Legend of the Dragon PlayStation 2
Published by: The Game Factory
Developed by: Neko Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Games based on animated series have often been a mixed bag. There are the good games such as Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi (which richly deserved our rating of 8.3/10) and there are the turkeys such as Biker Mice from Mars (which barely deserved a rating of 2.5/10). More often than not the developer's assumption is probably that children will see their favourite cartoon characters plastered all over the box and will be overcome with the urge to own the game thus having to make a quality game is unnecessary. Whether this is the case or not is anyone's guess but it's painfully true that most games of this type often fail to impress. With that in mind let's look at Legend of the Dragon, a game that's based on an animated series that's currently airing on BBC 2 here in the UK.
The Legend of the Dragon animated series is set in China and tells the story of Ang and Ling, the brother and sister twins, who were born in the year of the Dragon. Ang walks the path of light whilst Ling prefers the darkness. Ling was envious of Ang as he was made the Golden Dragon, who is charged with keeping the universal balance of Yin and Yang and protecting them from the evil Zodiac Master. Ling feels betrayed and that she should have been made the Golden Dragon. She swears vengeance on all those who she feels has betrayed her including their mentor, Master Chin and her brother Ang. Consumed by hate and jealousy she becomes the Shadow Dragon and aligns with the forces of Darkest Yin.
Legend of the Dragon is a fighting game that features a Quest mode, Quick Fight mode (which allows you to choose one of the 18 fighters (only 12 are initially available) and take part in a one-off battle), Survival mode, Time Attack mode, a Versus mode (supports four players if you have a Multitap device) and a Practice mode. You can play the Quest mode as one of three characters, although you'll only be able to play as either Ang or Ling at the start. I decided to opt for Ang and the story picks up from where Ang has just acquired the Golden Dragon's powers. Ang has to begin by going to all of the temples of the Zodiac and completing the challenges that the temple guardians have for him in order to earn mighty gems that can be used to increase his punch attack, kick attack, resistance, life points and magic points attributes. Only then can he be strong enough to face the Zodiac Master. If you decide to play as Ling you'll have to do pretty much the same before she's strong enough to defeat her brother.
In the Quest mode you'll have to move your chosen character around the map as if they were a piece on a board game. You'll move from node to node on the map. Some nodes will simply open up a new branching path whilst others will reveal a location. If it's a temple where you have to complete a guardian's challenge you'll trigger a fight. In each of these fights you'll have a set condition that must be met. For instance you might have to win the fight within 60 seconds or you may have to win with a combo move. Whilst this initially seems like a good way of doing things, it can be annoying when you've won the fight only to lose it because you didn't meet the condition. Knocking an opponent out of the ring, when you need to win with a combo, will simply result in defeat which seems a little punishing. If you win the fight and satisfy the conditions you'll earn a mighty gem with which to upgrade one of your character's attributes. Should you fail you can either redo the battle or go back to the map screen.
After playing some of the better fighting games, such as Virtua Fighter 5, various Tekken titles and of course many Capcom and SNK titles it's rather difficult to swallow how basic and limp the combat model is in Legend of the Dragon. You have a kick, block, punch, and grab button with the L1 and R1 being used to strafe. The range of attacks that can be performed is rather small and the combo system is extremely limited as you can only string a few attacks together. To make things a little more interesting, the characters can transform to their alter egos, once enough Ki has been attained, and this will give you access to attacks such as Energy Wave, Energy Attack and Energy Blasts which are slightly more powerful although they don't have a great deal of bearing on the fight and every transformed character has these same attacks which seems very strange given that practically every fighting game for a good many years gives its characters unique attacks.
As you would expect with a game based on an animated series, the developers decided to go with the cel-shaded look for the game. To be fair it looks OK but it would be wrong to say it couldn't have looked better. The character models are passable, as are the various battle arenas you'll visit. Some aspects, such as the map you'll move around on in the Quest mode, look quite poor and could have done with more detail. Given that the game doesn't look as good as it could, it's surprising to see some frame rate issues here and there. Thankfully these frame rate dips aren't a frequent occurrence and they don't harm the experience in any way.
Legend of the Dragon is quite deaf gamer friendly. The storyline dialogue in Quest mode is delivered in text. You're shown a portrait of the character who is talking and the text is displayed in a dialogue box. You'll need to press the X button to move the conversation forward which means you'll get to read the text at your own pace. There are a few words spoken during a battle that aren't subtitled but this is hardly problematic. The tutorial section of the Practice mode is delivered in text only so deaf gamers will have no problem in learning the game's combat system.
Given the amount of children that would be interested in the Legend of the Dragon, it's safe to assume that even a mediocre game would have been enough to have it flying off the shelves. Unfortunately it would be an exaggeration to say that the game was mediocre. The game retails for £19.99 and to be honest at that price there are many better fighting titles to be had (such as the aforementioned Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi). The combat model feels primitive. At times the Quest mode feels a little unfair having to complete fights in a specified manner (especially when opponents can fall out of the 'ring' and cause you to not satisfy the conditions). Even the most ardent fan of the TV series would be hard pressed to find a reason to keep coming back to the game.
Legend of the Dragon is disappointing in almost every department. Even the most dedicated fans of the TV series would be hard pressed to claim otherwise.