Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors Review
Wii | DS
Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors box art
System: Wii, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Activision 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: A2M 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 4, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

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.

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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.

Screenshots / Images
Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot - click to enlarge Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot - click to enlarge Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot - click to enlarge Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors screenshot - click to enlarge

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