Review By: Siou Choy
legions of X-men and fighting game fans who found yourself
disappointed (to say the least) by last year’s X-Men:
Mutant Academy, listen up: I have some very good news for
you. X-Men 2: Mutant Academy is here, and guess what?
Activision has gotten it right at last (well, almost). While far
from perfect (it’s no Marvel vs. Capcom, that’s for sure),
this sucker more than makes up for the less than stellar fighter
weighting down the shelves of video game retailers across the
country (the sheer volume of trade-ins and never-solds tells the
tale of that winner rather succinctly). X-Men 2 is a
killer, in comparison – it looks better and plays better.
Several new characters have been added, and there are some fun
extras to be unlocked (and surprise – unlike the usual
"beat the game and get…a slightly altered costume!",
these are actually worth the effort).
off with the main group of Cyclops, Wolvernine, Gambit, Storm,
Beast, Phoenix, Forge, Nightcrawler, Havok, and Rogue, as well
as (sigh) X-Men movie villains Toad, Mystique, Sabretooth and
Magneto (look, they could have been a lot more original here…but
at least it’s the real Mystique, not the lame Rebecca Stamos
version). As you beat the game and unlock characters you’ll be
able to play as (of all people) Spider-Man (!), Professor X,
Psylocke, and the Juggernaut. As with any fighter, there’s no
real plot to speak of: it’s basically just another beat’em
up button masher. But while it’s not quite on the level of,
say, King of Fighters 95, it’s one hell of an improvement over
the last one. And it’s got the X-men! And the real Phoenix
(not the lame Marvel Girl redux of the last few decades)! Hell,
you can even play Wolverine in his "casual" cowboy
outfit! Face front, true believers - this is the one you’ve
been waiting for! ‘Nuff said!
character designs in the game are fairly well done this time
around; despite being a 2D fighter set in a 3D environment, it’s
far more impressive visually than a lot of 3D games out there.
And with Capcom’s use of rotating camera angles for certain
attacks (i.e., whenever a super move is performed), the game
almost feels like a 3D fighter. In a Matrix style move
(am I the only one tired of this? How many times can you crib
from a movie that wasn’t all that great?), the character
performs an attack while their opponent remains still.
There are a
few familiar voices from the early 90’s X-Men cartoon, and
regardless of what you thought of them then, you’ll be
grateful to hear them here: the rest of them appear to be done
by the same few people - poorly. There are pornos overdubbed
more competently than this. Beyond the utter incompetence of
said vocalizations, fans of trash will be pleased to note that
the non-"professional" voices appear to have been
recorded on the fly into a computer microphone – each and
every unfamiliar voice comes with a corresponding overdriven
crackle, the kind you get when you record at a level beyond the
capabilities of your equipment. To spice up the mix a bit more,
you get some pretty cheesy (if mercifully brief) victory
speeches, which might amuse you the first few times you hear
post-Street Fighter fighting games, X-Men 2: Mutant Academy
utilizes "super meters", which when full, allow the
characters to perform special attacks that can cause a great
deal of damage. There are 3 levels of supers in the game: the
standard super; the "SMI" super, wherein directional
buttons appear onscreen, which if inputted correctly, inflict
"super" level damage; and the "X-Treme"
super, which can cause enough damage to win the match.
One of the
coolest things about X-Men 2: Mutant Academy is the Pool
Party level. To unlock this level, you have to play Survival
Mode and place in the Top Ten ranking ten times – in other
words, you can’t have a computer name ranked in the top 10.
What makes this level worth the effort is that the characters
will be dressed in bathing suits, snorkels, bath towels, et al
– among the greats are the floating Blob, Bishop working the
barbecue, and Nightcrawler battling with a giant spatula. But of
course, to paraphrase an overused X-Men cliché, nothing can top
the Juggernaut: in place of his usual armor, Juggie comes
adorned in some very tacky swim trunks, with a plastic sand
bucket on his head.
are similar to most other fighting games. Most of the special
attacks run by the same formula of the Street Fighter series:
down to forward or back with the addition of a punch or kick
button. Fighting game veterans should have no problem picking up
the moves, and those new to the genre will find they can hold
their own doing that button mashing thang.
the cheapest wins in the game come courtesy of everyone’s
favorite Canadian wild man, Wolverine. Players don’t really
need to master any moves while playing as Wolverine: a few taps
on the buttons will almost always guarantee a win. But this is
not to say ol’ Wolvie is the cheapest character in the
game: due the astounding popularity of the (admittedly, and
surprisingly, very good) X-Men movie last year, one of the
biggest losers in Marveldom, the irritating Toad, has been added
to the game – and following the formula of said blockbuster,
unlike his usual worthless self, the scummy little guy is
suddenly extremely dangerous to mess with. So the end
result is that we are now presented with a character even cheaper
than Wolverine. With his "Drilling Drop Kick" (a very
easily executed maneuver), one of Stan Lee’s lamest creations
can rack up a large combo, cutting an opponent’s health in
half without even trying. Some things about that damn
movie are to be lamented (and I’m not just talking about Tyler
Mane’s Sabretooth or the cheesy lizard-scales of Rebecca
Stamos’ Mystique (a character I actually used to like
before the movie destroyed her…))
- The pool party
setting. Nothing can prepare you to battle as your
favorite characters...in some really tacky bathing suits,
carrying nets, snorkles, and cooking utensils.
- Level and
character designs are nicely done - the old school
"extra" costumes are greatly appreciated.
- Many extras to
unlock...and most of them are fun!
- It still feels
like a button masher at times.
- Barring the few
voices familiar to X-Men cartoon fans, the game is marred by
some really hideous, poorly recorded voice acting.
- Wolverine, not to
mention, of all people, Toad, provide some really effortless
wins, regardless of the strength or skills of the opposing
glossy veneer, X-Men 2: Mutant Academy remains,
essentially, a 2D fighting game trying to pose as a 3D fighting
game. Even though the environment and characters are made up of 3D
meshes, the characters still fight, and act like they are
operating, in a 2D plane. This can be rather disappointing for any
gamer expecting a 3D fighting game. That aside, there are a lot of
hidden extras to satisfy both fanboy and novice, which make it
more than worthy of repeated plays. If you’re looking for a fun
fighting game that looks good and plays well, then X-Men 2:
Mutant Academy should fit the bill admirably.