Developer: Raven Software
Release Date: October 18, 2005
The worst thing about X-Men Legends II on the PSP is that it's an amazingly faithful adaptation of the console version.
Sometimes, video games like to give you things with one hand, then slap you stupid with the other.
In the aftermath of the high-octane beat-'em-up that was the original X-Men Legends, the X-Men mount an assault on a compound in Greenland to rescue the captive Professor Xavier. Strangely, they're aided in this by Magneto and the members of his evil Brotherhood, their sworn enemies.
The amazingly powerful Apocalypse, an ancient Egyptian who might be the first mutant, has appeared on the scene. He may be too dangerous for either the X-Men or the Brotherhood to oppose alone, so they'll have to team up. In groups of four, choosing characters from either the X-Men or the Brotherhood, you'll need to bludgeon the holy bejesus out of hordes of enemies and dozens of named characters from Marvel Comics in order to reach and defeat Apocalypse.
As with the past game, this is a pretty simple concept that's inexplicably not applied to superhero games very often. It's a top-down brawler/shooter like the Dark Alliance games, and the 36,000 other action titles that run off of the Snowblind engine. It's excellent, albeit sort of mindless, fun for up to four players, and X-Men Legends II has so many characters – Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Juggernaut, Sunfire, Toad, Scarlet Witch, Magneto, and several unlockables, including a few that are unique to the PSP version – and so much to do that it'll keep you busy for some time to come.
Granted, all of what it gives you to do involves variants on the same basic theme – "find something evil and punch it to death" – but it's a classic and solid theme. It'll serve you well through the game's numerous missions, difficulty levels, and the Danger Room mini-games.
The game's also a considerable improvement on the original X-Men Legends for a host of reasons. The level cap's much higher, you can buy skill points or the right to reshuffle assigned points from Forge or Beast's item shops, you can set the game up to automatically assign level-up points or equipment, and enemies are randomly tougher every time you play through the game.
Weirdly, the PSP version of X-Men Legends II looks almost as good and sounds just as good as the PS2 version. There's some nasty anti-aliasing here and there, and some jaggies that could put out an eye, but that's no great deal. With the wifi functionality and three friends, you'll be able to kill the hell out of a road trip, as long as the batteries hold out.
Of course, that's also part of the problem. X-Men Legends II has taken a few regrettable control hits as part of its move to the PSP, some of which take a lot of getting used to.
For example, there's now no ability whatsoever to control the camera. It'll eventually reorient behind your character as you move in a given direction, which is tons of fun when you're playing near giant chasms or whatnot. You also can't zoom out or in on the characters, which results in some unfortunate cases of either eyestrain or sudden ambushes, depending on the environment.
More importantly, there's a distinct and annoying loading time every time you try to access the stat screen, which can really be a drag. One of the penalties that's been paid to fit X-Men Legends II onto the PSP is apparently horrifyingly long waits as you load a new level or the character lineup.
Finally, a few regrettable control decisions have been made. With fewer buttons available, you'll have to rely upon the D-pad and a few button combinations to do things like change characters and use health potions. Going from a console version of this game to the PSP version, as I did, is like shifting without a clutch; it takes a lot of getting used to.
X-Men Legends II on the PSP is a remarkably faithful but also remarkably flawed version of a great party game. It's excellent for tuning everything out during a long road trip – and yes, this is tested with bitter experience – but you'll want to bring a car adaptor for your PSP. The only problem that this game really has is that it's imperfectly adapted for a portable console, so if you're going to get one version and you want to take it on the road… get this one. It'll save you some headaches.