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X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (GameCube) artwork

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (GameCube) review

"It’s a good thing that Apocalypse is a far cry from the current crop of villains, because if he wasn’t, X-Men Legends II would be all the more disappointing. Not bad, mind you…just disappointing."

“I am as far beyond mutants as they are beyond you. I am eternal!”

Apocalypse is one of those classic villains. Delusions of godhood, an infinite army of mindless clones, prone to break out in bouts of maniacal laughter during or after discussions about his future plans…you know the type. No strong motivation, no sympathy-sucking past. Two-dimensional all the way.

The layman version of Apocalypse's life: He's a mutant, the first mutant. He was born in Egypt. He kicked ass in Egypt. He ruled Egypt. Now he’s back in the future, and he wants to do it again on a global scale.

Simple as that.

Well-rounded villains are nice, not denying that. But, every once in a while, it’s refreshing to have a bad guy who’s just bad to be bad. Apocalypse is about as deep as your average kiddy pool, and it works for him. Yeah, sure, he’s always going on about survival of the fittest and all that, but all he’s really saying is this: “I am like…no, I am a living god. Follow me or die.”

He doesn’t have minions, he has worshippers. He doesn’t have hideouts, he has temples. His entire legion is composed of people who are either too stupid to realize how much of a jackass he is or can’t because they’re preprogrammed to kiss his behind. Every blind follower that screams out his name in a war cry, every statue and mural and painting of him you come across, it all blares out: This guy is in love with himself.

It’s a good thing that Apocalypse is a far cry from the current crop of villains, because if he wasn’t, X-Men Legends II would be all the more disappointing. Not bad, mind you…just disappointing.

X-Men Legends II rocks as a game; it’s still one of the best RPGs on any system. Heavy action with minor bits of story to link it all together. No deep, gushing romances. No thought-provoking plot twists. It won’t challenge your morality, it won’t ask you to take some girl out on a date or dress up like a woman or find some beads to make a necklace. There are some puzzles, sure, but they mostly just have you walking around, hitting switches and punching/slicing/freezing/frying every enemy in between.

And unlike most RPGs that make you scroll through four or five screens to launch an attack or memorize some ‘revolutionary new battle system’ just to be effective in combat, X-Men Legends brings out the arcade style, the kind of seamless control that defines plug and play. You have a few buttons for regular attacks, when you hold down the shoulder button you can use the specials, and you can use the power ups with a single button press. Even leveling up is simple matter; each time a character goes up, you can hit start, strengthen the areas you want to strengthen, and get right back in the mix. So intuitive, so simple.

It’s the kind of RPG that people who don’t like RPGs can get into.

As a sequel, though, X-Men Legends II is falling a bit behind. That’s not to say there aren’t any improvements over the original; Legends II has a couple of additions that make the whole experience all the smoother.

The best of these has to be the ‘Blink Portal’, a nifty little trick that lets you teleport out of just about any dungeon and go right back to your base camp. One of your characters died? Teleport, heal up, and teleport back to the exact spot you left off, no backtracking necessary. The rare times the game requires you to have a certain character on board, you don’t have to fight through the hordes of enemies or navigate back through some labyrinth, just bring up the portal and leave. Saving becomes easier. Leveling up becomes easier. The entire game is simplified and hours of stress are shaved off, all because of one minor…but appreciated…feature.

You can use more than four super abilities at once now, too; switching between other, newer powers on the fly. Of course, the middle of battle isn’t the best time to be picking and choosing which attacks you’re going to assign to which buttons, so it’s the kind of thing you want to do during those rare moments of resting.

But it’s still useful; if not for strategy, then for fun. You see, even though X-Men Legends II gives you an expanded list of mutant mashers to choose from, once you choose four to work with, you won’t really want to mix it up. The characters you don’t use level up a bit with each stage, but they’ll never be as powerful as your main brawlers can be; there’s always going to be a gap. And while getting them all up to the same speed can be done, it’s time-consuming and fairly pointless; the storyline won’t really change if you pick someone over someone else, and you’ll never need to switch characters out.

So it’s good that the characters have more than four attacks to work with. If they didn’t, things would get extremely boring, extremely fast.

That’s it. These are the only things that really separate X-Men Legends II from its predecessor. Yes, the game tries to lower linearity by letting you choose your missions and do them in the order you please, but it never gives you more than two or three to choose from at a time. And the enemy strength rises a bit for each mission, basically telling you what order to go in without really telling you.

The new playable characters are a plus, yeah. But you’ll probably be sticking to the same four throughout, so you’ll only really get to appreciate them all if you do some extra playthroughs. And since the game doesn’t offer much for the second time around; no hidden levels, no new scenarios, and only three characters to unlock…there’s not much reason to do it all over again.

The result’s a sequel that doesn’t feel like a sequel; many improvements, few additions. X-Men Legends II is a solid game on its own. If you liked the original, you’ll love it. If you like the X-Men, you’ll love it. Just don’t come expecting a vast improvement over the original.

It’s a good game. Just not as good as it could’ve been.

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Staff review by Zack Little (October 17, 2005)

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