Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
X-Men Mutant Academy 2
Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Paradox
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:
While few elements have changed from last year's X-Men Mutant Academy (whose release coincided perfectly with its Hollywood blockbuster counterpart), Activision's sequel brings more robust gameplay, added battlegrounds, and a slew of fresh new characters and extras to the playing field. Graphically, X-Men Mutant Academy 2 continues to push the limits of an aging system to the max with its fluid character models and impressive scaling. Most of the original fighters stay true to their form, while a handful of newcomers (Rogue, Nightcrawler, Forge, Havok, and then some) come through with the goods as well. Backgrounds still appear a bit blocky and dull, but hey, the action's all in the foreground!

Real ambivalences come through in the sound department, though; we get a pretty standard electronic/rock soundtrack while treated to an excellent array of voice acting. Many characters sound exactly like their television/arcade equivalents, but a few (especially Toad's) become quite annoying after only a few matches. And if you're an audiophile, you'll notice right away the sound team's apparent hastiness in sampling and recording many of the voice clips; several pre-round quips are followed by audible pops and clicks that shouldn't have made it into the game, and all of Forge's new banter was obviously recorded much louder than that of the other characters. Ouch.

Followers of combo-heavy fighters like the recent Dreamcast hit Capcom vs. SNK 2 should be all too familiar with how the show's running here. Players must string together a series of punches, kicks and special moves to pull off the most devastating attacks available in the game (as usual), yet the added feature of Aerial Combat allows each character to pop an opponent into the air to continue a combo in progress. Nothing new to the average Joe, but certainly a vital appendage to the XMA family.

Much like the first title, tons and tons of hidden goodies are waiting to be unlocked within XMA2 by beating the game with certain characters and practicing their powers in Professor X's training facility. Insane replay value has never been frowned upon, especially in fighters; hardcore gamers should find themselves investing countless hours in the search for every hidden costume and unlockable mutant, even after the game's initial charm wears off.

In retrospect though, the gameplay was solid to begin with and plenty of new additions are always welcome, but a few add-ons here and there don't exactly make a full sequel in many gamers' opinions. They might as well have named this one X-Men Mutant Academy Plus Alpha (although this isn't necessarily a bad thing).

If you love it when the computer kicks your ass on the Medium setting because of weird AI quirks, this is your scene! XMA2 offers three levels of difficulty to test your skill, but watch out in the later stages. Certain characters have particularly advantageous moves that don't really make things incredibly hard, but they'll definitely piss you off. Nightcrawler's at the top of this list -- the computer never, ever stops teleporting during the entire match, and at the Expert level, it's maddening to say the least. Still, other AI characteristics may furrow your brow without any real challenge. The ability to repeatedly 'launch' the computer (and many times human opponents, one of the biggest faults in the first game) without letting them land has carried over to the sequel -- just don't do it to often and you won't be calling yourself cheap too often.

Game Mechanics:
Fortunately, controlling the mutants is a breeze once players get past the relatively low learning curve, and Academy Mode's in-depth training does a fine job of explaining each character's nuances. Veterans of the first game will feel right at home with the way things work here (if not a bit thrown off by the addition of Aerial Combat), but don't expect too much of a leap forward with such a limited range of modifications.

PS2: PlayStation 2 owners shouldn't see any drastic changes when playing XMA2 on the newer system. Graphics seem just about identical, and you've gotta have special powers (or an ordinary watch, I guess) to tell any difference in load times.

Fans of the comic series and genre-junkies should give this baby more than just a glance; X-Men Mutant Academy 2 may very well be the last decent fighter your dusty old PlayStation'll ever see.

-Ben Monkey, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ben Lewis

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.