X-Men Legends is one of my favorite superhero games of all-time. I played this several years back on the Gamecube and I had such a good time with it, I made sure to get a copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 when it came out on Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, I missed out on all the games in between so I decided to revisit the franchise and replayed the first game.
This time, I played the Playstation 2 version of X-Men Legends. Let’s talk about my experience with it!
X-Men Legends is an action RPG developed by Raven Software and published by Activision. In this game, you control a party of four different X-Men as they explore different locations and fight a number of different enemies. This game is considered as an RPG because each character has a set of attributes that can be improved as they increase their levels. Beating enemies and completing quests earns experience points which is the basis of leveling up.
There are a total of fourteen different X-Men characters in the game (not counting Professor X, who you are forced to play as in certain missions). Each character has a set of different active and passive skills. These skills can be unlocked and upgraded via the use of Skill Points which you earn every time a character levels up. The level cap is set to 45, so it is impossible to upgrade all skills to maximum. This allows for character customization as players can decide which set of skills to upgrade and maximize per character.
The game has a Save system allowing for as many saves as your memory card has space for. You can save your game and change your team members at Xtraction Points scattered across the levels. When an X-Men character loses all their health, you’ll need to revive them at Xtraction Points as well, at the cost of Techbits, the in-game currency. The game allows for cooperative play for up to four players, but I didn’t get the chance to try this out for myself. Outside the main game mode, you have a Skirmish and a Sparring mode that can be played against the A.I. or other players.
Playable X-Men and Team Composition
In X-Men Legends, you can play as Beast, Cyclops, Colossus, Emma Frost, Gambit, Iceman, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Magma, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Rogue, Storm, and Wolverine. As these characters have different attributes and skills, they serve different roles for your team. For example, Colossus and Wolverine are your melee fighters and tanks. Cyclops, Gambit, and Storm are blasters that fight better from a distance. While you are free to include any character in your 4-person team, it’s best to have a balanced mix of characters that fulfill different roles.
However, there are situations when you will be required to change your team to meet certain requirements. Some skills can “weld”, and only Cyclops, Storm, and Magma are able to perform this task. You won’t be able to progress further if you don’t perform the welding tasks. There are locations with secret areas that can only be reached by characters that can fly.
The most annoying requirement for me are these areas that require bridges. Only Iceman and Magma can build bridges, so this requirement is very restrictive. Some of these areas can be addressed by flying and carrying non-fliers to the next area, but there are specific parts of the last stages where you really need to build a bridge to progress.
This isn’t game breaking though, just a minor annoyance. You’ll just need to backtrack to the last Xtraction Point to change your team composition. And Magma is a welder and bridge builder so if you like her character, this won’t even be a problem for you.
What I really love about X-Men Legends is its storyline. Set in its own continuity, the game’s story already has the X-Men as an established group. While you can play as any of the different playable X-Men, you spend a lot of the game from the perspective of Alison (Magma). The game starts with her getting kidnapped by the Brotherhood. Wolverine and Cyclops will have to rescue her.
In between missions, you’ll step into the shoes of Alison and spend time at the X-Mansion where you can talk to the different X-Men and learn more about them. Alison is contemplating if it’s better for her to stay with the X-Men and support their cause. Meanwhile, the X-Men find themselves caught between anti-mutant forces and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants.
Throughout the game, you’ll battle against different members of Magneto’s Brotherhood, Juggernaut, the Morlocks, and even the Shadow King. It’s a really good plot that is a great representation of how stories are told in X-Men comic books.
Enemies and Boss Battles
One problem that superhero video games have is that the regular enemies aren’t very interesting. Thankfully, this isn’t an issue with X-Men Legends. The “unnamed” common enemies that you fight are actually quite interesting, I don’t even want to use the term generic to describe them. You fight different kinds of tech-enabled soldiers and military vehicles, different kinds of Morlocks, and low level Brotherhood and Acolyte members. So battles never felt stale to me.
But the highlight of this game are the boss battles. Of course, you get to fight famous X-Men villains. Early on, you’ll fight against different Brotherhood of Mutant members like Mystique, Toad, Pyro, Blob, Avalanche, and Sabretooth. They’ve got their own set of abilities and special powers, such as Pyro’s flame constructs. Toad’s battle involves the X-Men trying to prevent him from escaping.
The only underwhelming battle for me was the confrontation with Magneto. I think my characters were overlevelled so we beat him pretty easily. But the final battle (I won’t spoil who the final boss is) more than made up for this. All the villains featured in this game made sense based on the game’s setting and storyline, and were represented well in how they were designed.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
For me, X-Men Legends looked great. The developers used cel-shaded graphics so the heroes and villains really stood out. Models were well-animated so it’s really to understand the action. And levels are pretty detailed too. City streets look like real city streets, complete with benches, fire hydrants, plant boxes, and traffic lights.
In terms of sound design, this game is generally good. There’s a lot of voice acting, and the actors that were cast fit really well with their characters. Sound effects are quite apt based on what is happening on-screen. The game also makes use of a dynamic soundtrack, with silent or ambient music playing when there’s no action and fast-paced rock music playing once battles start. My only problem with this game’s soundtrack is that none of the tracks were really memorable for me. But they weren’t bad by any means.
Finally, the game’s presentation is excellent. The X-Mansion looks like a real mansion, and the basement levels look like how it would in the comic books (or even the films). Just walking around the X-Mansion for the very first time is quite a treat. The HUD and menus are clear and easy to understand. There are a lot of animated cutscenes which help move the plot along and keep you immersed in the game’s story. Even loading screens are a treat to look at – you either see art featuring the members of your team, the featured location, or the boss that you’ll be fighting.
If I were to nitpick, my only complaint with X-Men Legends is that the costumes were based on the Ultimate X-Men series. It was a popular series back when this game was released, but I think the classic X-Men costumes are a lot more recognizable. Seeing Magneto in a costume that isn’t colored red is just off. But if you’re familiar with the Fox X-Men movies, then the costumes used in this game will feel right at home with you.
Despite being almost two decades old, X-Men Legends really holds up well. It’s easy to see how this game resulted in the creation of the Ultimate Alliance franchise of games. If you’re a superhero fan, you should definitely play this game. This is one of the best X-Men games of all time.
For more video games based on the X-Men, click here. If you want video games based on Marvel characters in general, click here. And click here to check out every Playstation 2 video game that I’ve played.