I love side-scrolling action games. Anything from the side perspective involving action, platforming, and ninjas gets me pumped. Strider is a fantastic example of a great side-scroller and so with this title being announced, I was very interested. Hidden Dragon Legend had everything I could ask for, intense side-scrolling action, ninjas and epic battles. Did it live up to my expectations?
Oh dear ….
So Hidden Dragon Legend is set in Imperial China as war and supernatural forces ravage the land. We take center stage with our young warrior who awakens in a decaying prison, filth-ridden prison with countless bodies, notes scrawled in blood and him having no memory of what has happened. Soon enough our young warrior comes across an organization known as …. The Organization (really?), and soon enough all hell breaks loose. What follows is meant to be an epic adventure of our young warrior finding out what happened to him and to stop the Organisation and their evil plans.
Everything starts off fairly well, the game introduces us into a compelling mystery and has the atmosphere to unnerve you for the first few minutes. Then you’ll see the problems this game harbors when the actors speak their lines. Firstly, their awful, everything is written so poorly that when characters are speaking to one another it sounds like they’re constantly asking questions even when they’re not. Second, the voice acting is just plain bad, pretty much on the original Resident Evil level of voice acting.
So from this beginning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was the game tongue in cheek or just of poor production values it couldn’t handle half decent voice work. It’s the latter.
Aside from the voice acting, the narrative is just underwhelming. There are no surprises here or twists that make the dull plot anyway compelling or worthy of investment. The characters just feel as though they either don’t care about our leading protagonist or that they’re chewing on the scenery but in the most cringeworthily way. You can guess step by step what’s going to happen and the ending could well as be replaced by the player being slapped in the face by a cold, dead fish. It doesn’t help that the plot feels extremely fragmented, with an amnesia plot device used to poor effect. The lack of character development is also crippling to the game’s narrative and overall feels empty and soulless.
While you could argue a plot doesn’t matter to make a game good, it’s clear the developers wanted to make a compelling epic but fail at doing that.
So, how is Hidden Dragon Legend mechanically? Well, to be honest, everything is “fine” to a degree. You have your light attacks, heavy attacks, combos and special attacks which are actually satisfying once you get the hang of it. There are some neat upgrades to purchase and a good variation to what you learn to keep combat from your perspective refreshing and engaging. The combat in some respects is the highlight of the game, giving you a range of styles, counters and special attacks that add some depth overall. It’s just a shame that structurally, combat ends up becoming a vastly tedious and dull experience.
Hidden Dragon Legend is structured in a linear manner that doesn’t allow a great deal of freedom or exploration but rather forces players on a dull, mind-numbing journey. Part of the problem is that players will encounter numerous situations filled with an overwhelming enemy count, unbalanced mix of enemy types and a highly repetitive grind as all these situations harbour no tactical elements, lack of interesting dynamics and resort to just being locked in one area over and over, killing the same enemies and feeling like progress it halted for a no good reason.
Fights have a strange sense of unbalancing with most of them forcing a large number of enemies with heavy, light and airborne NPCs to make an unhealthy mix of annoying proportions. Combat just become a chore that’s overwhelming in practicality and underwhelming in experience, existentially leading to a painful grind. There’s no interesting events or set pieces to engage your attention nor is there anything truly enthralling about these encounters. The good sense of combat is wasted once you realize that certain enemies can be pushed into the side of the screen and repeatedly hit over and over until they’re dead. Also, there are little tactics to involve with most of the enemies and it just ends up being a relentless button mashing session that never seems to end. Only when it does, you take a few steps forward and it begins all over again.
The only interesting events to happen are … Quick time events. That’s the highlight of the game people.
Bosses don’t fare much better with only two really standing out and that’s only because the remaining are just bland, relentless button mashing exercises with little dynamic elements. Exploration is highly limited with no sense of adventure or discovery to be found. Secrets are hidden in plain sight, making them dumbfounded and insulting to even consider them worthy of being called a secret. There are no clever tricks or Wolfenstein style rewards to find. Everything just feels too linear and no redeeming features of the bland level design. As for any puzzles or lateral elements, there’s really nothing here to test your skills other than just the endless and dragging combat encounters.
Imagine a really dull and tedious Ninja Gaiden and that’s Hidden Dragon Legend.
What can I say? This is bad and I hate to really lay into the game as the combat is enjoyable, until you have to suffer the endless ambushes that just make you button mash with no thought or tactics behind it. It’s not even a good sense of button mashing as it would be fine if the game was more of a spectacle rather than a cheap looking side-scroller. Hidden Dragon Legend is hard to love and easy to dislike, there’s very little to really capture your attention and to be fair, I’d just buy a better game like Strider.
A PS4 Review Copy of Hidden Dragon Legend was provided by Oasis Games for the purpose of this Review.
Hidden Dragon Legend
- Combat is mechanically solid and fun (in some aspects)
- .... It's got ninjas?
- Some decent unshockable content
- Combat is dull, repetitive and a grind
- Lifeless scenery and poor animations
- Bland and totally forgettable story (just like our amnesia protagonist)
- Boring boss battles