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Legend of the Dragon

Score: 45%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: The Game Factory
Developer: A Reality Studios
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:

Legend of the Dragon is a game based on an animated series of the same name. Unfortunately I'm not able to personally compare it with the animated series, but a good game should be able to be enjoyed independent of its source material. Actually, I did try to look up the animated series. I looked for clips, stills, even official art. I couldn't find much on the animated series, but oddly enough, what I did find were plenty of references to the Legend of the Dragon games. I even pulled up an eerie search result that basically said exactly the same thing. Nevermind that then, perhaps this game will be so interesting you'll want to scour the internet and store shelves to get your hands on it. Right?

Well no, that's wrong, and I was kidding. To start, there's nothing impressive about the look of this game. I can't even give it points for simply being decent looking, because it's just so bland. It's very bright, with little texture and very little detail. That goes for characters as well as backgrounds. The motion-capture used to create the characters is probably the best thing they have going for them. It gives them a bit of fluidity to their movements, but that's about it. Now, before I go any further, let me explain that I'm from a camp that believes a fighting game needs unique characters with detail and individual style. After all, who are you supposed to root for if everyone looks and acts alike? Legend of the Dragon's characters are severely lacking in individuality. I can't fault the game designers for this entirely since they were working from a cartoon as source material. But as I'll comment more on later, all the characters look essentially the same (as far as their simple outfits and textures), and fight essentially the same (they're animated with relatively the same weight and speed). I'd say even the cel shading utilized gives the impression it was done to save time, not to make the game look stylistically impressive.

I want to comment a bit more on the character design of this game. Look at the character Bastet, for example. Her normal form appears to be of a woman with the head of the cat. Well, alright, that's not only using Egyptian mythology for inspiration, it's pretty much lifting it without any change. I'll accept this strange insertion of an ancient Egyptian deity into a story based primarily on Chinese mythology - not without hesitation, but I'll accept it. Like all the characters, she has the ability to transform into a more powerful form. It's usually a dramatic change, since most of the other characters are humans that turn into some form of their Zodiac: chicken, ox, snake, etc. Well, Bastet transforms from a cat into - get ready for this - another cat. It's not even a really different looking cat, she just sort of takes off her Egyptian head garb and lets her hair down. But even the dramatic changes aren't always for the best. Just look at the main character, Ang, when he transforms into Golden Dragon form. He looks like he belongs on a float during Mardi Gras. If you don't get the reference, I just think he looks silly, especially for being the main character who supposedly inherited some awesome power.

The sound of the game ranges from generally mundane to skin-crawling bad. To begin with some bad, one particular stage is set on a mountain top. I kept hearing some static-like sound repeating in the background. When I paused the game, the music was muted and I could more clearly hear the mystery sound. Now it sounded like a rollercoaster rushing past periodically. I was wondering what that sound could possibly be for. I finally realized through deduction that it was supposed to be the wind rushing through the mountaintops. Wow. Equally disappointing are the characters' sound effects. There are probably only 4 or 5 distinct sets of voices that are recycled for all the characters. It's not as if they did 4 sets of really great sound effects either, they're static-laden and sound like they belong in a game from the previous decade. Finally, the mundane would be the background music. It's not completely horrible - if you don't mind that it's derivative, "listen to this, it's Asian!" music, it can be a little catchy.


Gameplay:

The story of Legend of the Dragon revolves around Ang and his twin sister Ling. Upon the death of the Golden Dragon Guardian, a new guardian needed to be chosen. When Ang received the power of the Golden Dragon, rather than Ling, she became jealous to the point of wanting revenge. And upon hearing about that, an evil villain gives her the power of the Shadow Dragon. In Quest mode, you play as either Ang or Ling, both of whom are attempting to gain the power of all the Zodiac guardians. That's about as deep as it gets for story, and the writing is pretty juvenile to boot. Such gems as, "Hey! Go away if you don't want us to get you!" are what await you. Since the game is based on a cartoon, I realize kids are the target audience here. Still, the text doesn't have to look like it came out of an elementary school creative writing class. But hey, I can't argue too much about weak story in a fighting game, so let's move on.

Legend of the Dragon does at least have several gameplay options to choose from. There's the Quest, Practice, Survival or Versus mode. However, inexplicable things happen in each of them, some being glitches, some being simply part of the game that remains unexplained. In the Quest Mode, you basically have to challenge and defeat all the other Zodiac Guardians. You're usually given a condition for winning, then you fight the Guardian. Upon winning, with no fanfare whatsoever, you're allowed to move on to the next area of the map. But for a few of the Guardians, when you defeat them, you start a long chain of matches with no explanation offered as to why that chain started. No, you're just suddenly fighting about 20 more enemies than you anticipated when you started the fight with the Guardian. Not only that, but you switch places and start fighting as the Guardian. Since the writing is so poor, it seemed like some kind of mistake, and I wondered if I had done something wrong. I could probably use up an entire section just listing the actual glitches I encountered. I'll give you one that happens during the Practice mode for example. When you resume the game after a pause, your A.I. opponent will always do something like jump or transform, even if you did not select an action for them. It is only Practice mode, but it's still aggravating. I get a real sinking feeling when I try to play through Legend of the Dragon, so glitches like that sprinkled throughout don't do anything to alleviate that feeling.


Difficulty:

Legend of the Dragon isn't a difficult game until you encounter the special restrictions in Quest Mode. Although you can level your character up to make him or her stronger, you can't do much if you find it difficult to win by ringing out an opponent or by only using combo attacks. Often you'll end up losing the match because you "beat" the opponent in the wrong way. In regular matches outside of Quest mode, cheap tactics win the day. You can win matches fairly easily with the use of one move over and over. If that doesn't get you through an entire match, then there's always the option to transform. Transforming adds power, and basically gives you a free ticket to launch special moves. If Quest Mode isn't necessarily hard, and you manage to get the hang of winning matches under its conditions, it's still aggravating. Fighting games just simply aren't supposed to take so long to beat. Not to mention you usually get to experience the story as more than just two or three of the game's characters.

Game Mechanics:

If you haven't guessed it by now, the controls for Legend of the Dragon also fail to impress. They are just too twisted and unreliable for a fighting game. Look at the acrobatics you have to go through just to block. You need to hold down on the Wii-mote's directional pad along with down on the analog stick if you are doing a crouching block. If you want to do a counter, you flick both the Nunchuk and the Wii-mote simultaneously. Oh but wait, if you're defending from a special attack when your opponent is transformed and you are still human, it's going to be the (C) and the (Z) buttons held down simultaneously if you want to block that. If it were just a fighting game with a simple 4-button control system, it could still manage to achieve some depth through other means - it's been done before. However, the motion controls are tacked on without any reasoning, and the rest of the controls are set up in ways that make even less sense. What really gets me about all this is that this is a game made for kids. It's too frustrating for anyone to enjoy, let alone a kid with a short attention span.

The character lineup has no real diversity in fighting style or tactics. For the most part, all the characters feel and play exactly the same. Collision detection is a bit of a joke too. You can do things like counter an air attack with a sliding ground attack. If that's not wrong enough, the meat of this fighting game really is its special moves. That shouldn't be the heart of a fighting game, and if it is, the special moves shouldn't be simple to pull off. In this game, the simplest thing to remember to do is transform and fire special moves away. But really, cheapness in any form in this game isn't penalized. So let me revise that, you should transform as soon as you can to finish your opponent with special moves, unless you've already used the same kick on them 20 or so times to defeat them.

Really, I'd like to say something good here. But if there were good things to say, I would have said them. Still, I've struggled to think of some small redeeming value for this game, so here it is. Ever remember as a kid having that one really boring class, but having a friend to share it with? Ever remember joking, passing notes, and having a good time because you made something fun out of your shared misery? Well, that's what it would take to make an enjoyable experience out of this game. So if you have a rainy day, a friend, and this game, you might be able to make a good time out of it. I wouldn't wish it upon you otherwise.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Microsoft Xbox 360 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Windows Spaceforce: Rogue Universe

 
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