X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse
As Cyclops, Storm, Rogue and Wolverine are returning from an outer-dimensional mission, something strange happens. They pass through the portal only to find the X Mansion is battle-ravaged and almost destroyed. Upon entering the mansion, they find they've entered an alternate universe where everything they know is twisted around. Now it's up to you to help them find out what happened and how to get home by taking control and fighting your way through twelve levels of mutant mayhem.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse plays very similar to its 1992 coin-op counterpart, X-Men. It is a side-scrolling fighting game where you are frequently outnumbered by your enemies. Although the odds are against you, you have different attacks and abilities to help stay alive. Unlike games such as Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat, you don't need to master a bunch of different moves for each character. All four X-Men use the same controls even though each has his or her own unique moves. You have your basic directional movement as well as jumping and a normal punch or swipe. You also have a stronger punch that takes longer to execute and if you hit both punch buttons, you'll do a "clear-out attack" which gives you back some personal space. In addition, you can throw enemies, throw yourself or other projectiles at enemies (depending on which X-Man you use) and use your mutant powers to perform a "rage attack" where you become invincible for a few seconds and do some serious damage to those around you. You can also dash across the screen for that quick getaway or to get across some timed obstacles such as spikes. Despite the number of moves and the fact that your character moves kind of slow, the game isn't hard to learn or control. Actually, the controls are pretty responsive and have a good feel to them for this type of game. If you've ever played any type of side-scrolling fighting game, the controls will feel pretty natural to you.
When starting a new game, you have to select one of the four savegame spots and then pick one of the four available X-Men: Cyclops, Storm, Rogue or Wolverine. The game then goes to a cut scene with a lot of text to read, then on to the game (there's a lot of dialogue throughout the game between levels too). When you play each level, you'll get to parts where the screen will stop scrolling and the battles begin. After you take out a bunch of enemies, you move on to another area for more battles. On some levels there are obstacles such as spikes that pop up out of the ground, explosive mines, bombs falling, and fire jets in the ground. There are a few power-up items to help you along the way too -- health icons, half-health icons, full mutant power icons and time icons. Some levels have mini-bosses about halfway through and all levels have a boss at the end. I found the same strategy seemed to work on each boss, so once I figured it out, the game wasn't all that hard to complete with some characters. With other characters I kept dying but was able to continue. While a nice option, you'll start back at the beginning of the level instead of where you died. Since the game saves your progress after each level anyway, the continue option seems to be almost useless. Once you have beaten a boss, the game will tally the number of hits you had and the time remaining and count up your score. For each 10,000 points you'll get an extra life. I did notice a difference in gameplay with each character; I seemed to take a lot less damage as Rogue and Cyclops than when using Storm or Wolverine. While each character has his or own advantages, you also have the ability to build up your mutant power, vitality (health) or strength points at the end of each level. Unfortunately you don't ever get enough points during the game to be able to build your character all the way up.
There are a few options in the game -- one for turning sound effects on or off, one for music on or off, and one for the number of continues - 3, 5, 7 or 9. That's all, folks. Unfortunately, there was no option for changing the controls at all. I thought this would've been a good addition so I could've held my GBA differently and saved my thumb (all that punching will give you a cramp). That's really about all there is to the game. It isn't complicated to learn or play for the most part and I found the challenge to be just right.
This game supports two types of multiplayer. The first is Versus Mode, which puts you up against a buddy in one of several different arenas. The second is Co-op Mode, which allows you to play the regular game as a team of two. In order to play either multiplayer mode, you need two Game Boy Advances, two X-Men cartridges, and a link cable. Unfortunately I don't have a second cartridge so I wasn't able to play multiplayer; thus I can't comment on how well (or not) it plays. According to the manual, you can unlock different characters and arenas for Versus Mode by completing the normal game with different characters.
The graphics are similar to the comics. Each character is rendered nicely and has smooth animation. The layered backgrounds are also very nice-looking and detailed, and each level has its own unique look. Although the game has rich background art, it never seems to detract from gameplay or get in the way.
Most of the audio is in the music. The music is upbeat and fitting for the type of game this is, and as always it sounds way better on headphones then on the regular speaker. Each level plays one of a few different songs. Outside of the music, there isn't much sound -- just hitting and the scream when someone dies. I'd highly suggest keeping the music turned on and up unless you want a near-silent experience.
I'd highly suggest giving the manual a quick look, if for nothing more than to see all the controls so you know what your character can do. Information is also given about each enemy as well as each X-Man, although it won't really help you through your adventure much.
While the genre isn't really original, I haven't seen a new game like this in quite some time. I thought the different multiplayer modes were a nice feature to add, but unfortunately I didn't get to try them out. Too bad they didn't make a single game pak versus mode.
It all boils down to this: X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse is a fun game if you like scrolling fighting games with fairly simple controls, near-mindless action, and solid gameplay. You don't have to even be an X-Men fan to enjoy this game, but if you are, you'll probably enjoy it that much more. I particularly liked the automatic save after each level so I could come back and continue later. Normally these types of games don't have too much replay value after you've finished, but I found myself going back again and again to play with all the different characters. In addition, if you know someone else with a GBA and an X-Men game pak, you could probably have hours of fun beating each other up or trying to beat the game as a team. Just watch out after continually pressing the punch button for an hour or two that your thumb doesn't start to mutate.