You say you want an evolution...
Now Gamecube owners have one more option in X-Men: Next Dimension. Developed by Paradox and published by Activision, Next Dimension is a decent 3D fighter that borrows elements from lots of fighting games; Mortal Kombat comes to mind first, but there is definitely a dash of Capcom and a sprinkle of Tekken in this X-brew.
The primary way to play is Story Mode, which moves in terms of episodes. Each episode is preceded by a cut-scene which unfurls a bit of story, leading into a screen in which you are either told which mutant you will be fighting with or what mutants you can choose from. Once you make your choice you'll be faced by three or four opponents (with mini-cut scenes in between some of these battles, too), and then it's on to the next episode.
In giving you different mutants to choose from at the beginning of each episode, the Story Mode demands proficiency with several different mutants, and essentially forces you to have a diverse experience. So no, you can't play as Wolverine every time, sucka.
The story itself follows the dastardly machinations of Bastion, whose head was rescued from prison by some of his Prime Sentinels, who differ from typical Sentinels in that they look more like normal people...at 9 feet, 700 pounds. After putting himself back together somehow (how does one go about building one's own hands?), Bastion kidnaps Forge, hacks into his mind, and starts making badass upgrades to his Sentinels for the purpose of destroying all mutant-kind.
Frankly, I never liked the Sentinel episodes. The Sentinels have no personality and the racism against mutantsmuticide plots always seemed a little intellectually bankrupt, sensationally political, and not as imaginatively inspiring as threats like the Phalanx or Magneto.
Also, the obligatory Sentinel fights are hard. You're only given 50 seconds to kill the male Sentinel, which isn't much time, and even if you're winning when time runs out, you still lose. And for Sentinels that can look like normal people, the Prime Sentinels look a lot like normal Sentinels. This plot would present a good opportunity for some wacky Sentinel skins (Mailman, Grandma, Sentinels in drag?), yet there are none. Lame.
The rest of the modes are ubiquitous to fighting games including Time Attack and Survival modes, as well as Arcade Mode (just one match after the other), a Versus Mode and a Practice Mode (much like the Practice Mode in Tekken, but not quite as good). The GameCube version also includes a Team Battle Mode, in which you and three of your friends can all duke it out at once. However, thanks to the essentially 2D nature of the game and lack of dynamic camera work, this mode isn't as exciting as it could be.
Next Dimension features interactive environments, objects that can be used as projectiles by some characters, and opportunities to knock characters off buildings, into cars, etc. However, most of this only serves to enhance the drama; identifying usable projectiles isn't very intuitive, and the damage inflicted by knocking someone off a building is surprisingly negligible.
The play mechanics in Next Dimension are decent, but a little cumbersome. The combo system isn't very intricate - you can usually get by if you simply tap one button repeatedly - and the players are extremely unbalanced. Some characters are geared for furious aggression, and if these characters get you in a corner, the match is over. A simple Counter system helps, unless you're actually being hit (which you probably are since you can be attacked while lying on the ground), in which case you're toast.
The poor balance extends to the character design. Magneto should be able to dominate Beast, as should The Phoenix be able to crush Toad. A point system like the one found in the Capcom Vs SNK series would have made this possible. In my opinion, Magneto should be a Shin Akuma-type character, whereas here he's one of the weakest characters in the game. For Magneto to be vanquished by any less than three X-Men (other than Professor X, who is not a playable character), any X-Men fan will tell you, is a crime.
The in-game graphics are surprisingly good with large character models, decent animation and a good framerate. The GC version looks a little sharper than the PS2 version. However, the character design is hit and miss. Take Gambit, for example. He looks terrible. As opposed to looking smooth and confident, he looks creepy and sort of crippled. The cut-scene graphics aren't that sharp either, but overall, the game looks good.
However, the character design is hit and miss. Take Gambit, for example, who looks creepy and sort of crippled. The cut-scene graphics aren't that sharp either, but overall, the game looks fine.
Next Dimension sounds good, too, with some suitably dramatic background music and passable hit effects. However, the voice samples for each of the characters aren't diverse enough, and the voice acting itself suggests a lack of touch with the identities of the characters, except for Patrick Stewart, who narrates Story Mode as Professor X. Rock!
X-Men: Next Dimension could have been a much better game than it is. Simple controls and decent graphics help, but the limited gameplay makes Next Dimension a rental rather than a buy.