The Wii isn’t exactly overflowing with fighting games right now, but it’s seen a couple promising titles with Dragon Ball Z and Mortal Kombat Armageddon. Game Factory has added another entry to the genre, with a licensed game based off of the animated show Legend of the Dragon. The one-on-one fighter replicates the animated look of the show and has all the basic fighter mechanics, but isn’t really remarkable in any other way.
Legend of the Dragon works a lot like most other fighters you’ve probably played. You choose from a number of characters from the show, and face off against an opponent using various attacks and combos. A and B are the only attack buttons, which is rather limiting for a fighter; Z and C on the Nunchuk are used to strafe back and forth, which are functions better suited to the control stick. The number of combos is sufficient, but could have been richer with a better control layout.
Z and C are also used to activate the game’s main special feature, the transformation powers of each character. When their Zen bar is high enough each character can morph into a spirit-powered alter ego. The Zen bar has enough power after only a few successful attacks, which is good because that means both fighters are usually evenly matched. In other words, a non-transformed fighter stands little chance against the super attacks of a morphed fighter, which sometimes unbalances the combat.
Once morphed, both fighters have access to super moves, which are activated with D-pad combos. These feel less like true techniques and more like minigames, because they switch the controls over to Wii remote gestures. These minigames involve following onscreen movements to repel or execute an attack, or swinging the remote and Nunchuk in a cliché power-blast face-off seen in so many animes. The only other move that uses the motion control is the grab, which is slow and difficult to execute.
The attacks, super or otherwise, are mostly the same for all characters, which makes the fighters seem even more uniform. The individual characters, based off of the TV show, have different fighting styles but their combos and attack power have very little variety. Thus, there really isn’t a whole lot of thought in choosing a fighter and playing them against the abilities of the others. This is ultimately what robs Legend of the Dragon of a fighting game’s most crucial element—strategy between the different character types. These stale and monotone gameplay mechanics hinder almost every aspect of the game.
There are several modes to choose from, both single and multiplayer. Quest mode is a simple story based succession of fights that play out across a map, and is playable as one of two main characters. The battles get progressively harder as you move further into the quest, but because there is little opportunity for strategy, sometimes sheer luck wins them. I quickly grew frustrated after losing fights that were stacked against my character, unless I did precisely what the game wanted, which wasn’t very clear most of the time. If I found the battles annoying, I think the TV show’s younger fans will have even less patience.
There are also the standard quick play, practice and vs. modes, all which suffer from the same mediocre mechanics. I played a few rounds of multiplayer with a friend, and while it was entertaining for a while, there really wasn’t much to keep us interested. Throwing the special attacks back and forth got old when we realized there wasn’t much to it—there wasn’t the satisfaction of pulling off a really awesome combo or getting a surprise ring-out.
The production values didn’t do much to enhance the experience. The graphics are cel-shaded to emulate the look of the show, but the polygon counts are pretty low for a Wii title and most of the textures are very muddy. The arenas have the same cardboard-cutout appearance as the characters, and while there is some destructible scenery to liven up the fights, there isn’t much more to give the arenas personality. The problem again is a serious lack of variety, and in the end it doesn’t matter much where you choose to do battle.
The music is all pretty generic and Asian/anime themed and I never felt that it added a whole lot to the mood. There were times that I wanted an amped-up soundtrack to accompany a lively multiplayer fight, but the same few bland tunes kept looping in the background. The voice work was also very disappointing. Most of the voiceovers were typical grunts and shouts, but there was so much repetition that it just got annoying. The voices themselves sounded weak and uncomfortable; the barely audible taunts and creepy snickers uttered by the characters were unprofessional to say the least. I seriously doubt any of the TV show talent signed for the game.
At the start of the GameCube’s life, Legend of the Dragon might have been a passable fighting game, but one generation later it just doesn’t hold up to the other titles on the market. The game isn’t terrible or non-functional, but most everything about it has been done much better. Although it runs at a budget price, I can’t recommend a purchase, even for fans of the show. A quick rent might suffice, but this game won’t keep you entertained very long.