Everyone has heard those jokes that start out with "Confucius says this, Confucius says that." While it's often a degrading stereotype, many Chinese people hold proverb-style statements in high esteem. My parents often remind me of one statement that translates to "Tiger Head, Snake's Tail." What does that mean, you ask? "Don't ever put out a half-assed job." Case in point: T'ai Fu.
T'ai Fu is a tiger referred to by another character as "one bad pussy." Now what do you suppose they meant by that? Anyway, some dragon is trying to take over China and all its animal inhabitants. As T'ai Fu, you must hone your skills and beat the crap out of anything that moves. Nobody really cares what you kill . . . just beat things to death.
While T'ai Fu comes off being aimed at kids, with the cutesy animal theme, the characters have an older, stylish look to them. Take, for instance, the drunk monkey that throws his feces at you. Though some of the animals came from the Chinese Zodiac, having different animals is principally a device to keep the enemies different and the simple story going.
The graphics do have an Asian flair, with distant backgrounds that look like they came from a painted scroll. In some areas, it's obvious the designers spent time making things look good, and everything has an artistic beauty to it. In other areas, however, it's way too dark, with all the colors blending into a muddy blur. A minor gripe (before I really start ripping on this game) is that sometimes it's hard to see the life bar because it blends into all the green scenery. Then again, green probably wasn't the best choice for a life bar . . . In China, green has a bad connotation. If you wear a green hat, that means your girl is cheating on you (poor, poor Link, if only he knew what Zelda was up to). Red is more often equated with life in Chinese culture. Well, that was your multicultural lesson for the day, now back to the video game.
The music is . . . interesting. Some person is often chanting broken Chinese in the background, to keep that Asian thaaang going on. I think I heard a guy chant "I'm hungry" once. It can get distracting. The best music is when they mix up some more modern beats with some classical Chinese-style tunes and authentic instrument sounds. The worst is when they try to add rap into the mix. The voice acting, while not the best, fits the game's cartoon characters.
Whenever you save, you're able to keep the accumulation of extra lives you've earned; once those later stages come, the frustration kicks in and you'll need them. To vary the gameplay, some platform-style jumping has been put in. Unfortunately, you can't measure your jumps very accurately from the limited views they give you, so you end up burning off all those lives you earned.
The "combos" are simple to pull off: just pound one button, and, after three hits, hit a different button. The combo system does get better once you learn some different moves from the other animals. Although you can link the moves together, it still comes down to hitting square three times, then triangle. It isn't a real three-dimensional world either. You're basically given a track to follow that the camera tries to steer you in.
Now, let me bluntly tell you about the final levels: UNFINISHED. MASSIVE slow down. FRUSTRATION up the Yin-Yang. Bad level designs. Bad lighting. Rant, rant, rant . . . All the mistakes of the interface show during the last few levels and everything just falls apart. Sure, difficulty is good, but play these levels, and you'll know what I'm talking about. On second thought, don't play them. I'm playing them so you won't ever have to. You slip from the edges. You have cheap and quick deaths. It just isn't fun. T'ai Fu, in Chinese, could be loosely translated to "too much work." On behalf of you, gentle readers, I forced myself through, and hated every hour of it.
T'ai Fu can be fun in the beginning, but it quickly falls apart. At the end, the game says "T'ai Fu -- Putting the 'Fu' back in 'Kung Fu.'" I'd sure like to beat the 'Fu' out of the idiot that said this game was ready to ship. I wonder what would happen if you pitted T'ai Fu against Shaq Fu. Whatever the outcome, somewhere in the universe Bruce Lee is crying.