Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 07/01/02 | Genre: Action
"Everybody was kung-fu fighting..." at least they were trying, and looking very bad while doing it. Ronin's Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon does not do the legendary Bruce Lee justice at all. He would definitely not give his approval to this martial arts exposition. With the major offenders being a sluggishly jerky fighting system, hideous low polygonal characters, unnecessarily long loading times, and voicing rivaling old karate movies (that's a bad thing in case you didn't know), Quest of the Dragon dishonors Lee's name and the martial arts craft his name embodies.
The story, though ridiculous and unimaginative, is forgivable because it is what you would expect to find in a traditional Bruce Lee film. A kidnapped father, stolen relic, and an evil gang called the Black Lotus all come together to reveal a sinister revolutionary plot involving a supersoldier formula. The story progresses via cinematic cutscenes that are as graphically impressive as a black and white Godzilla movie.
The karate master is the only character who sounds remotely correct, though if you get him to attack fast enough, his 'wahs' resemble that of a clucking chicken. The karate action sounds great with all the slapping and kicking going on, but musically, Quest of the Dragon is uninspired with tracks that are repetitive and often barely heard, which is actually the bright side.
Quest of the Dragon moves at the pace of an animated slug rather than that of an agile, lightning-quick martial arts action game. Traveling along the long empty levels requires repeatedly bumping into invisible barriers until the single correct path is found. So, while the levels look inviting, they are actually reduced to a one-way road. Massive loading times and pauses between fights create a desire to judo-chop the Xbox- a machine that should not require such lags. In addition to loading, jerks and stops in mid karate action are considerably frequent. With such little graphical detail given to the backgrounds and character models, this is inexcusable. Lee's fighting style and movements are farley well done, but the Matrix-like camera movements at the end of each bout just further reveals missing frames of animation instead of emphasizing thrilling hand-to-face pain.
Actual fighting is where the game shows its true style--or lack thereof. An unresponsive, sluggish control system often results in some button-mashing, seeking to force Lee to do what he is told. Don't let the extremely extensive list of fighting moves fool you; most are useless, and you will find yourself using only a handful on purpose to put away enemies- even the crouching bosses. The fighting system sounds easy enough with even the more powerful moves only requiring holding the left triggers, moving the left thumbstick, and pressing up to two buttons at a time. There are no 'press this and move the thumbstick this way simultaneously' methods, so no matter what you press or when you press it, Lee will do something- though it may not be what you want it or when you want it.
Moving through each stage you will encounter groups of thugs who are eager for you to teach them a lesson. While every fight requires your martial arts, some have special guidelines such as fighting with nunchukas and a time limit where you get rewarded for whooping up all the baddies before the clock runs down. Be rest assured, though, there is no penalty for failing to do so.
While in combat, Lee has two modes: non-lock-on and lock-on, and each mode avails certain attacks. In non-lock-on, Lee is free ranged to hit anything that moves, but in lock-on, he focuses his wrath on one particular unlucky individual. It is relatively easy to change targets or get out of locked mode by simply pressing the right trigger. However, Lee is sometimes stubborn, staying in locked mode, and consequently getting thwacked from enemies close enough to kiss him. Sometimes though, the AI is forgiving and has the thugs stand by and wait their turn to be smacked. This is fortunate, for when you get jumped by more than one at a time, you will suffer large amounts of damage because Lee refuses to turn around or do the move you told him to do. At the end of each stage, after thumping a fair amount of thugs, Lee will have to face-off against a boss- though why you have to fight them is sometimes stupid and causes you to say 'umâ?¦okay?' These bouts are pathetic and merely require you to use a small number of attacks. End bosses have a fascination with crouching and don't show much karate skill, and using your dragon tokens will quickly lay them down.
To assist you in your fight, Lee can acquire dragon tokens through buying them, finding them in crates placed throughout the levels, and/or picking them up after an enemy drops them. These tokens possess the power to increase Lee's attack strength to where they can't be blocked and decrease the damage he receives from attacks for a limited time. This is done by pressing the black button. Hold it down longer to lengthen the tokens' effect, but this, consequently uses more tokens. During fights, Lee will also be able to double and quadruple his attack damage and receive a fire damage bonus- similar to the effects of the tokens- from power-ups left behind by enemies. Money is also accumulated from each adversary taken down and can be used towards increasing rank, attack power, health, and purchase moves- you don't start out a dragon, just a little lizard.
The camera struggles to find a comfortable position, sort of like a small child having to sit still for more than a minute. Constantly moving in and out, side to side, seeing your enemy can sometimes be a problem. Frequently you won't even see the thug until he/she has gotten in a quick combo on you. The camera gives the game an overall trapped feeling instead of the free-roaming, quick-striking flow for which Lee is known.
If you can make through Ronin's title the first time, and you want to replay it, by all means go ahead. The second time through is the same thing, but now the hard mode has been unlocked. All your moves are available from the get go, and you can play through with your now beefed up dragon master.
Overall, playing Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon won't make you feel any more like a martial artist than running around in your bathrobe yelling 'fight me' will. Though because of the ugly cutscenes, embarrassing voicing, sluggish controls, and aggravating load times, you may just dragon kick your controller across the room. Ronin doesn't do a very good job of honoring the karate legend with this title and should spend a little more time meditating should they decide to try again. If you want a good fighter, try Soul Caliber or Dead or Alive, but if you have an urge to be the dragon, rent it for a weekend.