Reviewed: December 8, 2003
Released: October 7, 2003
ďBetter late than neverĒ. I guess thatís a saying that can apply to my tardy review for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but then again, the game didnít even release for nearly three years after the movie, so perhaps Iím not that late. For those of you that have been diligently waiting to buy (or not to buy) this game based on a genuine GCM game review; here we go.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is based on the martial arts, Oscar-winning extravaganza by the same name. Also available on the PlayStation 2, the GBA version offers a fun and challenging gameplay experience that mixes a healthy dose of fighting and plenty of action elements. The only problem is the game is just about as long as the movie.
Iíll take it for granted that those of you contemplating this game have already seen the movie or are at least familiar with the story. You play as Jen, the young female thief working for Jade Fox, who has just stolen the Green Destiny Sword. The game opens just after she has stolen the sword and is making her escape from the compound. These initial moments are indicative of pretty much the rest of the game, at least in concept.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon quickly reveals itself to be nothing more than a side scrolling action game, albeit a fine one, where you must fight off an endless barrage of opponents, as you make your way through some challenging levels that look like they were lifted from any conventional platform game.
The fighting aspect isnít as predominate as you might think or possibly even have wanted. There are no elaborate combos or gravity defying stunts. You basically have a few modest slashes and kicks that are executed with the B button in combination with a direction on the D-Pad. There are no blocking, counters, or other fancy moves, but the enemy never does provide that much of a challenge Ė only in numbers.
The level of difficulty is far too simple for experienced gamers but probably just about right for younger kids. Extra lives are easily earned and health bonuses (in the form of chickens) are scattered across the levels in abundance. Thereís no reason to ever die in this game unless you are really careless. This lack of difficulty is what makes the game come to its conclusion far too quickly.
Since I went into this game thinking it was going to be purely fighting I was pleasantly surprised to find the designers had implemented a lot of action elements into the gameplay. Yes, there are jumping puzzles but these are more like Jackie Chan moves where you run up walls and jump to high ledges. You will find and use many unique power-ups and there are some interesting action segments including a horseback riding scenario and some timed levels.
Rooted in 2D side scrolling gameplay, there is nothing here that will likely impress those of you used to the newer 3D games, but personally, I enjoyed the crisp textures and artwork and the multi-layered levels and clean sprite animation was simple and effective. It may be old school, but so am I.
The story is handled with static images that were crudely spliced together with digitized photos of the actors superimposed on stills from the movie with captioned text for the narrative. The only issue here, other than the poor visual quality, is that when multiple people are in the scene you really donít know who is saying what. Those of you that havenít seen the movie will be totally lost.
The music is sampled directly from the motion-picture score so it sounds quite good if not a bit compressed. My only complaint is the samples are very short so they loop way too often and the entire thing gets quite repetitive.
The sound effects are all excellent and work in tandem with the visuals to give you an intense and exciting gameplay experience that sounds as good as it looks. The samples are clean and perfectly placed.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a short game; almost shorter than the title. Experienced gamers will finish it off in 3-4 hours and even the worst action gamer will be done in less than 8-10 hours. Given the lack of any compelling reason to replay it and with no multiplayer link support, this is a weekend rental at best.
Considering the dated source material and the narrow scope of the content I was impressed that Ubisoft was able to create such a fun title. I really enjoyed Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which just made it that much more disappointing when it was over before it ever got started. Usually three hours into a game and I am just starting to get the hang of it, but in this case I was looking for something else to play next.
If you enjoyed the movie or just enjoy fighting and action games of the old-school side-scrolling genre then this is definitely worth playing but probably not worth owning, at least until it drops into the budget price range.