X-Men: Mutant Academy
Choose from 10 of those stinkin' mutants and all their wily ways, with link support and all. Developed by Crawfish Interactive (they of Street Fighter Alpha GBC fame), Mutant Academy lets you choose from Wolverine, Sabertooth, Magneto, Cyclops, Storm and more. Skip to our review section in this issue to see what we thought of this one.
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This is interesting. Scheduled to come out just in time for the movie, X-Men: Mutant Academy is an X-Men fan's dream come true. Featuring all the characters found in the movie, it features some nice 3D characters and backgrounds, non-embarrassing vocal samples, responsive controls and a wealth of X-Men-related paraphernalia to unlock by beating the game. It also offers a neat-o take on the typical training mode by offering the "Academy Mode," set in the Danger Room where you learn your character's techniques. A Cerebro Mode contains all the sketches, CG renders, into movies, and even the theatrical trailer from the X-Men movie. The usual survival modes and versus modes abound, and the game makes good use of the Thrill Kill/Wu-Tang graphics engine. So what's the problem? Well for one thing, the game doesn't let you move in 3D, only left and right. That would be permissible, since it just plays like a 2D fighter, but there just isn't enough to it--the fighting system is incredibly basic. And while the game has responsive controls, the enemy Al is surprisingly dimwitted. I was able to juggle Gambit, Cyclops and others, in the corner, using only Beast's strong uppercut, pressing only one button. Other simple routines will see you to the end just as easily. For fans, this is a keeper, for everyone else, XM:MA is a short-lived button-masher. Flardcore fighting game fans will be disappointed.
After seeing the X-Men so many times in the Capcom versus fighting games--looking just like their comic book selves in 2D with silky-smooth animation--they look pretty horrible here in semi-clunky polygons. This is not the best-looking game in terms of graphics and effects, and let's admit it-that's an important part of any fighting game. Gameplay-wise Mutant Academy fares better, but not great: There's enough characters, moves and special attacks to keep it fun against friends for a bit, but after extended play or against the CPU it gets dull. Nothing special, but if you're a fan who needs more after seeing the movie 10 times, this'll work.
As far as "third-party" fighting games go (games outside of the Namco and Capcom camps), Mutant Academy is damned amazing-especially considering it's part of a big movie license. In fact, I had more fun with Mutant Academy than I've had with some of the recent Street Fighter games. Granted, the game isn't as deep as Soul Calibur or the Alpha games, but its fighting system can stand on its own. The interesting combo and counter system, plus an imaginative series of power-up attacks and a decent amount of secret stuff to open is all included. And I don't know about you, but I've always enjoyed kicking ass with Wolverine in a vid game.
The X-Men. From comic books to the big screen, these larger than life heroes have been a part of our popular culture for nearly 40 years. A band of mutants led by the pacifistic Charles Xavier (Professor X), the X-Men fight against anti-mutant hysteria and all other forms of racial prejudice.
Mutants, the next evolution of humanity, are appearing everywhere, as human beings express their latent genetic potential. These gifted beings have unique abilities, essentially superpowers, that allow them to perform astounding feats.
Although the X-Men fight prejudice and the trouble it causes, they are not alone among mutantkind. There is another team, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who seek to raise mutants above humans and usher in a new age of mutant supremacy. The Brotherhood is led by the evil Magneto, a former associate of Professor X. Like all good comic book heroes, the X-Men oppose the Brotherhood and seek to integrate mutantkind and humanity, and prevent a war between them.
Thus is the story set for X-Men: Mutant Academy, where you can play many different heroes and villains from the X-Men comic series. From Cyclops, a mutant that can project energy beams from his eyes, to Magneto, the Master of Magnetism, there are twelve different characters to play. Graduate from the Academy and you might prove your skills as an X-Man. Defeat the Brotherhood and you'll prove your skills as a hero.
X-Men is an arcade style fighting game, straight up. The characters use a combination of keypad presses and button combinations to perform a dizzying amount of combat maneuvers. As is tradition in fighting games, each character has different 'super' moves they can perform, as well as three different mutant abilities.
Slow and unresponsive is the best way to describe the X-Men: MA engine. I'm used to a fighting game being flashy, neat looking, and most of all, responsive. Normally, responsiveness defines the ease of moves, performing combos, and launching special attacks. In X-Men: MA, each of these three categories are relatively difficult to learn and even harder to master. Although it isn't the worst example I've seen, it still has along way to go.
On the other hand, with very few game options to worry about and a well detailed training program, X-Men: MA does have some redeeming qualities. Professor Xavier's Academy is a detailed tutorial designed to walk you through the entire move list each character has at their disposal. While the moves themselves are challenging to perform, they are very fun to watch and some of the specials the characters use are mind-bogglingly funny.
Although the graphics for some of the characters, like Gambit, are very well done, others suffer terribly. For some reason, characters like Beast and Toad don't translate well into the 3D engine on a PSX and look even worse in the in-game cutscenes. Combined with rough and simple looking backgrounds, X-Men suffers another hit for its video.
Audio in X-Men is faithful to the original design of each of the character and is sharply done with a very professional cut. The only problem I discovered is that the in-game speech is much more prone to skip and cut out from a dirty CD than other PSX titles, making for a minor annoyance.
If you are a hardcore X-Men fan, then Mutant Academy won’t let you down. Although it isn’t topnotch in the gameplay department, it is faithful to the design of the X-Men and is definitely a collector’s treat. For those of you who are looking for a quality fighting game that gives as good as it gets, rent this one and look elsewhere for a better one to buy.