Hidden Dragon Legend Review – Side Scroll Souls

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Hidden Dragon Legend is a challenging Chinese 2.5D platformer that wears its admiration for Dark Souls on its chest. Unfortunately, the localisation has taken its toll. The FingerGuns Review;

Hidden Dragon Legend is the latest title to make it’s way to our shore from the blossinging gaming ecosystem of China thanks to Oasis Games. From developer MegaFun Games, it’s a 2.5D platformer set in Imperial China in which you play as a sword warrior named Lu who wakes up in a deserted prison with no memory of how he got there. As he leaves, he is set upon by members of “The Organisation” who recognise him. Lu sets out on a journey to piece together his lost memories by taking on the members of the clandestine Organisation that is shadowing his every move.

It’s almost a cliche of a cliche to call a game “The Dark Souls of…” these days but Hidden Dragon Legend doesn’t hide the fact that certain aspects of itself are inspired by the From Software epic. And yes, Hidden Dragon Legend is “The Dark Souls of 2.5D Platform Battlers”. It’s tough, unforgiving, has a complex combat system and requires precision and patients. Then there’s a “YOU HAVE DIED” visual that looks incredibly familiar. It’s not a clone – there are enough differences to make this feel like inspiration rather than a rip off – but MegaFun Games obviously wanted in on that Soulslike action.

The game itself is what I imagine a modern day remake of the original Ninja Gaiden (the on the SNES? You might know it as Shadow Warriors?) would look like. The protagonist Lu moves left or right along a pre-defined slice of the game world. That’s not always a straight line, he can turn corners, but this is most definitely a 3D game played on a 2D plane, hence the 2.5D moniker. Imagine the 2014 Strider remake but with an increase in depth of field and with more lushly populated forgrounds and you’ll get the picture.

Hidden Dragon Legend uses this combination of 3D visuals with 2D game play to provide some pretty impressive visuals. Some scenes of this game look like they’ve been ripped directly from the likes of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or “The House of Flying Daggers” and got mixed into here. There’s a bamboo forest you fight through, a Chinese city for you to traverse, leaping from roof to roof and a cliff side carved with statues of Chinese mythology. It’s like a checklist of traditional Chinese action film locations that you fight through and aside from a hand full of duds, they’re very easy on the eye.

The combat in Hidden Dragon Legend is combo driven which means it sometimes feels like you’re playing a beat-’em-up. You have a light attack and a heavy attack with variation for high, low and pop-up which can be combined into flowing attacks which give no quarter to your enemy. As you complete combos, a gauge fills which allow you to unleash Sutra moves. These are special abilities that can fire you across the screen to slash at the enemy or juggle them into the air with rapid slices of your sword. Your weapon and the type of Sutra can be changed when you unlock new items by collecting them in the game. The most souls-like aspect of Hidden Dragon Legend is the dash/avoid ability which is integral to survival. It interrupts any combo and prevents damage when dashing. You’ll have worn out the L1 button on your Dualshock 4 by the end of the game.

There’s a myriad of enemy types in Hidden Dragon Legend that get progressively more difficult as you move forward. Towards the beginning of the game, enemies are still very capable of defeating Lu but only need a button mash to defeat. Soon enemies with shields are in the mix which are immune from one side. Then there’s flying archer enemies. Boxers who are quick and hit hard. Crossbowman that fire bolts across the entire length of the screen. Heavy Axemen that are slow but have a mountainous amount of health. THe list goes on and on. Enemies who are introduced in a mini-boss fight are more often than not added to further fights alongside other enemies, escalating the difficulty. The boss battles after chapter 2 make the mini-boss battles feel like a cakewalk. Not only do the bosses do huge amounts of damage to Yu’s health bar, they’re packing a massive amount of health themselves. These fights can go on for a while and keeping concentration will be your greatest enemy.

Outside of combat, this title has some simple puzzles and testing platforming sections. The game asks for precision timing and a deep understanding of the tools at your disposal. There’s an Indiana Jones boulder moment which requires millimeter perfect jumps to over come. Earlier in the game there’s a simple puzzle section about using switches to move platforms into the right place to reach a few different locations.

Unfortunately, as it progresses, Hidden Dragon Legend creeps ever further into cheap deaths, unavoidable tricks to kill you and exhausting trial and error. The second half of the game is filled with frustrating moments that would have been enjoyable if they’d been tweaked to be a tad more forgiving. There’s a moment when you have to run along a wooden bridge while mechanical spiders rush all around destroying everything around you. Whoever’s idea it was to put this section in the game needs their head examining. Boulders fall in unnatural directions just to catch you out. There’s a jump that needs to be a few seconds before it usually would because of a near invisible war. There are plenty of moments like this in the second half of the game and it’s just cheap and unnecessary.

Elsewhere, Hidden Dragon Legend has probably some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard in years. The localisation process was not a kind one on this title with the voice actors and actresses sound entirely unenthused by the whole ordeal. This takes any and all of the impact out of the story, replacing the “oooh’s” and “aaaah’s” with “What the actual f–k was that?”. I laughed so hard to myself when one of the villains tried to deliver this powerful monologue and it didn’t land at all.

Technically proficient, visually delightful and a true test of patience and skill, the first half of Hidden Dragon Legend is 50% of a truly wonderful game. Unfortunately, the other 50% is purposefully abrasive and frustrating. Couple that with the ridiculous voice work that sounds like it was done by anyone they could drag in off the street and Hidden Dragon Legend sabotages much of the good groundwork that it lays. It feels like this game accidentally stumbles across the reason why people like Dark Souls only to lose it again while trying to crank up the difficulty. Playing Hidden Dragon Legend is like finding money in a draw you’ve not been in for a while, getting excited about it because you’re broke and then remembering that it’s just some defunct Spanish peseta you saved from a holiday you took in the 90’s. Hidden Dragon Legend is a side scrolling soulslike that thinks that people like Dark Souls just because it’s difficult and that’s disappointing because part of the game seems to understand the reward of challenging game play. It’s such a shame because the good half of this game is *really* good.

Hidden Dragon Legend is out now on PS4 (review version) and PC.

Disclaimer: In order co complete this review, we were provided with a copy of the game by the Publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.

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