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X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse

Score: 45%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

They should've just ported the first X-Men arcade game to the Game Boy Advance and saved everyone a lot of grief. It's tough to think of a single outstanding aspect of X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse...

Well, maybe the graphics. Although most characters are grossly misrepresented (shouldn't the Sentinels be taller?), the artists did a fine job on the static backgrounds. Fighter animations are about as smooth as sandpaper at times, but characters like Rogue and Blob serve as the exceptions. There's really nothing to admire about the sound department, though -- you might enjoy the music on the first couple of levels, but not after you realize they're the only two songs in the game! Yeesh. And there's just no excuse for giving every male enemy (even the robotic Sentinels and Apocalypse himself) the exact same death scream! Is it really too much trouble to record someone saying 'Ugh!' with a different inflection?


If it's classic arcade beat-'em-up bliss you're looking for, opt for Capcom's Final Fight One instead. Reign of Apocalypse manages to warp the qualities that made its coin-op predecessor so popular into a downright disgrace of the genre -- quite a sad feat, considering the major competition was better than this back in 1989.

Behind a weak plot and tiny levels rests very little substance. Players control Wolverine, Storm, Rogue and Cyclops on their way through 12 locations in an altered dimension ruled by Apocalypse. In each stage (usually only 3-4 screens in length), hordes of enemy clones hide at the fringes of the screen until they're attacked; this continues for a couple of minutes until the boss appears and is promptly beaten. Repeat until game ends. Boooooring.

Despite the fact that most side-scrolling brawlers carry a similar design, at least legends like Streets of Rage were able to pull it off without a hitch. Although there's virtually no fun to be had in Reign of Apocalypse's single-player game, link cable support is available for Cooperative and Versus modes (provided you've got a friend who was silly enough to buy the game as well). Arenas and bosses become playable in Versus games as they are conquered with each character in Story mode, but that's the only reason to play through the game again once you've beaten it. And chances are you still won't bother once you see the ending.


There are no separate difficulty levels in Reign of Apocalypse, only the option to increase the available number of continues. Of course, any decent player should be able to make it through the entire game without using more than one continue, thanks to the moronic AI code provided by Digital Eclipse.

Cyclops and Storm can use unlimited projectile attacks that'll hit nearly every enemy from across the screen, so it's technically possible to defeat every boss in the game without even getting near them. Jumping attacks also seem to hit every time with little danger of being knocked out of the air, making it unfair for the computer opponents to get in any punches. It may sound stupid to practically beg for the bad guys to fight back, but there's clearly no fun in a game where one could conceivably clear each stage with only two moves and never die!

Game Mechanics:

Sadly, controlling your mutant is more complicated than it should be. A simple combo (well, the only combo in the game) seems to require odd timing for each character. Cyclops, for example, will throw out the same stiff punch animation every time unless you jam on that A button; on the other hand, Storm always performs a full combo with a few casual taps. Strangely, Rage Attacks (performed by simply pressing the L button) only come out half the time they're supposed to, proving quite an annoying little bug when you're surrounded by Acolytes and wondering if your buttons are malfunctioning.

Yes, Reign of Apocalypse is full of little problems that point to an almost amateurish job of programming. Perhaps the weirdest (although sometimes amusing) could be the uncanny ability to 'juggle' defeated enemies across the screen as they bounce into the air after every punch, screaming the same monotonous death sound each time. With the right timing, Rogue can pop a dead Ranger five or six times before he flies off the screen for good. It's tough to imagine stuff like this getting past a trained quality assurance team, but it apparently happens.

Here's the bottom line: you want gameplay like the old X-Men coin-op on your GBA, but you won't find it here. Think back a decade or so... has Capcom ever let you down? Exactly. Do the industry a favor and pick up Final Fight One for a clearly superior experience, albeit a much, much older one.

-Ben Monkey, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ben Lewis

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