Ever since Aragami released last year, I’ve had an itch for period, platforming pieces. That’s why I asked our resident despot to have reviewing rights to Hidden Dragon Legend when the announce trailer dropped. Sure it was scaled back to 2.5 action, but the gameplay and setting had me intrigued nevertheless. So with all my might I peeled myself away from Destiny 2 in order to give this a go. What I didn’t expect was a massive red herring situation. There’s a reason why most of the trailers and footage to this game only focused on gameplay. That aspect is literally Hidden Dragon Legend’s only redeeming quality. So much so that my wife walked in, saw me playing, and said, “Yeah, this doesn’t look like a good game.”
Hidden Dragon Legend starts out with our samurai hero awaking in a pool of blood with dead bodies strewn around him in a prison complex. He has no memory of who he is, how he got there, what has happened, or how cliché that all is. As he makes his way outside, he comes across enemy soldiers who try to put him down. When that fails they flee with tails between their legs and we learn that they belong to an evil organization. Cue an adventure to figure out your past and finding the truths behind this organization. Along the way we learn that our generic hero isn’t exactly normal and is something of an interest to the powers that be. The plot isn’t exactly original, but that’s not the main problem with the story. Loads of expositions and plot developments happen within the loading screens. A paragraph of text pops up during them and relegates important info there. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem except when followed by the next problem.
The dialogue and writing are awful. There’s nothing I can honestly compare it too in all my years of video games. It’s so bad that I thought it was intentional. You know, like one of those it’s-so-bad-it’s-good scenarios? Unfortunately, Hidden Dragon Legend takes itself seriously so that possibility is out. An unbelievable amount of cheese and camp is ever-present in the written and spoken word here. To make matters worse the recording process wasn’t done correctly either. The voice actors must have used inferior equipment or spoke way to closely to the microphone. You can hear white noise on top of delivery and even an echo on some lines. Any world building in-game was immediately ruined by this obvious problem. Rest assured this wasn’t the only fault while actually playing.
Animations for characters are extremely wooden and not even in a favorable retro way. This mechanic just felt incomplete or lacking polish. Stiff movements outside of actual gameplay were very noticeable. I’d tell you not to fret because the game has some nice action cutscenes. However, they’re hidden behind quick cuts to make it seem like more is happening that what actually is. It got disheartening to watch a scene play out like this. You know how when a movie does this to make an action scene “greater?” Yea, that kind of annoying. You’re probably thinking all of this doesn’t matter when a 2.5 platform game is mostly about gameplay and I can understand that. Cosmetic and technical problems don’t necessarily make the overall experience. Sadly, while said gameplay can be fun it’s often a lesson in uninspiring spamming.
As expected the platforming and levels are traversed from side to side. You can double jump and evade while battling generic enemies and more important boss ones. Although to Hidden Dragon Legend’s credit, the amount of enemies to face is pretty diverse as the game goes on. Even if some share abilities and traits. Our hero utilizes a katana as a primary weapon and some other ones earned throughout the adventure. Pretty typical stuff. Your sword is the main focus and enables you to do some nice combos here and there. There’s a decent variety of blows and the ability to juggle enemies in the air then slam them back down. Think of a vastly inferior Devil May Cry and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. Plus, as you earn more items, rewards, and progress you’ll be able to change to different roles. Each “role” will have different stats with strengths and weaknesses to individual playstyles. They don’t add much depth though.
Where this fails however, is in the implementation. Swinging away with a flurry of strikes can be fun, but you’ll quickly find yourself spamming because of the character’s recovery time. After you finish a combo, you’ll be left wide open with nothing to do except evade. Almost like it freezes your actions or there’s a small delay. Dodging is pretty solid and never found much of an issue with it once I discovered it. I say discovered because the game’s control scheme is shown as you start the game. Not in the pause menu nor in the main menu. Yes, this is a thing. Hidden Dragon Legend also glosses over the fact that you need to build up a meter in order to use some of the more special moves. There’s not much direction here and again, I can’t tell if this was done on purpose or simply a lapse in judgement. Also let’s just say the A.I. can be really, really cheap.
Additionally, the platforming and jumping around itself isn’t that great. It handles alright, but it’s nothing more than running across the stage, enemies jump on-screen, and you have to take them out to move on. The game tries to mix it up with the incorporation of things like grapple hooks although you can probably guess how that turns out based on what you already know from reading this piece. The environmental side of the level design is pretty nice and kind of reminded me of Ninja Gaiden in a way. The surroundings had a certain charm to them like they were drawn instead of programmed. A stark contrast to the mechanical character’s that drag this one down to the dumps.
Hidden Dragon Legend PS4 Review
Hidden Dragon Legend is a lesson in blandness. It doesn't stand out from other side scrolling platformers and falls well below mediocrity. The game's only positives are the small amounts of fun within the gameplay and environmental design. Everything else will remind you what subpar means in video games. Literally. Everything. Else. This game wants to be a practice in timing and skill when it will be more of a practice in patience.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.