and aren’t worth upping. Knowing which characters to take on any given mission and how they work together is important. I kind of hate that the game pushes players to use certain X-Men because their abilities are needed for environmental interactions or obstacles, meaning players will need to equip them or go back to get them.

The game can be tough, especially if your partners die, and the AI does that a lot. They hurt themselves, and I couldn’t get them to heal on their own, even though there are options for that. It is easy to agro too many mobs and be overwhelmed, forcing the player to quickly switch between each character and heal them. Not only will your partners kill themselves by standing in things and not using defensive abilities, but they block doors and other pathways as well, creating bottlenecks that get people killed. What is important is learning how to level quickly—thank you Leadership—use the team combo powers, and realizing which enemies are resistant to what so the proper ones can be taken out first. It is also easily to get lost in the stages and end up fighting every enemy, just trying to figure out where the objective is.

I of course recommend playing this with friends if possible, as it is a fun four player drop-in-drop-out game. It can obviously be a bit repetitive, due to the simplistic attack controls and how the combat works. Not to mention that almost every mission involves running off to rescue someone. It’s a long game, which is partially part of the problem, as I think a shorter adventure may encourage more replay value. With all of its problems though, I still find myself talking X-Men Legends up to people, and one day, I’m hoping to talk about the sequel and how it improved on the design.

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One who writes for different places, waking up late in the day to struggle with commas, broken controllers, and nightmares of Silent Hill and Yo! Noid.