Getting Smashed Up –
Like most licensed movie titles, Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends is used as a marketing tool to further promote its movie counterpart. While fans will have to wait until 2016 to see the upcoming Kung Fu Panda 3, SoLL is here to fill in the gap. The end result is nothing more than a poor man’s Smash Bros clone and suffers the same fate as so many movie games before it – a short development cycle and limited budget. If you played the game versions of How To Train Your Dragon, Rango, Madagascar, Shrek, or Monsters Vs Aliens you will know what to expect.
The original Kung Fu Panda console title ripped off God of War to moderate success. Here, the developers at Vicious Cycle tried to replicate the Smash Bros formula using characters and environments from the movies. This cast of characters, however, are nowhere near as memorable or charming as the Smash roster. The big question is, why would anyone play this when they can play Smash especially since game carries a full retail price?
Even if the characters were better known, the rest of the gameplay flats flat. Outside of the main tournament mode, which has some wildly frustrating difficulty swings, there is only a simple practice mode, a same-sofa multiplayer, and online vs mode. However, after a few dozen attempts of trying to play online (this is the Xbox 360 version) I gave up because no one was playing. Because of this, I was unable to test online play. Even with a roster of over 20 characters, some being both free and paid DLC, the replay value is limited as there are no mini games, extra features or unlockables to take advantage of.
The game is obviously built around combat but each attack just doesn’t feel right. There is no weight to attacking, attempting to charge up a smash attack will often execute a dash attack instead, hit boxes are way off, ledge grabbing is inconsistent, and jumps are floaty and uncontrollable. Perhaps I am just spoiled with the tight gameplay of Smash but combat just feels mindless and hollow. The gameplay tries to be varied with optional battle conditions like holding a crown for the longest amount of time or eating the most dropped sticky buns (which is just like Smash’s coin battle) but doesn’t really mean anything if the combat isn’t there.
SoLL works in opposition to Smash Bros in the fact that players start with 100% and work their way down to 0% with each successful attack. The problem is the small amount of variation the distance fighters fly when hit with a smash attack until they get to be around 20%. This is where the lack of polish holds back the gameplay. Each character’s main and special moves are also similar, most characters animate and run exactly the same way, and even jumping isn’t varied outside of some winged characters that can float. Characters may look different but they basically all fight in the same way. The game never explains how special moves and items work; the player just has to test everything without direction. Picking up items is also random because sometime the character will pick it up with one press of the attack button but most times it is two button taps.
For a game based around a well animated movie, it is pretty disappointing that the visuals are nothing to get excited about. Stiff animations and poor particle effects don’t do this game any favors. The ducking animation for most fighters is also pretty funny as the character model is simply rotated forward about 45 degrees instead of actually performing a bending animation. The audio department is also a joke as characters talk without moving their mouths and the player is forced to listen to the unskippable horrible one-liners before each match starts. But again, cut corners are the norm for a licensed title.
With no story to speak of, cheap animations, and low-budget gameplay, Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends can’t even be seen as “if you don’t have a Wii U to play Smash, play this” excuse. Since this title costs the same as a full retail title, there are so many better ways to spend your cash. The best part about this game? Achievement hunters will want to take advantage of the easy to obtain Gamerscore. Everyone else, do yourself a favor and just go play Smash on Wii U or 3DS.
Reminds Me Of: Playstation All Stars Battle Royale (PS3/Vita)
Better Than: Shrek Fairytale Freakdown
Also Try: Digimon Battle Spirit (GBA)
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com