Legend of the Dragon Hands-On
We do battle with a near-finished version of this cartoon-inspired 3D fighter.
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Based on the animated series of the same name, Legend of the Dragon is a 3D fighting game in which you'll get to pit characters from the show against one another. In addition to the requisite versus, quick fight, time attack, and survival modes of play, Legend of the Dragon features a single-player quest mode in which your chosen character will be tasked with defending the world from evil by wandering around a map and beating people up. We recently had an opportunity to spend several hours with a near-finished copy of Legend of the Dragon, and we're pleased to report that there's certainly more to the game than its license and its cartoon-style visuals.
Since the quest mode appeared to be the most interesting gameplay option available on the main menu, we opted to spend much of our time with Legend of the Dragon checking out the mode. There are 18 different playable characters in the game that we can see right now, although many of them need to be unlocked before they become available. Only three characters can be used to play through the quest mode: 15-year-old martial artist Ang, his twin sister Ling, and a secret character whose burly silhouette on the selection screen looks a little like the animated series' evil zodiac master, Woo Yin. Don't let the fact that so few characters are available for the quest mode concern you, though, because your chosen fighter isn't the only one you'll be playing as.
Your goal in quest mode is to defeat an enemy so powerful that you need to complete guardians' challenges at all 12 temples of the zodiac before you're even allowed to face it. The temples are all situated on a decent-sized map that you explore simply by moving from point to point using predetermined paths. When you happen across one of the temples or some other location where there's an opponent waiting for you, you'll be tasked with defeating the other fighter while adhering to certain conditions. The most common objective in these battles is to beat your opponent within a time limit of 60 seconds or so, but other challenges that we've seen thus far include knocking opponents out of the ring and finishing them off with a particular special move.
Each character in Legend of the Dragon represents a different sign of the zodiac, and before you can employ any special moves you'll need to morph into the character's superhuman zodiac warrior form by filling up an energy gauge of sorts and then hitting both shoulder buttons simultaneously. At this point four special moves will be added to your regular arsenal, and the way you use them is arguably one of the game's most interesting features. All of the special moves are triggered simply by holding down the shoulder buttons and then tapping the face button that corresponds to the move you want, but after that the moves become competitive minigames that both fighters take part in. For example, one of the moves requires the defending player to memorize and punch in a six-button sequence chosen by the attacker, while another challenges both players to mash the X button as quickly as possible to determine how much damage it does. A rhythm-game-like mechanic is also employed for one of the special moves--challenging the defending player to hit the same buttons that the attacker does, and with the same timing.
Special moves aside, Legend of the Dragon's controls are more or less garden variety. The face buttons are used to punch, kick, throw, and block respectively. The shoulder buttons are used to sidestep. The directional pad or analog stick is used for basic movement, which when you're double-tapping (definitely easier on the directional pad) includes running, evasive acrobatics, and double-jumps.
After putting any of the aforementioned techniques to good use and defeating an opponent in quest mode, you'll be rewarded with a gem that can be used to enhance your character's punches, kicks, life points, magic points, or resistance. Opponents will often request your assistance after you prove yourself to them in combat, and if you choose to accept their assignments, you'll spend the next 15 or so fights controlling them instead of your chosen character. These assignments don't appear to benefit you in any way as far as your quest is concerned, but they give you an opportunity to earn gems for characters other than your chosen one (you can subsequently use powered-up characters in other modes of play) and also to unlock additional characters and arenas.
Legend of the Dragon is currently scheduled for release in North America and Europe in May. Expect a full review in the not-too-distant future.