Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Written by Ben Zackheim on 12/7/2003 for PS2  

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the kind of film that belongs on a pedestal. Well acted, shot, choreographed, directed and edited it’s one of those rare gems that can’t be praised enough. In other words, I’m a huge fan. After having tackled the GBA version of the game I didn’t have high hopes for the PS2 version.

Like the GBA version, CTHD follows the story we all know and love so much (too much in my case). But you know what I say? Why do something original when the source material is so rich, right? You play one of three characters. Jen, Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai at different stages of the game, with an arsenal of 15 weapons to choose from. You get the weapons off of your opponents’ bleeding, twitching bodies. But be careful, they can grab weapons off the ground as well.

The overall gameplay is really basic but solid, as you would hope with such a brand attached to it. The developers haven’t done anything revolutionary but they have added a Crouching Tiger flavor to some old tried and true moves. For instance the double jump is done very well and the environments are conducive to it. You can temporarily catch a breather on a high ledge while your adversaries gather below. The number of moves at your disposal is not too high, but I think that’s a good thing. The fundamentals of hand to hand and sword to spear fighting are all here. Changing between weapon and switching to your fist and feet is easy to do and adds a sense of strategy to the game that reminds me of that scene where Jen and Yu Shu Lien duke it out with a variety of weapons, hoping to grab the upper hand. The thing I like about the game is that it might offer mostly basics but you can string those basics together to occasionally make a beautiful and acrobatic fight. It’s almost like a choreography tool for a stunt coordinator. With the weapons and the defensive moves (done by pressing the L1 button) you can move from basic move to basic move which just looks better than it does on other games of this type.

Beyond the simple moves are advanced attack and defend moves. The special defend moves can be pulled off by pressing the L1 button in sync with the Block icon on the screen. If you defend at the exact time an opponent throws a punch you can avoid all damage. My personal fave for defending is (as my wife knows) to just jump away. As it is in real life. I think the developers did a good job of immersing themselves in the atmosphere of the film and it shows in some of the details -- as plain vanilla as those details are. The advanced moves can be performed with special key sequences (each character has his/her own special moves). They look cool and feel faithful to the source material. A big plus for those of you who want to pull off stunts like Li Mu Bai in real life -- but whose butts are as large as mine.

You get experience points for each victory and additional moves open up for you as time passes. You can develop your defense skills by gaining unarmed victories and attack skills by winning with a weapon. It’s a nice touch to the game and adds a bit of depth that is appreciable.Where the gameplay does not deliver is in the multitude of jump puzzles and overall level design. These are big downers in my book. When I just had to fight I could get into the game. But things fell apart once I started to face jumping on ropes and ships and trees and puppy dogs…okay not puppy dogs. But you get the point. I’ve never been a fan of jumpers and I certainly don’t like them in 3D games that have a decent fighting system. Crouching Tiger would have been much better if they’d just stuck with the fighting. Granted it would have gotten repetitive but at least it wouldn’t have gotten frustrating. In the final analysis there’s no question the game is worse off with the addition of puzzles. And considering it’s a big part of the game it can’t be avoided in the final grade.

The graphics are certainly passable and some of the character animations are brilliant. That straight shuffle-run that marked the movement of so many fighters in the movie is captured perfectly. The leaps are fun to watch as well as fun to do. Running up walls ended up being one of my favorites. I recommend practicing it after you clear a level. As usual my favorite levels are the daytime outdoor ones. Again, the levels are not large but they look good and reminded me of the film more often than not. Unfortunately the same look is recycled from level to level so it’s easy to get bored with the visuals after a while.

The sound is fine, without getting in the way. The soundtrack music is there for you to enjoy and the pitter patter of running feet and other combat sounds are well done. All in all you feel like you could be in the movie. Probably because they just lifted the sounds, which is fine with me.

The ending is sadder than it should be

There are extras like film clips and alternate endings but my guess is that the replayability isn’t there for most people – even the film fans. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon certainly could have been better. But its major fault (jump puzzles) feels like it was added after the design team did a good job of capturing the spirit of battle. So, though I was frustrated by the game more that I was delighted by it, I feel like there’s enough here for fans of the film to get a taste of what it would be like to live in the world of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
An average fighter for an exceptional film license. I could get angry that it was only average but I’m not. In the end, it can be fun to play when you’re fighting the bad guy and miserable to play when you’re jumping around the puzzles.

Rating: 7.3 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Ben Zackheim was born Ben Zackheim sometime before 1980 and after 1960 which characterizes him not at all. He's a writer of reviews, comics and screenplays, but aren't we all? Luxuries like food and shoes mean nothing to him. He's married to the most beautiful woman in the world, Robin, who reads all his reviews before he sends them in and says "Are you really going to write that for the public to read?" But I assure her no one reads my reviews anyway, only Charlie's, so it's kind of like a tree in the forest (without the cute little fuzzy things who smell their own poop - wait, then again there is Charlie...) She's a cross between Gillian Anderson and Hillary Clinton, which is a monster I'd love to play in Monster Rancher Advance 2. Photos are available upon request for a small fee. I'm currently writing this bio but have no plans beyond that. View Profile

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