As those on Twitter (@TopRopeDavey) are probably aware, I am a huge fan of older videogames, but also modern video games in general, which is why, for a while, I had planned to open my own retro video gaming arcade.
Due to personal unforseen circumstances, this hasn’t come to light, but I’m a big fan of the video gaming arcade cum coffee shop that has just opened up in Paisley, Power Up Coffee.
Seriously good coffee, a really good range of video games available, Virtual Reality and really good customer service.
Now that the plug for the shop is done, let me explain something. Since the move up from England to Scotland at the end of January 2019, I have been unearthing my retro game collection, which has led me to finding a video game I found for my Playstation 1:….
X-Men Mutant Academy 2
What is that?
X-Men Mutant Academy 2 is a Street Fighter style game, where you can play as both the good guys and the Brotherhood of Mutants in a PVP (player-versus-player) or PVC (player versus computer) setting, with a wide range of playable characters and settings, in a 3D environment.
It really does show off what the Playstation 1 can do, and is very impressive, but that’s not the most impressive bit. It allows people to play most of the traditional line-up of X-Men and their rogues gallery, but the most impressive character to play was one that means a lot of for a disabled gamer: you can play as Charles Xavier.
You read that right. You can play as a wheelchair-bound character, and he’s arguably one of the strongest characters in the game. Not only that, he has one of the most kick-ass backgrounds in the game, which is to say that his background is the freakin’ Danger Room, as featured in the comics.
As well as playing as characters you wouldn’t expect in this setting, there’s an added bonus: additional skins. Whilst in previous games of this ilk, it just meant playing palette-swapped characters, this game doubled down on this, and gave you different skins. Spider-Man, for example, is an unlockable character who first appears in his usual red-and-white suit, but once you complete the game (which is an achievement within itself), you unlock the ability to play in his iconic symbiote suit, which is a real treat for comic book fans.
The most funny ones though, are the pool party skins you unlock after 100%ing the game in it’s entirety. For example, these are the Pool Party skins for Juggernaut and Professor X. Yes, you’re seeing Cain Marko wearing a sand bucket instead of the helmet holding the amulet of Cyttorak.
Not only this, but the game also gives you what can only be described as a McBain movie.
For those unaware of what I mean, in The Simpsons, there are several clips of an Arnold Schwarzenegger parody movie, but they’re placed in the wrong order.
X Men Mutant Academy 2 performs the same feat, with the start of the game showing you a mini movie of the X-Men training in the Danger Room, before Juggernaut, Mystique, Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants break in.
When you complete the arcade challenges for each character, more of this movie is shown before the credits, which when rearranged, gives you a perfectly serviceable X-Men movie. Eat that, Matt Groening.
The graphics are pretty damned good for the time period that this game was crafted in as well, with no game freezing, and a pretty stable frame rate. Under today’s age of 4k displays and 60 frames per second, this hasn’t really survived the scaling up using conversion units to allow a PS2 to play on a high-definition TV, but that wasn’t the point.
This game is 18 years old, and as an adapted Mortal Kombat game, this is definitely one to play if you have an old PS2 or PS1. The graphics beat that of some PS2 games (including that of the spyro games) and it’s visually beautiful. It’s not that brilliant, when the characters in the mini-movie don’t match up to the playable characters, but that’s really just nitpicking.
Speaking of Mortal Kombat, this game is an absolute treat for those who love creating huge combos and a real difficulty curve, as it took me nearly five days to truly complete this game. People who are new to fighting games, I strongly recommend the “easy” mode first, as the harder difficulty settings have huge jumps in them.
To give you an idea, it’s like jumping from Skyrim to Dark Souls when you jump up difficulty levels. It was the source of a lot of consternation for me, and the person living with me really suffered with the amount of blue air in the room.
When you play this game through the easy mode, you can play as the most uncoordinated character in the game and just about make it through the game, but as you progress throughout, you’re going to need time in the Danger Room to practice those combos with different characters.
My personal favourite (other than Professor X) was playing with Storm, as her super-move is franky astonishing to use, and the combos for her are some of the trickiest to master.
So, Davey, you’ve reviewed this game now, are there others like it?
You bet your ass there is! X-Men Mutant Academy 2 got a sequel on PS2, called X-Men: Next Dimension, which is only really worth playing for Patrick Stewart’s inimitable Yorkshire accent, but this inspired future games.
For example, Marvel VS Capcom have had at least 3 decent games, Soul Calibur has featured Darth Vader and Yoda, DC superheroes and villains appeared in DC VS Mortal Kombat, then there’s the elephant in the proverbial room: Injustice: Gods Among Us.
To be frank, all these aforementioned games and series owe their existence to the X-Men Mutant Academy series, but Injustice 1 is the one that owes it the most, as whilst the games are somewhat different (as online play wasn’t available for PS1), the basic formula is a copy-and-paste job.
So, why do we need a new X:Men Mutant Academy Game?
For the same reason as we need a new X-Men Game. The X-Men can still teach us things about ourselves, and whilst the subjects are still uncomfortable for certain sections of western society, it will always be necessary. For example, in the UK, X-Men and their message has not recently been as needed as it is now.
Whilst people are being attacked for simply being difficult, Stan Lee’s message of how a group of misfits and social outcasts can change the world is incredibly important.
Politics aside, there are other reasons we need it.
Reason 1: The failure of the X-Men film franchise.
In 2005, with X-Men 1 and 2 out on videos, a lot of people thought they’d witnessed the birth of the first superhero shared cinematic universe, with the themes of the X-Men comics handled deftly by Bryan Singer. How wrong we were.
Whilst X-Men: The Last Stand aged well, the following spin-off films critically bombed. X:Men Origins: Wolverine did the unthinkable by introduced the cinema going audience to Deadpool (commonly known as “The Merc With The Mouth”) and then promptly sealed his mouth shut, introduced a Louisiana-based character called Gambit and gave him a Bronx accent, and because of this particular film’s failure, we ended up getting a reboot: First Class.
James McAvoy did a spectacular job in playing Xavier, and Michael Fassbender did a brilliant job of channelling his inner Sir Ian McKellen in that film, but sadly the goodwill of this film would only last for two films.
Apocalypse was perfectly serviceable, but was far too glum and dark for everyone but the most diehard of fans, and if the reviews are to be believed (and I can confirm that personally), Dark Phoenix resembles a dumpster fire more than a decent superhero film. Assuming that another film isn’t commissioned, this leaves an X-Men sized hole in today’s cultural ethos.
As far as I can see, this leaves a gap open for a decent game, and there is plenty of precedent for that, with Sony teaming up with Insomniac Games to create Marvel’s Spider-Man. That game is absolutely superb, and as of E3 2019, there is now a Marvel’s Avengers game on the way. With Injustice having a brilliant release, and a sequel which is a must for both superhero fans and fighting games enthusiasts, there has never been time to remake this game series.
Yours, as always,