As it stands, PSP is in short supply of decent RPG's. However, it may turn out that the most worthwhile in the action/RPG genre currently available for PSP happens to be an X-Men game. X-Men titles are typically fighting or beat-em-up games, usually simplistic but fun. In many ways, The Rise of Apocalypse follows in this vein, but also manages to deliver a lengthy, and relatively deep action-RPG experience in the style of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Diablo. However, I feel that The Rise of Apocalypse may be more successful than most other games in this genre, simply because of its style and addictive gameplay.
X-Men's storyline isn't too complicated, but it's intriguing and gets the job done nicely. The general premise is that the all-powerful, 5 million year old mutant Apocalypse has chosen to take over the world, or something like it. He has nefarious, sinister plans, and thus the mutants have separated into those who are with him, and those who are against him. It just so happens that both the Brotherhood (lead by Magneto) and the X-Men, (headed by Professor X) are both on the side which opposes Apocalypse. This makes for an alliance between the two not usually seen. It also means that the gameplay is more fun, as you get to play as Magneto, Toad, and other fun characters who are usually thought of as bad guys. There are various plot twists along the way, all keeping the game interesting and fresh. The plot is surprisingly involved and cohesive for an X-Men game.
The Rise of Apocalypse plays like a fast-pased action-RPG with a beat-em up feel, and a smart control scheme. You take control of a party of four X-Men or mutants, all of whom you choose, in order to take Apocalypse down. At any given time, you only control one of your party members, as the game takes place entirely in real-time, but you can switch whenever you like to control the others. Whoever you aren't controlling will be temporarily controlled by AI. You choose the party entirely yourself, and can swap characters in or out at any save point. You have a whole bunch of warriors to choose from, including Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Rogue, Iceman, Bishop, Colossus, Magneto, Cyclops, Gambit, Jean Grey, and so on and so forth. There really are a ton of options to choose from so far as fighters go, each with their own special abilities and fighting styles.
Obviously you get to choose which characters you fight with, but the details of how they will develop are really up to you. In typical action-RPG fashion, your characters are awarded experience points for the enemies they kill, and then gain levels when enough experience is collected. For each level, your character gets to distributed four stat points, and one skill point. This probably sounds very familiar to anyone who has played Diablo or other games in the genre, and I'm glad that X-Men has adopted this tried-and-true system of levelling up and customizing characters. The skill points can be put into new spells or special attacks, as well as passive bonuses to stats, resistances, and so on.
It's great fun having a party of four X-Men fighting on your side, each one levelling up frequently, awaiting the distribution of skill and stat points. All other action RPG's I know of only allow you to have one main character who you control and customize, but Rise of Apocalypse allows you to do it with a whole team. If you find that you're not liking a specific character (which is likely to be the case early on, as you experiment with the different fighters) just switch them out for someone else. No harm done, as characters not in your party get half the experience, similar to other RPG's, so that they don't become completely obsolete in their absence.
X-Men Legends II is blessed with a fairly intuitive, easy control scheme that makes the game that much more pleasant to play. You move your character using the PSP's analog stick, and the d-pad is used for various other functions. Hold down the L button and select which character to control by tapping one of the directions on the d-pad--each character is assigned a different arrow. The d-pad also toggles the mini-map on or off, and will switch between its size of being large--superimposed over the play field, or small--tucked away neatly in the corner of the screen. During combat, two kinds of attacks are assigned to the X and O buttons, and by holding down the R-button, special abilities can be accessed--each is assigned a different button on the PSP. Triangle is jump, and square is typically the interact button, used for accessing computers, savepoints and so on during the game.
All of these controls work out surprisingly well, and I'm glad that the developers made it so straightforward to manage four characters during battle. For each character, you can set the AI to various modes, such as aggressive, defensive, etc. You can specify how often you want them to heal themselves, and so on. If one character is getting beat on, they'll usually call out for help in their distinct, surprisingly well-acted voice. All of this helps to give the feel that you're working as a team, and not just going solo. However, it usually turns out that you do most of the work and the AI tend to be fairly lazy. That's to be expected, though.
The game's journey is laid out in quite a nice, orderly fashion. It's separated into 5 acts, each with several different areas to explore and missions to complete. There is a central "town" where you can go between missions to regroup, buy items, and so on. You collect currency from killing enemies, like in other RPG's. You can buy items from Beast, the equipment specialist. You can also talk to Angel about missions, or Professor X about various other topics. Sabretooth even lurks at the gate of The Sanctuary and offers surly conversation. The game is fairly lengthy for a handheld game, and should take around 20 hours to complete. Considering the high action-content of the game, this is quite a hearty adventure.
The graphics in X-Men Legends II are a mixed bag. On one hand, they're stylish and pretty, staying true to the comic book's artwork, with impressive, exciting cutscenes and flashy special effects. On the other hand, the game's framerate isn't always perfect, which basically means that still shots are good, but during heavy action sequences, it can become difficult to follow exactly what is going on with all the different enemies and characters on screen at once. Slowdown is actually quite common, especially when entering a new area, as the game loads off of the UMD. To be very honest, the load times in Legends II are long. They aren't excruciatingly frequent, but they are long and they do happen more than more gamers would lake. It's a shame that the developer's weren't able to be a little bit more efficient with loading off of the disk, as I think this would solve both the game's slowdown issues and the long load times. Nevertheless, I don't feel that the slowdowns or load times detract significantly from the gameplay--they're just a minor flaw which it would've been nice to see the game without. For the most part, X-Men looks great on the small screen and was a very successful port, in my opinion.
The audio in X-Men is one of its strongest points. The voice actors are truly great, offering instantly recognizable, character-specific voices which range from Wolverine's scratchy, ass-kicking growl, to Nightcrawler's thickly European babbling. These voices are used throughout the game, usually accompanied by text in case you don't feel like sitting through all the dialogue, with the exception of cutscenes, where there is just dialogue. The game's music is also stellar, setting the atmosphere perfectly for the dire situation.
The Rise of Apocalypse is a great game. It's most blaring flaws deal with choppiness and poor load times, whereas any other found flaws are built into the action-RPG genre. If you like the fun, albeit repetitive gameplay style of Diablo, the Baldur's Gate titles for PS2, Untold Legends, and so on, then you'll probably feel right at home in the world of Legends II. When it comes down to it, I feel like this game tackles the genre better than most other games of its kind, and therefore it deserves special recognition in this regard. For a great action-RPG in the world of X-Men, look no further. The quest is long enough to keep you going for quite some time, and there are enough extras to even merit a replay or two. I highly recommend this game to all PSP owners.
Community review by ender (April 01, 2006)
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