The first version of X-Men Legends was a quality co-op dungeon crawler with a few issues holding it back. The sequel addresses almost all of these problems, adds some fun new characters, and now a complete port is available on the PSP. What Legends II really has going for it is the fact that the PSP is perfectly suited for a lengthy dungeon crawler. Add to this an extremely popular comic franchise tie-in and you have one of the best reasons to buy a new PSP game this season. Some technical failings still keep the game from achieving greatness, read on to find out why.
X-Men Legends II pairs the mutant heroes with the villainous Brotherhood to do battle with a near unstoppable threat: Apocalypse. The storyline is an excellent direction for the sequel mostly because it gives players the opportunity to play as the evil mutants. Now we don't have to settle for characters like Jubilee on our second play through the game and instead can focus on advancing the awesome powers of Magneto. The cast alone adds to the replay value of this title, especially for anyone with an interest in comic books.
As far as dungeon crawlers go X-Men Legends II has all the trimmings of a robust RPG of its type and then some. The mission is beefy and has an adequate plot and there are nearly endless amounts of customization for the characters. Basically the game has players use a combination of mutant super powers and good old fisticuffs to fight their way through endless enemies and obstacles. There are health potions, mutant power regenerators, tons of wearable items, and collectibles. One of the nice frills is the Danger Room where players can unlock training missions to beef up their characters in between story quests. It's always nice to have the option to gain some levels before a particularly difficult section or boss battle. Speaking of boss battles, these really stand out this time around. Some of the more important confrontations get difficult and the enemy characters have increased in their physical size.
The game is also incredibly user friendly in terms of how much time it forces players to spend on character management. There are options to let the CPU manage attributes, mutant powers, and equipment. Players can also toggle these automatic functions for each individual character. That way, if you really want to focus on a favorite mutant you can still advance through the game quickly without constantly worrying about the rest of the team.
Like the console versions, the PSP supports four player co-op mode both in infrastructure mode and ad hock. Besides a typical amount of slight lag, both of these inclusions are excellent features and make X-Men Legends II a robust title that can easily become a "go to" game for time away from your consoles or in place of the big screen version. If there's one complaint about co-op on PSP it's that the smaller screen can become seriously crowded when everyone is fighting together. It's a small issue and nothing that really stymies the fun. It's a testament to the port just how well the controls have translated onto the PSP. The only thing I missed from a PS2 control pad was the ability to rotate the camera with a right analog stick. Fortunately the game camera is usually well placed and transparent walls make sure that the action is never blocked. The game uses the shoulder button as a modifier to fit all of the commands and the system works just fine. This is due to the fact that combat is relatively simple affair that easily fits on the face buttons and the right shoulder.
On top of the benefit of having this game on a handheld there are also nine more missions and four characters exclusive to the PSP version of the game. What was already a lengthy experience is broadened by the additions and X-Men buffs will appreciate the extra characters.
This game is not without its flaws and there are a few technical issues holding it back. As with other PSP titles loading times are noticeably long. They aren't as crippling as the never ending pauses found in Untold Legends but they usually last as somewhere around thirty seconds. Just because these lulls are normal for a PSP game do not make them any more enjoyable and the game still suffers because of it. In a few areas near save points the game slowed down to a crawl or locked up for a few seconds. There are also instances of slowdown and pauses when accessing the menu screens. Another annoying issue is that the game can get very dark in areas. This isn't a problem when playing in a dimly lit room, but throw any amount of sunlight into the equation and some environments will disappear against the highly reflective screen. Again, perhaps I'm faulting the system specs more than the actual game code, but gamers will still find themselves gritting their teeth in areas due to this issue.
X-Men Legends two offers us a cartoon-like art style that takes a stylized approach over an attempt at realism. The console version of the game puts a thick black line around all of the characters that at first glance suggests cell shading but is really just an outline. The PSP character models seem to lack this outline (or at least it's much less noticeable) and because of this the mutants actually look better on the handheld. Whether it's the sharpness of the PSP screen or slight changes that occurred in the port, X-Men Legends II can at times visually trump the console version of the game. If not for the previously mentioned failings, this title would be a technical benchmark on the system.
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