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Legend of the Dragon
Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: The Game Factory
Developer: Neko Entertainment
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1; 1 - 2 (Ad Hoc)
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:
Legend of the Dragon is a game based off of the fairly new animated series of the same name. While this game looks good and seems to convey the look and feel of the various characters pretty well, the game has a few balance issues that really take away from the enjoyment of the title.

Like I said, the game looks good. During fights, character models and arenas are highly detailed, while the more stylized look of the game's map seems to do a fairly good job as well.

There isn't a whole lot to the sound. Music and effects are okay and get the job done, but they aren't really anything spectacular. Being a game based off of a series, I expected a little more in the way of voicework, but this was also lacking. Besides grunts and minimal sound bytes, there is very little of the characters' vocals in Legend of the Dragon.

Legend of the Dragon follows twin fighters, one who has inherited the power of the Golden Dragon, the other the power of the Shadow Dragon. Ang (The Golden Dragon) has vowed to go to each of the twelve zodiac temples and defeat the guardian there so that he can become strong enough to defeat his enemy, The Zodiac Master.

Meanwhile, Ling (The Shadow Dragon) is also traversing the various temples taking on opponents in order to prove herself strong enough to take down her brother. At least that's the game's Quest Mode stories.

Fights seem to take a cue or two from the Dragon Ball Z line of games. As you attack your opponent, you build up ki. If you build up enough ki, you are able to transform into your guardian (Ang transforms into the Golden Dragon, Ling into the Shadow Dragon, Xuan Chi as the Monkey, etc). Once transformed, you are able to use more powerful attacks at the expense of ki. If you use up too much ki, you transform back into your normal state.

There are two other modes in this game, Multiplayer and Practice. Multiplayer lets you fight against computer or human-controlled opponents, while Practice mode lets you try your hand at any of the unlocked characters without risk of defeat or go through a scripted set of tutorials. I would definitely recommend starting off at the tutorial because the controls and feel of the fighting moves you can perform just feel off and require some guided training before you jump into the Quest Mode.

Legend of the Dragon also offers a Bonus Mode that lets you view an episode from the series (Ling's first transformation into the Shadow Dragon and her first strike against the new Golden Dragon) as well as a couple of other treats.

Oh and of course it wouldn't be a PSP without loading times. While the game does a good job of breaking its Quest Mode into easy to manage chunks for gamers on the go (something a lot of PSP games can't seem to grasp), the load times before fights are long enough to make you wonder if you have time to play the game some while on the way to work or between classes at school.

Legend of the Dragon's toughness comes from a mix of hard to beat enemies and balance issues. Since many fights have a win condition that you must meet in order to progress, there are many times when you can win a match, but not be allowed to progress.

A good example is an early fight in Ling's quest where you are told to beat Xuan Chi, but your finishing blow must be an energy attack. In Legend of the Dragon, it seems the only way to deal any kind of real damage to your opponent is either through combos or energy blasts; single hits just don't cut it. Unfortunately, because you can only use the energy attacks (the ones you must use to finish him off with) while transformed and you can only stay transformed when you have a certain amount of energy, I found myself unleashing a couple of energy moves and knocking my opponent to near death. But because I had lost so much ki, I would un-transform and have to build up energy again, which can only be done by attacking your opponent. Consequentially I would knock him out and win the match, but not meet the win condition.

There were numerous fights throughout the available quests that ended the same way. For a first time through, when someone is just getting the hang of a game, he shouldn't have to meet certain conditions like that. I can definitely understand imposing more difficult tasks if there were multiple difficulty settings or on a second pass, but it just made the game too much of a pain my first time playing it.

Game Mechanics:
Legend of the Dragon is a fighter whose controls, even after many hours of play, never felt right. The combos are hard to pull off (even through you swear you are hitting them correctly over and over again) and the balance between the different kinds of attacks just don't seem to be right (at least not for whichever character you are controlling).

Simple punches and kicks do very little damage to your opponent (yet theirs seem to hurt a lot), so you are relegated to using complex combos that are easy to mess up, or ones that feel simple but just don't trigger. I'm not exactly sure what's going on behind the scenes as far as keeping track of how the player is inputting the combos, but something seems very off about it.

On the other hand, I really liked how the game pulls off the really powerful energy attacks once you have transformed. There are three types of moves that each character can perform. Activating the Energy Wave attack puts you in a tug-o-war mode where you have to rapidly press (Square) in order to overpower your opponent. For the Energy Blast, you will then be asked to enter a combination of face buttons that your opponent will have to duplicate in order to block. The last energy attack requires you to tap in a sequence of random face-buttons in order to dole out maximum damage.

Legend of the Dragon is a mediocre game with quite a few issues. Hopefully, if there is a sequel, it will have ironed out many of these problems and be a bit more fun. In the end, this game's biggest hurdle is its balance and difficulty. A gamer well-versed in the fighting genre should be able to overcome the control oddities, but there is just too much going against you in the fights themselves to feel like you are making real progress in the game.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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