Game Over Online ~ Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon

GameOver Game Reviews - Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon (c) Universal Interactive, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon (c) Universal Interactive
System Requirements Xbox
Overall Rating 40%
Date Published Monday, August 12th, 2002 at 04:32 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Quest of the Dragon is like Bruce Lee's many movies, where he, the moral man, enters into the honorable world of martial arts but is forced to confront dishonorable opponents who choose to be immoral. Having slain the leader of the Black Lotus criminal gang, Lee returns to seek solace in his family residence, troubled by his own actions and his past. But of course, the past has a way of catching up to a man and Lee is forced to give up his father and a family relic for his transgressions. Dragon charts Lee's rescue of what he has lost but in his very journey to recover that which is important to him, he comes upon a potentially greater conspiracy of global proportion; a revelation and a fight that Lee's past forces him to confront.

Dragon is able to lift trademarks of Lee's cinematic products, including music, sound effects and his unique Jeet Kune Do fighting moves. In fact, I'll go as far to say that Dragon is able to tap the zeitgeist of most of Lee's cinematic fare. This title focuses on what Lee did best: fighting. A decade ago, it would have been a side-scrolling action title, not unlike Final Fight, Double Dragon, et al. The developers' formula is simple too: repeat Lee's movie fighting scenes in digital form and sit back to watch the hordes of fans become enamored with him yet again. If only it were that simple in crafting a game. Dragon falters because it relies too much on what made the movies special and does little to create a compelling game.

Let's cut to the chase about Lee's sojourn on the Xbox. There is undoubtedly potential for something great to happen as Lee travels from tropical vistas to urban night clubs in his quest, beating people, smashing things up and pulling off his moves with style. There's nothing wrong with that because Lee is, by comparison, well-animated, textured and even does his trademark speeches. Everything else, unfortunately, is a second-class citizen to him because at times, the landscapes are vapid, sterile and empty. His foes are stiffly animated, almost mechanical in nature. Cinematic sequences that link the fights together are written poorly and even more poorly animated; notice how when the heads and bodies need to move, they seem out of sync, like someone suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Luckily, Dragon isn't a cinematic movie. It's still about the fighting but here too, a crux is introduced to prevent the dragon from soaring. Unresponsive controls are an infamia in fighting titles and poor ones are like birds that cannot fly or guns that cannot fire. It contradicts the very basic fundamentals of the genre's raison d'etre. You're able to pull of a plethora of moves in Dragon and it features a unique upgrade system (one of Dragon's main selling points) where you can buy further moves. Why bother buying if you can't pull off an expensive combo except by chance? A few basic punches and kicks will deliver the same result anyway and that's not even covering times when basic movement of the character is hard to pull of.

Secondly, Dragon suffers from some strange AI routines. True, most of Lee's opponents, especially the ones in movies, were automatons anyway. So perhaps it was a stylistic decision to model them like that. Those are the simple ones that Lee plows with ease. They remind me a lot of the dead zombies in Hunter: The Reckoning, where their special move is to simply mob you with cheap hits. Even some bosses are prone to have enormous Achilles heels that you can exploit. On the other hand, we also have times when the opponents will catch you off guard and perform crushing combos that will put you at a handicap. Furthermore, they weren't even the bosses either. So it really begs the question - are all these faults, with tough to pull combos, and extreme variance in enemy abilities there to make the game difficult or your life difficult? My guess is it's probably the latter.

I recall one time renting a Jackie Chan behind-the-scenes DVD where he explained the Asian fighting movie genre. One of the things he covered was the theme popular at Lee's time where half a dozen fighters would surround the protagonist but only one would attack at once. Of course, that looks very unnatural now and completely illogical but at the time, it was a popular device to keep the fights in perspective for the camera. It follows that this device was translated by the developers directly into Dragon; untouched, unscathed. Except in its digital form, when you get a full vantage point of what's going on, it looks and performs rather silly. Dragon features a 'lock-on' targeting function that further permeates this feeling that you'll only challenge one person at a time. I think even the games industry has moved on from that.

Yet Dragon continues to suffer more from an inadequate camera system. It is supposed to be dynamic, trying to capture the action from the best vantage point. The truth, however, is far from that. In fact, I would argue that at times it tries to be the opposite. It develops a propensity to move when you don't want it to move while at times, when you would like it to move, it'll remain motionless. It also does nothing in highlighting where you should be going next. Dragon's developers have implemented an artificial invisible barrier to keep you on the right track but the camera gives no cues as to where you should be going. Instead, it's there to record you fumbling to find your way through the barriers.

Altogether, Dragon is a disappointing tribute to one of the greatest martial arts legends of all time. This title is certainly not a legend, even if it has legendary loading times. Some people may disagree with my claim that Lee was a legend and argue that he was more of a showman, like Houdini was a magician but David Copperfield is more about showmanship. At the very end of the day, however, they were all entertaining, even if you knew absolutely nothing about magic or martial arts. That's something Dragon is sorely lacking and an anemic storyline gives no persuasive reason for players to slog through it. Lee's debut on the Xbox does not resemble a dragon, but prefers to plod along like a sloth, short on all the crucial fronts, lazily bumbling along everywhere else.


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