Tai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger
In Tai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger you are T'ai Fu, an orphan tiger with no idea who your parents are. Raised by the Panda clan, you have learned responsibility, spirituality, and defense. You are young and tend to speak before thinking but you are still on the right track to learning of your heritage. You also get the opportunity to wreak a little havoc on the enemies of your forefathers, once you find out who they were. If you like playing an edgy, yet simple kung fu fighting game with a decent back story then you will like this one.
This game is linear, you will go through each level in order and do not have much flexibility of choosing where you will go next. Each level either has guards or tricks to try to impede your progress. There is no requirement to fight any of them until you see a specific message like "defeat three to advance" so if you want, you can avoid fighting in levels you have almost completed save for that last jump to the checkpoint (the spot where you'd start from if you die).
Fighting enemies within each level is simple, keep knocking them back until they flash and disappear. As you hit them, a strength bar will pop up showing how much strength they have left. You also have a health meter and a chi meter. The health meter cannot be reduced to zero or you're dead, the chi meter is used for chi moves which I will describe below.
The style of Tai Fu is comical action adventure with specially added kung fu combinations. As you clear the path before you of those who would impede you, you will teach other clans whose Kung Fu is strong and whose Kung Fu is weak. By listening carefully to your Panda Clan parent and patiently fighting within your abilities until you have received all of them, you will advance quickly and make a real name for T'ai Fu.
Each new level brings you into contact with a new clan. By defeating that clan and its boss, you will learn new moves that you can then build into your combinations. You start out by learning a few moves from your adopted parent, the leader of Panda Clan. Your journey includes contact with the following clans: dragon, snake, mantis, leopard, monkey, crane, panda, boar, rat, and tiger. From these clans you will glean specific styles including Tiger, Mantis, Leopard, Monkey, and Crane.
The combinations you learn are not of the "difficult to learn" variety, the sort I find require too much memorization to pull off. For example, your basic Tiger clan combination is a simple triple hit on the square button possibly followed by your utility triangle button finisher. Other styles have combinations based on those exact same key combination but are led into from another circumstance or move. For example, the Mantis combo is done after a succesful block and the Crane combo is done from hovering.
Alternatively, you can use your chi power to use mental energy for attacking your opponent. The Chi blast uses almost all of your chi power to hurt everyone within a short radius of T'ai Fu. The Chi shot uses less chi but provides a focused shot on a specific opponent that can then either lead into a combination or finish off a tough opponent.
Each style of fighting has a number of miniature combinations that can be joined together by the right move into longer combinations. If you figure some of them out, you can do super multiple hit combinations. When you finish a combination, the styles you used and the number of hits that they included are displayed briefly on the screen.
Throughout each level you will pick up jade coins, when you pick up fifty coins you will gain a 1-Up or extra life that you will need when you reach a tougher area. Other items picked up in levels include 1-Ups, gold coins when you complete levels, health ups to refill your health meter, and chi orbs to refill your chi. You also will come across power tablets that make you temporarily invincible or give you stealth so that enemies can't see you. Finally, you will also pick up Chi Scrolls of earth, lightning, wind, fire, and water each with a deadly force to bring to bear on your enemies. Some of these items are hidden off of the main path and may require you to take riskier jumps or do some investigating to find.
If you run out of lives, it's game over but you can always continue from the level you were at with three lives. This is a nice feature as it allows you to play through the upper levels without getting bored from endless repetition of the early levels. Many other games of this nature make that mistake, preventing most people from even seeing the rest of the game.
The graphics for each level are crisp and interesting. The big map has a mystical Eastern feel. T'ai Fu's moves are fun to watch, especially when pulling off a super long combination of hits. The enemies also offer a variety of looks as they are each animals within their respective clans or simply 'evil' bushes come to life to take you out.
One annoying trait of this game is that as you move around the level the camera angle changes to what the developers thought would be the best angle. Some of them are not the angles you would choose and can even mislead you as to where to jump and at what angle. I prefer the interfaces that allow the full selection of which angle I am able to size up the obstacles.
If you like comical fun fighting games but don't want to fuss with learning long complex key strokes to pull off great looking moves, then T'ai Fu maybe the Kung Fu for you. This is a fun, fast paced game worthy of a weekend rental. It is a little too easy and wouldn't warrant purchasing unless you've played it and really enjoy the game. With a memory card, you can save your progress and play through it.