reviews\ Feb 20, 2005 at 7:00 pm

X-Men: Legends - NG - Review

The role-playing genre is tough to conquer. It's so easy to take the simple, turn-based or real-time formula and screw it up. If they play too slowly, real-time RPGs run the risk of boring the player. If the gameplay is too quick, they could be labeled as a generic hack-n-slash with RPG elements.

It is for those reasons that most console RPGs fail to captivate an audience outside of the most hardcore players. It is also for those reasons that I, a once diehard RPG player, have lost interest in the genre over the past three years.

In the midst of all the repetition and disappointment is a game that provides neither. It's a game that proves you can take well-known license and create a game that people will actually love. And it has restored my interest in a genre that was beginning to be consumed by a few great developers - Namco, Working Designs and Nippon Ichi – while everyone else turned to other genres (on the consoles, the PC market is a whole other story).

What is this marvelous game I speak of?  X-Men Legends. Even more surprising: I'm talking about the N-Gage version.

Played from the classic, isometric view, X-Men Legends should be a breath of fresh air for most console players. While some of the elements have been found in PC RPGs for years, most of what X-Men Legends has to offer is new (or at least newer) to the console market.

Battles are fought in real-time, giving the player the kind of freedom that's found in an action/RPG. There are turn-based elements though. Menu selection plays a big part of the game. Everything from health and energy items ("energy" constitutes your mutant powers) to special attacks and character selection is done through a menu. The game freezes when you open one of the menus, all of which look like this:


By pressing up, down, left or right, the desired option will be selected. This might seem tedious at first. Certainly it's not something you're used to doing if turn-based RPGs take up the majority of your time. But it will become easier over time, and eventually feels like a natural, seamless motion. You'll start to wish that other action-oriented RPGs used this setup.

The gameplay is a tad slower than an action/RPG, but it's still pretty quick. I'm tempted to call it a cross between the Genesis version of X-Men that Sega designed and the classic (but long forgotten) Final Fight series. You'll use your fists to beat up bad guys most of the time, but when your energy is full it can be used to unleash a powerful mutant attack. X-Men can have up to four of these attacks, each of which must be selected from the abilities menu before it can be used. Only one can be selected at a time, but you can change them very quickly.

Wolverine can slash his foes multiple times. Iceman can dish out a burst of ice. Cyclops opens his deadly eyes to unleash a blast his enemies won't soon forget. Those are just a few of the abilities that are at your disposal.


As you can tell by the screens, this game lets you control more than just a few of your favorite X-Men. Several of 'em haven't even appeared in the movie yet! X-Men Legends has no connection to the films, though I still can't help but think of the movies whenever I play an X-Men game. It's a shame we may never see X3…

Four X-Men are able to battle simultaneously, but since you only have two hands (and one brain), only one can be controlled by you. The rest must be controlled by the computer, which at times is excellent at keeping them safe. At times the computer-controlled mutants will save your life. Other times they'll make it worse. If a comrade falls unconscious, you can't switch to him/her and take control. They can only be controlled while conscious. It's vital that all your teammates are functional at all times. This is one of the greatest strategic elements of the game. I'd want to keep my teammates alive just so I could get equal game time with each X-Men, but in Legends, you really have to utilize each one's strengths.

Musically and graphically X-Men Legends is surprising, but not shocking. I was surprised and extremely pleased that the developers were able to make the game play so closely to the console versions. Most of the characters look like detailed, fully-rendered sprites (as opposed to 3D models loaded with polygons), but the game is still pretty darn good looking. You're not going to be too amazed if you've played Mario 64 DS or any imports for the PSP. But considering that N-Gage was the first out the door, and considering how long ago it made its debut, X-Men Legends deserves no visual complaints.

Review Scoring Details for X-Men Legends

Gameplay: 8.1
X-cellent! And highly…legendary! X-Men Legends is the ultimate RPG for X-Men fans. Although non-fans may not be able to appreciate it as much, there's plenty of good gameplay to entertain those who could care less about the mutants (why anyone would feel that way I'll never know, but if you're one of them, don't let that steer you away). X-Men Legends is a much bigger challenge than the typical Final Fantasy clone, and lucky us – it plays nothing like Final Fantasy! It's exciting, engrossing, and makes me want to play more of the console versions. When's the last time you could say that about an N-Gage game?

Graphics: 7.0
Average, yes, but I probably wouldn't be saying that if the DS wasn't out and the PSP's release date wasn't so close. The characters look good (though not nearly as good as their console counterparts), as do the backgrounds and special ability effects. The movie sequences are cool, but it'd be nice if the black bars didn't take up 2/3 of the screen. Of course, removing those just would've made the movies choppier than they already are.

Sound: 7.0

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
These X-Men wouldn't be legendary if all their foes were easy. Well let me tell you: this is no cakewalk. It'll take a lot of practice, patience and endurance to get through this one.

Concept: 8.0
The best of the X-Men universe with some of the best role-playing gameplay ever designed.

Multiplayer: 8.0
Would be awesome if you could find three people to play the game with.

Overall: 8.1
If you own an N-Gage you must be in Heaven right now. The console has finally gotten to the place where a good game is released every couple of weeks.

X-Men Legends is a grand RPG with great, highly-entertaining battles that'll keep you playing long after the rechargeable battery is drained. I can't say I've played too many portable RPGs that came close to matching the home console version, but X-Men Legends gives me one more to add to the list.


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