By: John C. Mayberry
Consoles. They are the key to next-gen gaming evolution. This evolution is a slow process, sometimes taking decades before developers finally get a game based on very well-known characters right. But with some games, evolution takes what seems are countless steps backwards in a frustrating day and age where you think game developers would learn from past mistakes instead of repeating them. Unfortunately, no game developer is above this, and as much as I wanted to enjoy this game, which I did to some small degree, X-Men: Next Dimension for GameCube unfortunately had many things working against it. Whether it was the character models or awkward camera angles that affect the player’s performance, this was one game that, which like the declining quality of the Fox movie franchise, was met with disappointment by the gaming masses.
X-Men: Next Dimension is the third installment in the series of fighting games that began with X-Men: Mutant Academy on the original PlayStation. The story takes an interesting approach in that it ties with the events of the crossover event Operation: Zero Tolerance, which occurred in many of the major X-Men titles of the time. The vital parts of the robot Bastion, which had been taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody at the end of Operation: Zero Tolerance, are recovered by his Prime Sentinels to continue his original plan of exterminating the mutant species. Great concept on paper, that I will not deny. Making a game inspired by a long-running and widely beloved comic book series (based on a storyline from the comics no less) whose popularity was growing like mad due to the success of the recent films, attempting to reach the comic book fans and general movie audiences simultaneously was a smart move, just one that was not executed very well.
The gameplay itself was not too bad I felt, but I did get the impression that this was another attempt at mimicking the style of the Tekken games, just not as refined in my opinion. Everything else from the lackluster storyline down to the character movements sadly make this a game that most would likely consider another steaming pile of E.T. Also considering the popularity of the Fox films and the subsequent increase in popularity of the comics, the expectations of many players out there I’m certain were high for this game, all of which I am also sure now were dashed shortly after playing it. Thankfully this wouldn’t spell the end of Marvel’s mutants foray into the gaming medium, since there have been vast improvements in the quality of comic book based games as the medium has been taken more seriously and treated with a greater deal of respect in recent years, albeit there are still a few hiccups here and there. X-Men: Next Dimension, is one of those hiccups, and sure, it was released during a time where the comic book medium was probably not as wildly popular as it is now, but other comic book-based games on older systems still managed to achieve the level of success that I’m sure eluded this one on a grander scale. Play it for yourself if you choose to but believe me when I say you might want to take my word for it on this one.
Gameplay – Although many players I’m sure will agree that it mimics the style of fighting from the Tekken series to a somewhat less impressive degree, it’s not to say you will not find at least some level playability with this game. The gameplay is responsive and, when compared to the rest of the game, surprisingly not as clunky as you would expect.
Diverse roster – Many familiar and well-loved faces from the X-Men mythos make an appearance here. So okay, it may not be as impressive as we’ve seen in other fighting games (let’s face facts, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 went way overboard on that one), it is not so big that any one playable character is overshadowed by the other. Everyone here, at least in my opinion, gets equal time in the spotlight.
Simplistic story line/writing – I did mention earlier I thought it was a smart move to take advantage of something that was rapidly growing in popularity, and by tying the game to the Operation: Zero Tolerance story line from the comics was a great way to do that, appealing to both the gaming and comic reading audience at once. But when creating something that deals with well-known, already established source material, the audience already expects a certain quality of work to go into it. Unfortunately, players everywhere I feel were probably left wanting more than what they got. Even the intro dialogue before every match is re-used and just feels lazy. The subject matter already had great potential to be a great story for the game, but just didn’t deliver on what players should have gotten.
Graphics and visual effects – Granted this game came out during the sixth generation of gaming (Dreamcast, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox), so understandably graphics and visual effects in games had not yet reached their potential. Even so, this was GameCube, and I’m sure it was capable of better. I’ve honestly seen more impressive on a couple of games from the SNES.
Character movement – The graphics and visual effects make watching the FMV sequences difficult, but one thing that takes that to the next level is in how they move. Character movement during gameplay is what you would expect it to be, otherwise it’s a clunky mess. It doesn’t feel natural and is very robotic looking. Again, even noting that this does not happen during gameplay (or it’s barely noticeable at least) I still found it to be a distraction.
Voice acting – With the exception of Sir Patrick Stewart lending his talents to Charles Xavier, the voice acting in this game was abysmal, at its best. I mean, listen to wolverine talk, tell me if that voice fits him. Not just on him, but on every other character that appears in the game too. Whether the voice does not match that character or if its clearly someone with no formal training on how to act their way out of a cardboard box, the results were not great, to say the least.
Camera angles – If there is anything more annoying than bad camera angles in games that you have no control over, I dare you to tell me what it is. Go on. I’ll wait. Not really, I have other things to do with my time. My point is the camera angles during your match can change unexpectedly, and usually not in a way that will benefit the player at all. If anything, this will give the player more incentive to power their GameCube off, or at least load up a game that is more enjoyable.
Glitches galore! – Wow, I don’t even know where to begin here. I’ve seen things playing this coaster of a game from your match crashing, requiring you to quit and restart, your character doing the old “let’s merge into floors and walls” thing, as well as being pushed somewhat out of bounds, where you can see the black space that surrounds the space outside of the level’s borders.
OVERALL SCORE: – 4 out of 10
It honestly hurt writing this. An X-Men game that, up to this point, I have never played before, and was excited to be able to review, only to come away from it disappointed and wishing this game had gotten the treatment it deserved, instead of players getting something that felt rushed and just thrown out there. It is easy to tell that this was a game made purely out of growing popularity for the X-Men, and with minimal effort, which is evident in the game’s numerous flaws. With the only two positive things I was able to find here, it still wasn’t enough to salvage this one in any way possible. I think it’s safe to say this is a title better left buried on the shores of Krakoa and lost to the history of mutantkind for good.