|System: DS, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Activision||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
Earlier this year, Kung Fu Panda released in theaters as well as making its way across gaming platforms. Though a movie sequel isnt due out anytime soon, the fat and cuddly brawler, Po, has returned to DS for another adventure, presumably in support of the films DVD release this month. Our last experience with Kung Fu Panda on DS was less than stellar, but were happy to report that Activision does a much better job providing value for players this time around.
For starters, Legendary Warriors is a very different game from the first Kung Fu Panda DS. Whereas the last game attempted to provide a side-scrolling adventure in the vein of Spider-man 3 (DS), Legendary Warriors is a no-bones-about-it beat-em-up, á la Golden Axe or Streets of Rage. The game has a very basic structure with fairly simple combat, yet it trumps the first game in almost every way.
Once again, youll play as Po (the Kung Fu Panda), but youll also take on the role of his fellow Furious 5 member, Tigress. Though some levels are recycled later in the game, Po and Tigress play differently enough from each other to make playing through each characters levels fun and interesting. Po is slower yet more powerful; Tigress is graceful and quick on her feet. Both characters have light and heavy attacks as well as the ability to block, dodge, and jump. Po and Tigress can also chain attacks, using simple combinations of the X and Y buttons.
The gameplay in Legendary Warriors is broken up into straight-forward levels that are a nice slice of on-the-go gaming. Though the game spices things up a bit with boss stages as well as stages where you merely stay in one area and fend off constantly spawning foes for the most part, levels are a simple matter of scrolling from one end of a stage to the other, defeating baddies and building up a multiplier (called Ki) along the way. Legendary Warriors takes inspiration from games like Fable and allows you to maximize your strength and ability to collect points by successfully defeating enemies without being hit. When enemies are defeated, they release blue orbs that stack on your Ki meter, building your multiplier. Within each level, there are destructible elements that also release these orbs. Like Fable, if you take damage or go too long without collecting orbs, your multiplier will diminish. However, the higher your multiplier goes, the more damage youll do and points youll receive.
Though the game isnt an epic adventure, there are incentives to go back and redo stages. You collect stars during levels by reaching certain point caps, and only by collecting a set number of stars will you unlock the games later levels. Additionally, Po and Tigress will gain new abilities as you progress through the game and earn more stars, though some abilities are not explained quite clearly enough. Regardless, combat is fun and oddly addictive. The game also does a much better job than the first Kung Fu Panda DS of matching its gameplay difficulty with its targeted audience. Theres enough challenge here to entertain most gamers, but its also a forgiving adventure that should work especially well for young fans of the franchise.
Along with Po and Tigress other abilities, they can each heal themselves at any time throughout a level by simply holding the R-button. It costs nothing, really, except time. It might sound like an addition that makes the game too easy, but time is orbs in Legendary Warriors. Its a system that actually balances gameplay quite nicely. More experienced gamers who wont need to rely on this technique will be able to keep their Ki up, affording them better scores, more stars, and accelerated progress throughout the game. On the flipside, novice gamers can break for ramen, thus regaining their strength for the next encounter.
In addition to being able to heal, each character will gather Chi, either through attacking or being attacked. As your Chi (stress) meter increases, youll eventually be able to unleash a powerful attack that cannot be blocked by enemies, and youll be impervious to damage for the duration of the Chi attack. These specials are executed by tracing random symbols that appear on the screen when you tap the Chi meter. Though these attacks add to the games overall entertainment factor, the execution can be a bit clumsy. That said, a finger works almost as well as the stylus, as tracing Chi symbols requires no real accuracy.