Exit the Dragon, enter the garbage.
Though he only released a handful of films in America, Bruce Lee's determination, unbelievable athletic ability and seemingly inhuman will have allowed him to transcend his somewhat meager acting roots to become a legend in both martial arts and action filmmaking. Sure, Jim Kelly might have had cooler hair, but Mr. Han kicked his ass pretty easily. Plus, he never made this cool face.
Bruce has popped up in video games quite a number of times, though usually (he starred in a C64 game back in the day) unofficially as some archetypal fighting game character. Remember Kung-Fu, which was based on Game of Death? Law from the Tekken games? I even remember him as an unlockable character in Eternal Champions for the Sega CD.
So it comes as little shock to see someone decide to feature Bruce in a new game for a new console. Unfortunately, it also comes as little shock that the game sucks... big time. Crummy delivery, a weak engine, awful controls and paltry depth take all the fire out of the Dragon. Kiyay!
Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon's main Adventure mode pits you (as the legendary Lee) in a story so thin it makes Fists of Fury look like Hamlet. Apparently, Bruce has just retired from the British Secret Service and gets tangled up with the Black Lotus organization, which seems to be made up of a few thousand guys who excel at getting their asses kicked by Bruce Lee. Your job is to get to the bottom of things by beating people up.
The gameplay is basically Final Fight. You wander from linear level to linear level beating up hordes of thugs who throw themselves at your flying feet. There are some in-engine movies tossed in to give the story some sort of flow, but the modeling is atrocious and the script is so bad you'll barely have any idea why you suddenly went from the Jungle to the Beach.
There are other levels as well, as the game is set in a few different cities - Hong Kong, London and San Francisco - and features over 30 areas. I use the word 'area' loosely, because they all function the same way. You just run from one end to the other, stopping and fighting whenever a bunch of guys show up.
You'd think that a game featuring the world's most famous martial artist would have a seriously intricate fighting engine. And if you're thinking that, you're probably due back at your 'special' school. Bruce Lee QOTD's combat is about as thrilling as a pillow fight at an old-age home. See bad guy. Hit bad guy. See other bad guy. Kick bad guy. See bad guys disappear. Throw game out window.
The archaic gameplay is hampered further by the awkward controls. In an attempt to simulate the big brawl scenes rampant in every Bruce Lee flick, the game likes throwing a gang of baddies your way at once. There are two ways to deal with this: Non-Oriented fighting or Lock-On fighting.
Non-Oriented fighting means you run around mashing punch and kick like a maniac, hoping to connect enough times to knock some guys out. Lock-On fighting lets you target one guy specifically and opens up combo moves and whatnot, though you'll likely be just as effective mashing punch and kick like a maniac. Things would be okay if the combat control was good, but alas, most combos are simply a string of punches or kicks with the occasional direction thrown in. And since you have to Lock-On to bust out the combos, you're constantly trying to switch to the nearest guy, only to find yourself comboing some poor sap while some other guy is kicking you in the side.
Then there's the camera...oh, the camera. Though the game is in 3D, you cannot move the camera at all. It just tracks Bruce and zooms in and out randomly. Half the time you'll be fighting a guy standing off screen. Not that it matters, though, since the enemies are morons who simply perform the same attacks over and over again.
There are also random fight scenes that allow you to use nunchakus, which magically appear out of your pants. So you smack some guys with the nunchakus and then, according to the animation sequence, tuck them away in the middle of your back. It's just ridiculously bad.
The game tries to reward the gamer who goes for big combos by dishing out more coins when enemies are dispatched in big ways. Yep, coins. Oddly, this is one of the game's bright spots. Defeated enemies leave coins, which are gathered and then used in between levels to buy new moves, increase attack power, etc. It's pretty limited, but at least they tried to give the game some depth. Unfortunately, the heinous, monotonous gameplay dulls the shine irreperably.
Speaking of dull, the graphics are boring and cheap. Textures are washed-out and clipping errors abound. Plus, the animations are very, very jerky, which is sort of strange since they put a great deal of energy into the robust moves list. It looks even worse than this...
The sound doesn't fare much better. Some bits are lifted straight out of the movies, but most of the dialogue is poorly produced. Bruce's incessant grunting and clucking sounds more like a Superchicken than a dragon. And why didn't they use the terrific theme from Enter the Dragon?
The developers certainly try to do justice to an incredible presence, but while they succeed in quoting Bruce Lee like mad throughout the manual, they fail miserably in creating a good game. The only reason this one doesn't get an F is the fact that Bruce Lee is in it, and I don't want to completely dishonor him. This game has more in common with The Crow than The Dragon, a sad case of father emulating son. And in the process, they have offended my family.