Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Review

posted 11/18/2003 by Ben Zackheim
other articles by Ben Zackheim
One Page Platforms: GBA
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is sacred to many movie buffs out there. It was the film that introduced the martial arts genre to the modern western world and opened people’s eyes to how cool international films can be. I found it appealing that the film didn’t lead to a huge merchandising push. The filmmakers made money off of ticket sales. I guess they were just loading up, though. Now we’re hit with two games based on the license. One on the PS2 and one on the Gameboy. I have the privilege of reviewing both of them for your favorite review site, Gaming Nexus. Is privilege the right word?

The GBA version of the game is your standard side-scrolling action game. From the start you know that the developers wisely played it safe and stuck to the script of the film. At the beginning, you play Jen, as she moves through town, searching for the Green Destiny at the direction of Jade Fox. Not only does the game follow the story we know and love but it even uses photos of the actors from the film for the cut-scenes. Interestingly, the scenes don’t use the dialogue from the film, instead opting for some “behind the scenes” action that hope to reveal another fresh angle on the story we know and love. This has mixed results. I’ve watched the film five times and I had a hard time knowing what the game was talking about a couple of times. For the most part, though, the developer’s angle on the story works well and adds to the fun factor.

However, the gameplay feels like every other side-scrolling action game out there. Especially the ones based on film licenses. There just isn’t much to get into. The special moves can be pulled off with a click of the R button once you gather enough chi points from defeating the baddies. Gathering chi is done with a nifty little graphic where floating orbs from their disappearing bodies float toward you, even following you as you run through the level. Some of the moves are well-done. The Chi-spin has you leap and twirl around in circles like a helicopter blade, which is especially good for tackling your flying opponents, who are fast little suckers . Then there’s the Wall-jump, which has you push off the wall (as seen in the movie) -- a really clever little move that I tried to pull of as often as possible. My clear favorite.

But there aren’t enough moves to go around. I seem to remember a hell of a lot more genius choreography in the film but they’re nowhere to be found in the GBA version of the game (see the PS2 version of the review to see if they snuck into that version). All in all there are only three Chi attacks. Granted these attacks can be combined with wall-jumps and some of the other seven standard moves but the feeling I got while playing the game was that I didn’t have a lot of options. And in a game like this (where nothing except the story really stands out) you NEED a bunch of moves to add depth.
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