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Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5458)
Written on  :  Nov 06, 2004
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars

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Has everything except the Eye of the Tiger

The Good

Acting as a prequel to the Rocky movies, Rocky: Legends begins with Rocky's move from street-fighting to the boxing ring, Apollo Creed's rise to the pros, Clubber Lang's release from prison, and Ivan Drago's recruitment from the Russian military. Answering questions about the film series' heroes and villains you probably weren't asking, Legends lets the player act out (or rewrite) the career of the four characters from palooka to professional pugilist. Of course you can always skip the Career mode and go straight to pummeling another player.

After beginning a Career (and choosing one of three difficulty levels), players then pick one of the four main characters and start off on the lowest rung of the twenty-five step championship ladder. If you've seen the movies, then there are no surprises here. Rocky's gunning for Apollo Creed, Apollo's gunning for… um… whoever's number one, Clubber's coming after Rocky, and Ivan's taking down Apollo and Rocky. Along the championship ladder, there are some familiar boxers from the movie (try to name one) and ones created for the game.

Boxing works pretty well, using most of the controller in a logical fashion. The left analog stick controls movement around the ring. Basic punches are fired off with the face buttons, hooks and upper cuts use a combination of the face buttons and the right analog stick and R1, and there are a few super hits also using R1 and the face buttons.

Personally, I got pretty far throwing out a flurry of punches without much thought—until later levels. The box mentions that the game's AI adapts to the player's style, which sounds good but I think I was telegraphing my punches. Anyway, once I was in the top twenty, I suddenly had to rethink my style. Here, I appreciated the combos possible in the game, mixing jabs to the side with an upper cut and the like.

The main characters start off with low level stats, which is fine for the stumblebums the game leads off with, but you'll never win the belt unless you train. Between missions, you get to train (i.e. play minigames to boost your boxer's strength, stamina, etc). If you have two months before the next fight, then you can improve two stats (or one stat twice). Working the mitts builds strength, working the heavy bag helps movement, sit-ups build stamina, and the like. You can raise your ability score from 0-10 points depending on how well you do, or you can autotrain and get 5 points.

Using the training system, you can customize your character. Is maneuverability more important than speed? Is it better to go the distance or finish the fight early? My Rocky was a powerhouse until the fifth round hit, and then it became a struggle to stay alive.

Legends has many nice Rocky touches: the infamous Chicken Chase, the classic themes (but where's "Eye of the Tiger"?), powerful punches which wouldn't fly in the real world, and nice usage of the actual movies. The game's opening montage mixes game play shots with the movie footage. Character voices are pretty close and the music is spot on—down to the music that plays when you or your opponent's life meter drops.

Legends has great graphics: the boxing animations are smooth and the character's react to landed hits. Faces bruise and bloody, eyes swell up, jaws hang open. Slow motion replays show blood/sweat sprays. Nice visceral game play! The boxing rings are faithfully recreated from the movies, and Mickey looks great.

In addition to the Career Mode, the Practice Mode, the Knockout Tournament, and the Training Mode (where you can perfect your minigame skills), Legends has an area where you can spend your fight purse unlocking extra characters, arenas, movie trailers, a Survival Mode and other features.

The Bad

If you are looking for a boxing game, this probably isn't the one to go for. If you are looking for a Rocky game, I recommend this BUT you might find this to be a little repetitious.

Aside from the hero characters, the fodder between you and the champ feel generic. Their stats differ and they definitely get better as you move up the ladder, but there's not much that make them stand out character-wise. Likewise, the hero characters don't feel drastically different from each other—largely because their strengths and weaknesses are determined by the training options the player chooses.

Did I mention that I hate training? I was good with the mitts, which also act as a punch tutorial, but everything else hit the crapper—and I usually enjoy a button-masher. The problem I had here is that I felt like I was training, not my boxer. Using the autotrain is a nice bypass, but you'll miss the extra points near the end of the game.

The one thing that drove me crazy about Legends is that my boxer didn't automatically orient himself towards his opponent. Call it lousy footwork, but I have no problem using the entire ring offered to me—as I float like a butterfly, I'd still like to face the opposing bee.

The Bottom Line

Rocky: Legends is a decent entry, that works better as a two-player game than a one-player game. Probably worthwhile as a weekend rental, but don't expect anything more.

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