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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PlayStation 2) artwork

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PlayStation 2) review

"The movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a deeply moving epic drama in the form of a Chinese wuxia opera that happened to have memorable fight and action sequences. The PS2 game, on the other hand, is a pretty straight beatíem-up that is neither moving, epic or dramatic, offering lots of action and fight sequences but hardly memorable. "

The movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a deeply moving epic drama in the form of a Chinese wuxia opera that happened to have memorable fight and action sequences. The PS2 game, on the other hand, is a pretty straight beatíem-up that is neither moving, epic or dramatic, offering lots of action and fight sequences but hardly memorable.

Iíll be the first to admit that a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon game was never going to be a RPG or a point-and-click adventure. Nevertheless, what makes the movie the masterpiece it is and what most surprised audiences in general was its depth, and the game has none. Not only that, but the developers openly rejected using the movieís vast narrative potential by changing certain aspects of the plot. For example, at the very beginning of this game Jiao Long steals the Celestial Sword following direct orders from Bi Yen Ju Li, when the whole point of Jiao Longís character is precisely that she never obeys anyone. Why this change? It has no actual gameplay consequences, so what was the purpose of changing the storyline? Why, furthermore, does this also happen in the GBA version?

If the plot of the film has been largely neglected or even altered in the game, the visuals at least are jaw-droppingly similar to those of the movie. The actual graphics, although never blocky or suffering from slowdowns, are a bit repetitive and unremarkable; itís their design that is admirable. Playing this game actually made me watch the movie again, and I was amazed by how much the sceneries of the game look like their movie counterparts. Shu Lienís escort house or the bar, for example, have been reproduced with such loyalty and attention to detail that you can actually see in the game a back door that is only used once in the movie and in the background. The waterfall, another example, only appears very briefly in the movie but it too has been mimicked quite skillfully in the game. The same can be said about the characters. Not only they are recognisable at first glance, but virtually every single character in the movie appears here, even the minor ones.

Sadly, that loyalty doesnít apply to the whole game. The gameplay is progressively disappointing, in the sense that it looks fun and interesting for the first levelÖ until you realise that youíve already seen all of it. While you can for the most part hack and slash your way through the game, attempts have been made to emulate the fluid and spectacular choreography of the filmís action scenes. This is done via the combo and the blocking systems. Combos are performed by successfully grabbing an enemy and then entering a string of up to four buttons. If done correctly, your character will then proceed to perform a special move on the helpless victim. Each one of the three characters (Jiao Long, Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai) have four unique hand-to-hand special moves, four when using a sword, one for spears and a last one for axes. The blocking system revolves around mashing L1 wildly while theyíre attacking you to evade, parry and dodge hits without taking any damage. A good deal of both the special moves and the dodging animations have been taken directly from the movie.

Also from the movie is your ability to pick your enemiesí swords, axes or spears and fight with them, and the ability to glide. This last one in particular has been neglected quite surprisingly; take the level in the bamboo forest, for example, one of the most visually striking moments of the film. Here, you jump from one bamboo to a second one, then from that one to a third one, and the levelís over. An exciting chase and frantic sparring through a thick forest of bamboo trees, gracefully flying from one branch to another, would have been wonderful, but we arenít given that pleasure.

Thatís the greatest problem of the game Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: that the film offered so much more. We have the amazing sceneries, the excellent soundtrack (hardly the game-makersí merit, since they used the filmís music), Chinese voices, character-specific moves and a few extras at the same time as an all but missing storyline, dull and repetitive gameplay, inexplicable movie-to-game differences (such as the aforementioned plot changes or Shu Lien, expert in the use of dual sabres, only ever wielding one) and the story being divided in a way that forces you to play pretty much the same levels in the same order three times, once per character, in order to really beat the game. We, fans of the movie, will play this game like a child plays with a virtual pet: trying to pretend itís the real thing. They tried, but they could have tried harder.

MartinG's avatar
Community review by MartinG (September 01, 2007)

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