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X-Men Mutant Academy
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Paradox
Publisher:  Activision
Features:  dual shock
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
As anyone who has been living in a cave will tell you X-Men fever has gripped the nation this summer. Well, at least it has gripped me. Comics, t-shirts, a #1 movie and a new video game. I canít even remember the last time a movie-themed video game has come out at the same time as the movie it is based on. But in this situation Paradox has made sure to get its game out to catch the fever instead of trying to catch the video release. Sure it is smart marketing technique but is the game any good?.

In reading previews for this game I noticed that the developers never really mentioned that they were planning something new and innovative. Keep in mind that they knew that they knew that they were making a copy of Street Fighter EX using the X-Men characters and that they were capitalizing on a movie market. So be warned that there is nothing in this game that you have not seen before aside from 3D X-Men characters. All of the modes are standard and there are very few surprises here. That said letís focus on what the game developers DID do.

If you are a fighting game fan or an X-Men fan you will probably like this game. The characters are in 3D polygons on a 2D platform. There is no sidestepping but the advantage of the 3D is that certain moves can be viewed from different angles. So if you are Cyclops and you fire your optic beam and shoot an enemy to the wall the camera rotates and you see the depth of just how far you are shooting this poor soul. It is a small thing but makes for some really cool cinematic gameplay. Also the character models are done exceptionally well in the 3D format. Polygons lead to more realistic depictions of actual people as opposed to the cartoony drawings in Capcomís Marvel games. There are 10 characters in all and few if any hidden characters. This may seem small but it is better to have 10 fully developed characters than 20 plain repetitive ones.

The fighting system is unoriginal but serves its purpose. There are basic kicks and punches are well as combos, throws and signature moves for each of the fighters according to their comic abilities. There are also power meters that, when full, allow for super powerful moves. Like I said, this is nothing new, but there are enough moves to keep the game interesting. The moves themselves are very easy to execute (get your fireball ready) so complicated control is never really an issue. Fighting strategy is more based on timing and speed.

One thing that the developers did mention was that the game would appeal to all skill levels. Aside from the real experts that are not happy without 20 move combinations, the game does a good job of covering the skill gap. Since the control is basic and easy to handle novices will have no trouble picking up a controller and pulling off moves. Handy for party guests. However, since all of the characters have different fighting styles, different strategies must be used if you want to defeat them all. Long range fighters like Storm and Cyclops use completely different strategies than close fighters like Wolverine and Sabertooth. Plus none of those strategies work well against Beast and Toad.

What makes this game earn the name Mutant Academy is nothing more than just a training mode. I was hoping for some Danger Room mini-game sort of things but no such luck. You go into the training room and Cerebro, Professor Xís brain computer, tells you how to do each move. Then you get graded and if you get straight Aís you get a hidden prize. (Completing the regular games also yield prizes.) The prizes range from movies to different costumes to comic pictures. They are nice to see but not really worth all of the work it takes to get them. The cinemas could be longer and they could have fit a hell of a lot more comic art on the disk.

Yes this game is reminiscent of others in its genre, but it does what they do much better than them. The game is very accessible and fun to play. The animations will take you right into the game and get you screaming and talking trash. The graphics are realistic, reminiscent of the movie, and all of the voice acting is straight out of the cartoon. You know after you see the awesome movie you are going to want to play as the stars and kick some butt. For pure realistic fighting action what are you going to get? The Capcom 2D cartoon game? Sorry but that just wonít do. To feed that need you are going to have to pick up Mutant Academy and slice and dice your way to victory.

Chris Shade

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