It's not easy being green.
My parents are both mutants. Mom has the power to guilt people into eating more food than they initially planned on eating. Dad has the power to fall asleep standing up. Life was difficult as a child, until I realized that because of my mutant parents, I was a mutant as well. My power? Good question.
I spent the better part of my youth trying to figure out my mutant ability. This resulted in many broken ankles, countless bloody noses and the premature loss of several teeth. I refused to believe that I couldn't fly. Don't get me started on the electrocutions...
It wasn't until I reached my mid-twenties that I discovered my power. It came as quite a shock. There I was, sitting in the middle of a Psychology 210 midterm, when suddenly I realized that I was wearing no pants.
Horrified, I searched deep within the depths of my mind for a solution. I became one with the concept of "pants." I was every stitch; I was every button and every zipper. And just like that, I was wearing pants again.
So it only happened once. But the point is that I learned that I was different. I came up with a few nicknames - Captain Pant-astic, Mr. Smarty Pants, The Corduroy Kid - but none of them stuck. Alas, my power over trousers was fleeting, and no one seemed to care.
But like any self-help book or children's television show will tell you, there's nothing wrong with being different...provided you don't plan on using your "difference" to, say, conquer the world by destroying all non-mutants in a cataclysmic meteor blast.
What do you do when a mutant sets his mind on carrying out such a plan? Why, you enlist the aid of other mutants, or course. X-Men: Mutant Academy lets you duke it out as one of the fabled freaks in an effort to once again save the world from disaster. Oh, and it's a nifty tie in with the movie.
Mutant Academy is your standard fighting game. There's no discernable plot, except that Magneto is up to his no-good tricks and the X-Men have to stop him. Again. Can't they just stick him to the front of the refrigerator or something?
The cast is a random mix of X-Men: Cyclops, Wolverine, Phoenix, Storm, Gambit and Beast (Beast? He's still around?) make up the good guys, while Toad, Sabertooth, Mystique, and Magneto round out the meanies. Oddly, there are no extra bosses.
The graphics are actually pretty good. Characters are modeled nicely and you won't find many seams in the polygons. The action is smooth and the framerate stays solid. In particular, the particle effects during explosions are really well done. You tend to forget that the PSX can still make things look pretty, and X-Men serves as a nice reminder that the aging console still has some life left.
While the characters are 3D, the game as a whole isn't. Mutant Academy follows the Tekken mold of partial 3D - the fighters move on a 2 dimensional plane ala Street Fighter. They never move 'towards' or 'away' from the screen as in Soul Calibur, and frankly, this kind of fighting game is wearing a bit thin.
There isn't much past the bare bones here. You've got Arcade, Vs. and Survival modes, as well as an Academy mode to learn the moves. For the most part, you probably already know them. Fireballs rule the day, and beyond a few cool-looking throws, there isn't much in the way of innovation.
Plus, the Academy mode training is irritating and stupid. Learning how to pull of the burlier attacks is one thing, but to fully complete each character's training (thereby unlocking a secret), you have to "master" the basics. This means you have to follow Professor Xavier's lame orders, as in, "press Circle to kick...good...now press Up+Circle to Jump-kick...good...now press Square..." I thought Professor X was supposed to be some sort of genius who understands his mutant pupils. He seems like an idiot to me.
Thankfully, the fighting itself is pretty fun. One interesting feature is the use of the super meters. Like a Capcom fighting game, Mutant Academy incorporates 'extra' meters that get powered up during the course of a fight. Each character has three super moves, which tend to do some epic damage. Cyclops' uber-laser beam pretty much ends a fight.
In a neat twist, you can manually toggle which meter is powered up. If you prefer your Wolverine Tornado Wedgie to the Hack'em Smack'em Claw Madness (okay, I made up the names), just bounce the power over to the other meter. Very handy.
To better relate things to the movie, Mutant Academy offers a slew of short FMV clips and pictures from the comics and the movie to unlock. However, none of the FMV's make much sense and, to be honest, who cares about unlocking pictures? If I wanted art I'd go to a museum. It's all about more characters or gameplay modes, though sadly what you see is what you get.
And that's the bottom line with X-Men: Mutant Academy - not enough depth. The simplistic gameplay makes multi-player somewhat boring, and the lack of additional characters makes the single player sort of pointless.
In the end, this is about as standard as fighting games come, though the strong graphics and smooth framerate keep it a step ahead of total mediocrity. Fans of the comic will get into it, but the rest of you 2D button mashers should probably stick with Capcom.