Genre : Action
Publisher : UbiSoft
Developer : Genki
Release date : October 9, 2003
Chinese martial arts were created in the early 5000 BC but have only recently become the focus of attention from American movie audiences, showing up in Hollywood big screen titles such as “The Matrix,” “Kill Bill,” and many more. Most of these movies create a new and upbeat style of martial arts and don’t portray the original Chinese form. “Floating” might not be textbook martial arts, but it is an element that is always seen in Chinese martial art movies, and very rarely in US titles, with the exception of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which was released in 2000. As we have seen lately, you can’t have a movie without a game. Three years after the movie’s release, the video game is finally available for the enjoyment of console gamers.
If you don’t already know the story of CTHD, I strongly suggest you watch it before you play this game because the game follows the movie to the letter. Fans of the movie will immediately notice that there isn’t any “floating” in the game. Genki tried to make it look like the characters were in the air somewhat longer after a jump, but definitely no flying across treetops. It would have been great if they had actually implemented it because this skill would have helped me pass some of these levels much faster.
The game is a straight-out beater in which you try to bash the enemy into tiny little pieces. What makes this game stand out more from the other games is the use of martial arts moves. Depending on the button combination you hit, there will be a different sequence, some that look incredible while others are just not worth the time and effort. You learn special moves over time, and each weapon has its own set of moves. Unlike your regular moves, special moves can only be performed when you have a hold of the enemy, and you must execute the buttons immediately, or they will break your hold. Unless you have turbo-fast fingers, I would suggest that you mainly rely on the two forms of regular attacks: equipped and unarmed. The regular attacks are also available in either weak or strong mode, and like any games of this genre, you will need to gain experience to improve your attack, defense, weapon level and unarmed level. There is one thing I have not mentioned yet and that would be the ability to block, which is the most innovative I’ve seen thus far. If you have played any Street Fighter-esque game, you know how the usual blocking is, but for this game, it can be a truly artistic spectacle, if you can time it correctly. Characters can not only block with a weapon, but they can also perform evasive maneuvers that resemble an elegant and fluid choreographed dance. Definitely a must-see for you martial arts fans out there.
In these beat-‘em-up games, you must have a variety of weapons, and in CTHD, there are plenty. The classes of available weapons would be sword, spear, and axe, with the exception of the cudgel. There is only one way to get these weapons, and that is to kill the enemies using them and pick up the weapons from their corpses before other enemies snatch them up. At any time, a player can carry two weapons, a primary and a secondary, which will only be used once the primary weapon has snapped. Each and every weapon has a set amount of durability, and if you’ve used the weapon to block or attack too much, the weapon will eventually break, forcing you to use your secondary weapon, if you have kept one on hand. Even if you have kept two weapons on hand, you can’t do an instant change to make the secondary weapon become the primary or vice versa, a feature that I would have appreciated. Each different weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages, and different weapons have different weights and handling requirements. If you have seen the movie, you might remember that Yu Shu Lien constantly changes weapons and her fighting style. This is taken into account in the game as well, determining the power and speed of the weapon attack. For example, a sword has a fast attack rate but a lot less power, while an axe is incredibly powerful with a slow attack rate and requires two hands to wield. I personally like speed because I will almost always be on the offensive, preventing myself from getting into those tight situations. Boy, when you are in a pinch, the AI doesn’t let up at all. It’s a good thing that the select button is a quick link to potions, if you have any available.
The cut scenes in the game are very well thought-out, utilizing movie clips as well as in-game graphics. Like I said, this is where watching the movie can really give you an extra boost. The in-game graphics are not very detailed on the facial or body aspects, but they are detailed enough that you can see a vague resemblance to the character from the movie, which is good enough for me. The background features are well planned, and they don’t sport extreme detail either, but you are never really in one spot long enough to enjoy the scenery. You’re always interacting with objects constantly moving from place to place.
The sound in the game is extremely good. I’m not exactly certain if the voice actors are the same actors as the movie, but they sound really close. Like the movie, the game is in Mandarin! I was amazed, but it seems that game developers are slowly learning that leaving the original language is a definite plus. There may be a few translation errors in the English subtitles, but they get the point across. The background music is also very nice, and you get to enjoy Chinese style symphonic music.
So far the game seems pretty good, but that’s because I haven’t dealt with the camera angles yet. Most gamers know that “Devil May Cry 2” had really poor camera angles, probably causing it to flop. CTHD seems to have the same dilemma, but some people (like me) may consider it worse. When you are close to a wall, you cannot move the camera at all, so in these situations, you can’t see the surrounding area or even rotate the camera, a true blind spot. This proves to be extremely annoying when you need the camera angles to see the obstacles in your path. Don’t be surprised when you “accidentally” fall off the cliff. One way Genki could have fixed this is to implement a first-person view in these types of situations, like Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven. This is definitely CTHD’s major downfall, but there are a few minor ones, such as figuring out how to attack enemies who are on roofs and finding the location to do certain tasks, mainly resulting from the poor camera angles.
Overall, I thought the game had great potential and would have probably been one of my top picks. I did really enjoy the fact that you could wall jump and dash up to the walls, eventually running alongside it like a ninja, but the camera angle problems completely killed my appreciation for the game. If you can bear with this big downside, the game is quite enjoyable; it has good replay value, letting you play four different characters as well as achieving different endings. The awesome martial art fights and blocking chorography are simply astonishing. Hopefully, in the next installment of CTHD, the developers will improve aspect of the game so that it will appeal to a wider audience of gamers instead of just the movie lovers. Try out the game before you make your decision on whether or not it is worth buying.
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