Over the years as a gamer, reviewer, and lover of anything attached to a controller I find that innovation often sparks hatred. This is a touchy subject for the simple fact that people in this industry crave something new yet when it is attempted they push it aside until it is copied and then praise it like it has changed with age. Fighting games have forever seen the roads of repetition, when was the last time the genre tried anything new? Honestly it hasn’t been redefined since the introduction of weapons. So when I heard that team MK had split up and each member was going to deliver us a new fighter my candle of hope flickered back to it’s original flare. MK Deadly Alliance brought with it fighting style changes, while not totally original it was done in such a way that even the casual gamer could perform some of the deadlier combos. Now the other half of team MK has brought us his newest vision in the form of Tao Feng, being confined to one system gave Studio Gigante the ability to craft a game without the constraints of porting and button re-mapping. Was it what we all hoped for or something far less extravagant? Only this review can answer these questions and finally put to rest why the world loves to hate innovation.
You Can Almost See Her…..
Being developed solely for the XBox console Tao Feng had the advantage of being powered by the biggest powerhouse of the three consoles. Having every graphical bell and whistle at their disposal really let Studio Gigante make a gorgeous fighter. The character models are extremely detailed, bump mapped clothing gives it that oh so real look, and lighting effects that only the XBox can produce make this game pleasing to thine eyes. The environments are also fabulous sporting breakable objects such as windows, arcade machines, and even floors and walls. The arenas are also very large in scale giving the player plenty of room to wage war upon. It also helps for the fact that the levels can be explored and seem almost fresh every time you play in them. For the most part Tao Feng runs smooth but sometimes the frame rate will hiccup and cause the action to chop for a split second. This is mostly noticeable when you are just watching and not playing because the action is so frantic while playing you don’t even notice it. Characters also cut and bruise which is a very nicely done effect, oh and did I mention you can tear clothes? Some of the female characters can be skimmed down to almost nothing just by pummeling them, very nice.
Bring It Baby!
The sound in Tao Feng can be a mixed bag, while the audio sounds great the music is almost like background noise. Lame tunes mixed with generic techno beats and guitar riffs make the music a little uninspiring. Custom soundtracks would have been a nice feature but I never knock a game for not having them, I mean how many PS2 games have custom music?? The voices for the characters are nicely done, each have their own style and attitude that make them stand out. Master Sage can be annoying at times during quest mode but you get used to it. What really stands out in this game are the sound effects. Glass breaking will have you checking your windows and bones cracking will have you shuddering with pain. The team has done an excellent job at creating the best sound effects I have yet to hear in a fighting game.
Fear My Lotus Style!
At first glance (which is what most reviewers give fighting games) Tao Feng seems slow, complicated, and downright annoying. For buttons mashers it is. This game is not for the weak, feeble minded arcade players that wail away on buttons in hopes of victory. This game requires dedication and practice like some of the better fighters out there. Timing also play a huge factor when deciding when to attack, watching your opponent and learning how their moves work will take you further into the game than most lame game players dare to venture. This may be a turn off to some players but for those that have the patience and dedication that fighting games deserve will feel rewarded when the finally grasp the game’s deep and intricate fighting system. Tao Feng is strictly hand to hand combat with some new flavors thrown in, for example you character has a Chi meter which gradually fills up during the fight. When full your character can unleash a Chi attack, which is basically a special move, or heal any broken bones sustained during the encounter. Which leads me to limb damage, Tao Feng introduces a unique limb damage system that awards aggressive players. Those used to blocking continuously awaiting your chance to strike will find this game more frustrating because yes, you actually have to fight to win here.
Environments also play a large role in the fighting. You can lunge off of walls or swing around poles to deliver damage to your foe. This is easily achieved by pulling the right trigger and tapping the d-pad towards desired obstacle when close to it. Once mastered this technique can be used to pummel unsuspecting rivals into a bloody pulp. I have read countless reviews about TF since it’s release and I am shocked at how many so called gamers can claim this game is too hard, apparently they are used to button mashers like Tekken and Killer Instinct where you can achieve victory without knowing anything about the game. Now don’t get me wrong Tekken is a deep fighter but you can win based on mashing certain buttons whereas in TF you cannot. Fighting game junkies will be happy to know that TF includes most of your typical fighting game modes from survival to versus, the only lacking feature is the standard arcade mode, players will be forced to venture through the quest mode to obtain secrets and endings. The quest mode is divided into two sects, one for the Pale Lotus and one for the Black Mantis. Each sect has six characters and each characters faces six fighters from the other sect. Every victory you achieve earns you a piece of an artifact and when all are obtained you fight the final boss. This mode is very long and the difficulty ramps just enough each fight to keep you coming back for more and more.
What Else Can I Say?
Honestly I was hyped on Tao Feng to be the next great fighting game. I have to say I was happy to see a game that truly innovates in a dying genre, but I am saddened that it was not the next big fighting game franchise. Sure I hope to see a TF2, I also hope that Studio Gigante really takes the time to tweak the few problems this game has like the shoddy camera and stuttering frame rate and truly make the next best fighter. For now I will enjoy Tao Feng until the next big fighter is released (Soul Calibur 2 anyone?). I recommend picking up Tao Feng if you are a true fighting game fan and are ready for a change of pace. Button mashers and casual fighting game fans need not apply, this game is truly for the pros. Here’s to seeing TF2 on XBox 2 or whatever the hell they call it!