Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Review

posted 12/7/2003 by Ben Zackheim
other articles by Ben Zackheim
One Page Platforms: 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.
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