The X-Men Legends franchise is not only one of the most popular action/RPGs on the planet, but it's also one of the most prolific. Even though there are only a few entries in the series, X-Men Legends has been ported to almost every game system known to man. To date it has shown up on all of the new and old consoles, the PSP, Nintendo DS and even the Game Boy Advance. Heck, I would be surprised if a Commodore 64 version shows up sooner or later. Because the series has been passed around so much I guess I should be shocked to see an N-Gage version. What is surprising is that this little game actually holds up well when pitted against its bigger brothers.
X-Men Legends is an adventure game that puts you in command of a four-mutant team. You can switch out teammates while playing a through a lengthy plot involving Magneto (who else?) and a novice X-Men recruit, Alison Crestmere (aka Magma). Controllable characters include the likes of Wolverine and Cyclops, so all of the popular mutants are covered.
The majority of the game is spent fighting hordes of thugs and guards -- which are quite plentiful. Sometimes they will attack you in manageable pairs, other times the screen seems overrun with bad guys. Fortunately, you have your mutant powers and a host of special items to help you out in a pinch like this. The menu system for selecting usable items and mutant powers is easy to navigate.
Since you're in control of four different X-Men, you must rely on the AI to manage the three mutants you are not directly pulling the strings on. This is sometimes frustrating (as it is in many games) since the AI doesn't always do what you wish it would. For example, you might wish to heal before you fall before Magneto's might. The AI may see it another way and run on ahead of the group.
In addition to fighting, there is a good amount of item collecting and skill building, lending X-Men Legends some serious RPG mechanics. As you mow down bad guys, break open objects, and check through doors, you'll uncover equipment upgrades that will help you overpower the ever-increasing strength of Magneto's forces.
As a single-player game, X-Men Legends is good. But as a multiplayer game it's great. X-Men Legends supports Bluetooth for multiplayer sessions, and it's definitely the best way to play. You can discuss what to do with nearby players and come to a consensus on what to do, where to go, and how to fight. And chances are your friends, unlike the AI, actually know when to heal.
Even though the game mechanics are solid, perhaps the most stunning aspects of X-Men Legends are the production values. Developer Barking Lizards certainly knew what to do with the N-Gage, assembling a game that capitalizes on the promise that Nokia delivered. On consoles, X-Men Legends was pure polygons with some excellent cellshading techniques to make the game look like a true comic book come to life. X-Men Legends employs sprites rather than polygons, but considering some of the difficulties the N-Gage has moving a significant amount of Polygons, the change is welcome and most likely for the better.
Hand-drawn sprites actually allowed Barking Lizard to craft some smooth animations for each of the characters. Many of your garden variety enemies don't get the same lush treatment, but since they don't remain on-screen for long, perhaps the attention is better received on the leads. The locations, straight from the console title, are solid recreations.
What will really surprise you, though, is the amount of full-motion video and voice that is crammed into this tiny MMC. The number of video cutscenes isn't legendary, but they are used wisely to forward the plot and I was pleased to see that even though they are low-res, they don't look as grainy as I feared they might. X-Men Legends includes reams of spoken script (including voice work from Patrick Stewart as Professor X) and all the voices, despite sounding a little tinny from compression routines, are easily heard. The sound effects are also good, but they seem to have come at the expense of background music, which is not as plentiful.
I wish these were the kinds of games the N-Gage launched with, because the gaming journalists that love to hack on the system would have little to gnash over. This is a breakthrough title for the system, proving that it can not only recreate console games cleverly (as long as the right developer is working on it), but it can offer very compelling to-go gaming on par with the best of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS ( I wouldn't say PSP though). If you own an N-Gage, this is definitely worth buying.