I think that it is safe to say that the R.A.G.E. Works audience probably all like kung-fu. Some of us actually know a little bit of martial arts and the rest would love to even if to just kick that one bastard's teeth in. Still, that is a choice that we all make. No one wants to wake up with mad kung-fu skills at the cost of being strung along like Kermit the Frog. This is where Hidden Dragon Legend comes in. Stories of vengeance and mystical weapons are not new to the genre, so we take a look at this title to see if it can escape the mediocre.
Hidden Dragon Legend Is Channel 5 Reborn
In terms of story, Hidden Dragon Legend falls flat almost immediately. You play the role of Lu, an amnesiac who awakens in a pool of blood. He knows not why he was imprisoned, nor the reason that he is surrounded by countless corpses in a prison. Somehow he does know how to fight (really well at that) and defeats a detachment of guards. Still weak from whatever happened in the prison, he passes out.
Three days later, he awakens in the care of a hermit named Xuanshi and his daughter, Fei. their kindness earns them gruesome deaths at the hands of the one guard Lu allowed to escape. As his memories return in fragments, he vows to avenge those who showed him kindness and find out what was done to him in the prison. This ends the prologue and takes you into the world of Hidden Dragon Legend.
Usually I am a heavy judge on a game's story, but there are a few reasons why I let it go in this case. If you have ever watched kung-fu movies on channel five on a Saturday afternoon, you didn't care about the story. You wanted to see some over the top, kung-fu action. You only paid attention to the dialogue because it was so badly translated that it was laughable. I will speak more on the voice acting later, but Hidden Dragon Legend feels like an old school kung-fu flick – and that is awesome.
You Know Kung-Fu? SHOW ME!
I mentioned that Lu is an amnesiac and yet from the start he knows how to defend himself. Hidden Dragon Legend follows a very basic formula of powering up the character, but you determine just how good Lu is. There are multiple levels of gameplay to explore. You can go at it like an arcade game and just hack and slash your way forward but that will only get you so far. Thorough exploration and item collection allow you to power up Lu's abilities and find new weapons. This in turn will help you improve your sword style and keep you alive longer.
The gameplay mixes arcade, platformer and RPG into the very Dragon Cauldron behind the story. Defeating your enemies is as much about using the right tools as it is the right moves. At your disposal (once you locate them) are multiple swords and daggers. Lu will always employ swordplay as his primary attack, but holding L2 and tapping square allows for ranged dagger attacks. These can stun and poison enemies if used correctly. Using dash and the grapple effectively will help you obtain these items and power up special abilities as well. If you enjoyed the recent Strider remake, this game is right up your alley.
The visuals of Hidden Dragon Legend instantly grabbed me along with many others. It is not often that an independent title looks this good. As you slice your way through hordes of enemies, there is no drop in framerate and the particle, water and fire effects are usually fantastic. I say usually because there are some hiccups. Some animations feel like you are looking at a different game. In terms of animation, the murder of Xuanshi and Fei were on a PS1 level. After that, things go right back to being beautiful; it is very strange.
Where the game never falters is its music. Unfortunately, as of the publishing of this article, I was unable to get details on the composer. The score for this game is movie-worthy and the pieces fit the setting of the game. In one section, as you ascend a bell tower, the music comes with a haunting bell echo in the background. You may even find yourself trying to adjust the SFX volume to hear the music better. This is a game that needs to be played in full surround sound.
I mentioned earlier the “channel 5 factor” of this game. In terms of story, Hidden Dragon Legend is part old school kung-fu and part Crouching Tiger. Despite what I am about to say, I could not give the game a higher accolade for its genre. The voice acting is bad. I am not sure if it was intentionally recorded this way or if the actors do not natively speak English. Watch the launch trailer above to see what I mean. Ever heard the terrible joke, “What is Bruce lee's favorite drink?” If so, you also can imagine the sounds the enemies make. Instant kung-fu classic.
Verdict: Should the Dragon Stay Hidden?
Hidden Dragon Legend is made by a Chinese developer named Mega Fun Games. The cmpany is aptly named because I really enjoy this title. As it loads, a picture of the Dualshock 4 displays and shows you Lu's controls. It looks daunting, but the game has an incredibly smooth learning curve. This is good because enemies get tough from early on as do some of the puzzles. Collecting all items takes thought and exploration. Your reward will be enemies that fall more easily and provide you with more items.
In all, Oasis Games says there is roughly ten hours of gameplay. I think that may be extended for completionists when you consider that the platinum trophy requires at two playthroughs of the game. I believe that this is a title that speed runners will also want to get their hands on. Put together the flashy combos, secret attack moves and ability to dupe enemies and you have an absolute winner in Hidden Dragon Legend.