Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors Review for Nintendo Wii

Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors Review for Nintendo Wii

It’s standard fare these days, and has been for a long time, to see video games tie-in with blockbuster movies, but Activision now ups the ante with a line of video games to support the latest Kung Fu Panda movie-to-DVD release this month. To our surprise, the DS version was a fun beat-‘em-up that, though formulaic, was a respectable showing Po fans could enjoy. But how does the Wii version fare?

Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot

Kung Fung Panda: Legendary Warriors on Wii actually takes a decidedly different gameplay tact than its DS partner. Picture this if you will: Powerstone meets Streets of Rage. Yeah…But rather than offer a brawler kids can have a bit of shallow fun with, Legendary Warriors presents us with a waggle masher that, in terms of its sheer workout, competes more with WiiFit than your typical fighting game.

The game offers players two modes: story and multiplayer. There are two additional difficulty settings for story mode, but players will likely weary of the gameplay long before moving on further. The story is perhaps a bit difficult to follow, even with the vocal stylings of narrator Jack Black, but the presentation is entertaining, nonetheless. Tai Lung has captured members of the Furious Five, and it’s his intention to siphon their Chi to build his own power to greatness. It’s up to Po and friends to rescue their comrades and bring Tai Lung to justice.

The cutscenes are certainly the highlight of the game, as they are polished and beautifully illustrated. Jack Black’s voicework this time around is inspired and fits wonderfully alongside the animated presentation. But ultimately, you’ll have to play through Legendary Warriors, and that’s when the experience begins to go downhill.

Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot

In the story mode, you can, of course, play as Po the panda or choose from one of his kung fu pals, Shifu, Monkey, or Tigress. You can also have a friend join you to play cooperatively through the very short adventure, but you’ll have to play host, since the game doesn’t allow the second player to choose his own character or special ability (a simple stat bonus).

The gameplay is comprised of arena battles against constantly spawning enemies. Once all enemies are defeated, a boss enters the ring for a final bought. The controls utilize both the Wii-mote and Nunchuk, and movement of your character is performed using the analog stick. You can jump (or double jump) with the A button and block with the B button, and there are a host of other moves characters can execute. However, here’s where things go awry: attacks are mapped to (you guessed it) a waggle. It didn’t take long for Wii gamers to decide that, in most cases, using waggle to attack in a game was a cardinal no-no. Considering the fact Legendary Warriors is, for all intents and purposes, a fighting game and attacking takes center stage, it’s a design choice so utterly flawed that it boggles the mind just how this product got past the discussion stage.

Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot

Though the story mode is completely repetitive, moving you through stage after stage of the same mindless brawling, there’s potential here for younger Po fans to get out a little frustration and have fun with their friends. But even hyper-active kids will likely tucker themselves out within minutes when up against the utterly insane amount of waggling required here. It’s a real shame, too, because the characters move and respond smoothly and accurately. Dodging is enjoyable, the animations are nice to look at, and the idea, at least, of the combo possibilities is really cool. The execution, though, just isn’t fun. Eventually, you will find a few simple techniques that allow you to get through stages without pulling your arm from its socket, and there will be moments of mild amusement, but the game never locks into a fun rhythm, simply because, well, it’s just too darn spastic.

There are a couple of other elements that round out gameplay, but they only serve to exhaust the experience. The Wii version of Legendary Warriors shares a couple of similarities with its DS counterpart, one of them being the ability to build up and utilize Chi power. When your character takes damage or successfully lands an attack, he/she builds up Chi energy; when your Chi meter is full, you can then execute a Chi attack. On the DS version, tracing Chi symbols that would appear onscreen was no real challenge, though it still added an entertaining element to the gameplay. In the Wii version, however, you’ll have to trace symbols in the air using the Wii-mote. It’s hit or miss, and whether you attempt to draw fast or slow and carefully, it’s almost impossible to successfully execute these attacks with any level of consistency.

However, the absolute worst addition to this Kung Fu adventure is a mini-game that tasks you with…more waggle; not just waggle of the Wii-mote, though, but both controllers. Legendary Warriors will throw this mini-game at you several times during story mode, and though it’s associated differently depending on the context of the story, the execution is always the same. This isn’t casual waggle, either. Every time you play through this thing, you’ll be required to waggle like a maniac in order to successfully fill a meter located at the bottom of the screen, and all too often you will fail and have to do it all again.

Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot

The game’s presentation, however, is a joy to experience. Visually, though the level of detail is only slightly better than PS2 quality, everything has been given a loving polish. Character models are attractive and animate smoothly, backgrounds are colorful and varied, and the framerate remains steady. The hand-drawn artwork, though only animated slightly, is beautifully rendered and incorporated with great care.

The audio, too, is topnotch, and Jack Black’s performances are funny and entertaining. The music is fitting and varied, and the sound effects and voice work complement the gameplay nicely, though voice tracks are often slightly out of sync with character animations. Overall, the game really shines with its production.

And that’s the real shame here. Legendary Warriors has a lot going for it, even in the gameplay department. Characters move gracefully, most of the controls work surprisingly well, and though levels are pretty much the same thing throughout, the potential for mindless fun is evident. But the level of waggle required here goes beyond mindless into the realm of painful, and it’s something most players will likely find offensive after just a few minutes of play. The multiplayer allows you and up to three other players (locally) to waggle each other to death in unlocked stages using a variety of characters from the movie, but if you didn’t enjoy the single-player experience, chances are the multiplayer won’t offer incentive to stick with Legendary Warriors.

It’s a lovely presentation, both in-game and during the animated cutscenes. 2.4 Control
Movement, jumping, dodging – all that stuff works flawlessly – but mapping the attacks to waggle gesturing brings down the house. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is fitting and comes across nicely in stereo. Sound effects are funny and entertaining. The voice work is inspired, though often out of sync with the movement of the characters’ mouths. 2.6

Play Value
The story mode can be completed in about two hours. Multiplayer is available, but will you care? It’s difficult, however, to dismiss the game’s polished presentation.

2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Team up with friends to work together through co-op Story Mode, or compete head-to-head in the Versus Mode.
  • Unleash powerful Kung Fu Chi Attacks using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
  • Play mini-games that test your speed and skill.

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