Despite the name, there’s no Crouching Tiger to be found here.
After a nearly fifteen-year ban on console sales, Chinese developers have finally started to test the waters. The floodgates opened only two years ago after Chinese officials decided to end the ban on sales of console games. Computer and smartphone games have maintained total domination in China’s burgeoning gaming market, yet there are signs that their stranglehold is beginning to crack. PlayStation’s ‘China Hero Project’ boasts promising titles such as Lost Soul Aside, a project started by a lone fan inspired by Final Fantasy XV trailers. This is all to say that I am very excited to see what China’s console developers have to offer.
Unfortunately, China has had less than two years to accomplish what their international counterparts have had decades to. Consoles have distinct benefits and limitations that differentiate them computers or smartphones. Hidden Dragon Legend suffers from choppy framerates, poorly-modeled characters, and stilted animations that mark inexperience with the technology. But its greatest faults lie not with the tech behind it, but in Hidden Dragon Legend‘s laughably awkward voice acting, dead-horse tropes, and a story that paces less like an afternoon jog and more like being struck by a sixteen-wheeler.
Beijing wasn’t built in a day.
Hidden Dragon Legend‘s opening sequence has shirtless protagonist Lu escape from a rat-infested prison where bodies fall limply onto the floor from menacing torture devices. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the first level of Dark Souls, the Undead Asylum—which is the highest level of praise this game will get from me. Like the prison’s corpses, Hidden Dragon Legend falls gracelessly into an unappealing heap as Lu emerges from the prison’s walls. Masked jailkeepers speak in clumsy, broken sentences that feel like poor translations of the original game’s Chinese. The voice acting itself is no better. While some characters speak in clear and audible (if not amateurish) voices, others are muffled and indistinct.
In a way, the voice acting matches the characters themselves. Even the most important figures show little more than a hint of a one-dimensional personality. Nearly every character is a mouthpiece for bland and unimportant exposition that amounts to ‘go kill this guy, he’s evil’ or ‘haha I’m evil, fear me’. Other characters exist only to die moments later, unconvincing motivation for the surrogate protagonist. Lu himself has the personality of an unseasoned bowl of white rice, which is notably less offensive than nearly every other character in the game.
Hack and slash your way through enemies with way, way too much health.
Soon after Hidden Dragon Legend shatters any sense of immersion with its awful script, it dashes any hope that combat will be any better. The flow of combat is broken by the enemy’s lightest slap across the face. Some opponents have wind-up animations that feel nearly impossible to predict, and knife-throwing opponents are quick to interrupt your flashy combos. Capturing every opponent in your attacks makes it more likely that you’ll be able to keep your combo counter up, but many will flash yellow or green as they gain hyper armor to avoid knockdown effects.
This might be forgivable if every enemy didn’t have positively massive health pools. By the end of the game, Lu is supposed to be a fearsome swordsman with mystical powers and a legendary sword. If I wanted to feel like a teenager running around with a pool noodle, I’d be playing Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. At least then I could enjoy the view!
A hop, skip, and a double jump.
In addition to sidescrolling hack-and-slash action, Hidden Dragon Legend includes lengthy platforming sequences. The game attempts to match puzzle-platforming titles like God of War or The Legend of Zelda but fails in an infuriating fashion. While the prologue and first level task the player with jumping across simple gaps and over basic obstacles, the second and third levels ramp up the difficulty with spouts of flame and crumbling bridges. Rather than rely on precise, well-timed jumps, Hidden Dragon Legend expects the player to fail over and over until they memorize each obstacle.
What frustrates me most about Hidden Dragon Legend is the dissonance between the artistic vision of its concept artists and its execution. Character entries depict fearsome allies and imposing enemies, but these designs are wasted on cardboard cutouts that claim to be characters. Hidden Dragon Legend is proof that pretty setpieces alone can’t carry a game to greatness or even to mediocrity. While I remain confident that Chinese console developers will dazzle and delight international players in the near future, Hidden Dragon Legend is proof that many developers still have a long way to go.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Oasis Games ; Developer: Megafun ; Players: 1 ; Released: September 19, 2017 ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Hidden Dragon Legend given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.