The N-Gage has certainly seen its share of console ports. However, due to the technological limitations of the platform, most of these hail from past console generations. X-Men Legends, on the other hand, debuted last year on the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2 and proved that mutant fighting teams and action RPGs can mesh. The N-Gage version of Legends has remained very close to its predecessor, both in design and execution. Equipped with a lengthy, fairly challenging adventure and great Bluetooth multiplayer, X-Men Legends is a lot of fun.
Legends centers on the drafting of a new mutant, Alison Crestmere, aka Magma. Like Rogue and Jubilee before her, Alison is a misunderstood teen who shows great potential, but is sometimes unable to control her power. Fortunately, training Alison proves an easy task for Professor Xavier (expertly voice-acted by Patrick Stewart), who manages to quickly smooth out the girl's rough edges by imparting a few choice words of wisdom via his commanding baritone. Wolverine, as always, provides the tough love of an older, highly protective brother, albeit one with a serious body-hair problem.
Alison's blossoming into a full-fledged field officer runs parallel to the main plotline, which is your typical Uncanny X-Men intrigue. Magneto and the Brotherhood, having labeled mutantkind "Homo superior," are planning to subjugate ordinary humans, converting them into a permanent underclass. Obviously, this sort of behavior unfairly sullies the name of hard-working, god-fearing mutants everywhere, so the X-Men are called into duty. Even Magma is asked to test her mettle against Magneto and company.
Of course, you spend most of your time combating Magneto's hapless underlings, who primarily attack you in small groups. The biggest danger is becoming overwhelmed by a large number of assailants. During large confrontations, it's necessary to use items like stun grenades to level the playing field. Your entire inventory is easily accessible via a series of contextual menus. Curative items occupy one section, and offensive items are grouped in another. Similar systems are used to select between mutants (three out of four mutants are controlled by AI in the single-player mode) and mutant special abilities. This system is elegant, and it almost completely obviates the need to enter the more-detailed pause menu, which you'll periodically have to use to manage character stats and abilities as your mutants gain experience.
In multiplayer sessions, the gameplay is largely unchanged, except for the fact that, as in the console versions, you'll have up to three buddies helping control your squad of X-Men. Having a full team of four players affords you the greatest advantage as, although Legends' friendly AI uses abilities and special attacks fairly intelligently, it doesn't know when to stop fighting to heal. Furthermore, you're shown the mana and health status of only a single character at a time, so knowing when to heal can be tough. Fellow humans can aid you in this endeavor. Your other incentive to use Bluetooth co-op is that it's extremely enjoyable. Needless to say, multiplayer sessions can become raucous affairs, in which teammates scream tactical "advice" at one another. Too often, Bluetooth functionality feels like another bullet point on the list of a game's features. Here, it's integral to the experience.
X-Men Legends' visual presentation is very strong. The game is viewed from the same isometric overhead perspective seen in the console versions. Your X-Men and their environments are now sprite-based, rather than polygonal, but the game nonetheless looks sharp and features crisp animation. Despite the change in graphical engines, the game's overall visual style is very comparable to that of its console brethren. The sporadic FMV sequences, used to advance the plot, are especially neat, although they look pretty low res and suffer from some artifacting. The N-Gage's vertical screen orientation means that, when you letterbox video, you're not really allocating a whole lot of pixels to the task.
The game's sound is some of the best on the platform. The amount of spoken dialogue stuffed onto Legends' MMC is unparalleled. The sound effects are varied and hard-hitting, making slicing through fools with Wolverine all the more satisfying. The game's fight music can become a little grating, though, especially during long skirmishes. Fortunately, you can mix the game's spoken dialogue, sound effects, and music to your liking.
The N-Gage is typically inundated by stripped-down console ports, and X-Men Legends helps buck this trend. This game feels more complete and playable than all but a handful of N-Gage titles, and provides a fairly lengthy adventure to boot. The game's excellent Bluetooth support also adds a lot of depth and value to the package, making this one a great purchase if you tend to game in a group.