Thursday, March 29, 2012

Legend of the Dragon Review

Legend of the Dragon is a fighting game from Game Factory that's based on a cartoon that currently airs on Toon Disney as part of its Jetix programming block. It's about a pair of 15-year-old twins, Ang and Ling, who are on opposite sides of a martial-arts-themed conflict involving humans that can transform into beastlike creatures. The fighting in this game is uniformly terrible, giving you the feeling that the product was constructed as a licensing tie-in first and a game second, but the ugly graphics and lack of character speech mean that this probably won't do much for fans of the show either, making it a failure from every angle.

The fighting is stripped down, with only one punch and one kick button and very basic combos that string those two attacks together. While you can push in a direction to execute different punches and kicks, you don't have any special moves in your human form. As in most modern fighting games, as you fight, a meter fills up with energy. Once it crosses a certain threshold, you can transform into your character's guardian form. For the main characters, the forms are largely human still, just armored. Others turn into decidedly snakelike, or ratlike, people, and so on down the line. Your basic abilities don't change when you're transformed--you can still attack, and the game still plays like a bad 2D fighter with 3D ring movement buttons. But you can also use your power meter when transformed to execute three different special attacks that make the game feel like it's trying to ape the Dragon Ball Z Budokai series. One attack launches a DBZ-like energy beam at your opponent, and at that point, a button-mashing or controller-waving frenzy breaks out, which either causes more damage or nullifies the attack, depending on which player can mash faster. Another special attack has the player enter six button presses or controller motions at random. If the opposing player can memorize the string and enter part of it, that player will block the incoming attack. The third attack launches a series of fireballs in a rhythmic fashion, and the defending player can dodge these with well-timed button presses or controller waves. Unfortunately, these attacks are identical for every fighter in the game.

In addition to a stock of standard fighting modes, like survival and practice, there's a quest mode, where you move Ang or Ling around a map screen as though it were some kind of board game. There are temples at several spots on the map, and at each temple, there's a challenge for you to complete. The game tries to get clever here and change things up by giving you stipulations for each fight, like in Soul Calibur's quest mode. So some fights have time restrictions, others can be won only with specific attacks, and some fighters are only susceptible to combos. If any part of the fighting were even remotely enjoyable, this might provide an interesting change of pace. But it only manages to frustrate, because it's very easy to knock opponents out of the ring accidentally, which will lose the fight for you if you needed to do something else to your foe.

Legend of the Dragon is available on both the PlayStation 2 and the Wii. The PS2 version has very standard controls, with buttons for blocking and throwing. The Wii setup uses the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk and is very similar to the PS2 controls, though on the Wii you'll block by pushing down on the D pad, and you'll throw by pressing down on the D pad and waving the remote toward your opponent. All of the special attacks require some form of Remote movement, and none of them feel precise. Graphically, the two games are very similar--both of them have bland visuals, with a generic cel-shaded look and weak animation that makes all the characters look pretty bad. The backgrounds are also ugly and plain. Because the game is based on an animated series, you'd hope for some form of voice acting, but other than the typical fighting game grunts and a few very short voice clips here and there, it plods on in silence, using text to convey the quest mode's nonstory.

Because of the game's dull fighting system that doesn't play well against the computer-controlled opponents or against a live human being, it seems almost impossible to have fun with Legend of the Dragon. When you factor in the total lack of detail in the attempt to mimic the cartoon's look and feel, you're left with a game that even diehard fans of the relatively obscure cartoon will probably hate. Do yourself a favor and keep your distance.

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