Saturday, March 10, 2012

X-Men: Next Dimension Review

Everyone's favorite band of mutants is back in X-Men: Next Dimension, a straightforward 3D fighting game released simultaneously for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, with an Xbox version not far behind. Created by Paradox Development, a company that's already done a couple of similar 3D fighting games (X-Men: Mutant Academy and its sequel) for the original PlayStation, X-Men: Next Dimension boasts a lineup of two-dozen popular Marvel Comics characters and the voice of Patrick Stewart. The game itself is decent, offering up a variety of different moves and letting players dish out long and damaging attack combinations--but it's not going to replace or even come close to your fighting game of choice, if you even have one these days. Then again, it's not like X-Men: Next Dimension is aimed at fighting game fans, since it's clearly geared toward fans of the X-Men comic book characters. These players will appreciate the wide selection of fighters in Next Dimension, as well as its story mode, though they'll wish the game did a better job of evoking these unique characters' personalities.

X-Men: Next Dimension features fully 3D renditions of all its characters, as well as interactive 3D backgrounds. However, the gameplay itself is clearly modeled after Capcom's Marvel Comics-based 2D fighting games such as X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes. Capcom's games are a lot older than X-Men: Next Dimension, but they did a lot of things better: Their controls were a lot more responsive, their gameplay was deeper, and they did a far superior job of bringing Marvel Comics' intriguing characters to life, thanks to some excellent hand-drawn 2D animation. X-Men: Next Dimension does sport 24 different characters, but they have just a single victory pose each, and many of their moves are awkwardly animated, making the fighters in the game seem far less interesting and entertaining than their comic book counterparts. Still, some fans will use their imaginations to fill in the blanks--you have to do that with comic books anyway--and will appreciate having so many of their favorite characters in a single game.

The game offers a number of different modes of play, including the usual suspects found in most any fighting game these days: There's an arcade mode in which you fight one computer-controlled opponent after the other in three-round matches, there's a practice mode for experimenting with moves and combos, there's a survival mode that challenges you to defeat as many opponents as possible without getting knocked out, there's a versus mode for two players, and there's the story mode that adds some much-appreciated context to the action. The GameCube version also has a time attack mode, in which you're trying to win matches as quickly as possible, and a team battle mode, in which you can select multiple fighters for a battle royal.

The story mode is fairly unorthodox, insofar as it actually tells a story, unlike most fighting game story modes. The plot unfolds in numerous prerendered cinematic cutscenes interspersed between obligatory one-on-one matches, and it's about how the evil Bastion is attempting to do in mutantkind with his army of robotic sentinels and a dastardly plot to use the powers of one of the X-Men against them. The X-Men retaliate, but they also run into their nemesis Magneto, whom they'll have to join forces with if they hope to stop the greater threat. It's a good enough plot, and during the course of the story mode, you'll switch between having to control particular characters and getting to choose to play as one of several. You won't get to control all the game's characters in the story mode, but you'll also be glad that you don't get stuck with just one character for the duration of it.

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