Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story Review

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story SNES box art

Relive the story and struggles of Bruce Lee in this mediocre fighting game.

Introduction

The Bruce Lee Story is the true story of the now legendary teacher, martial artist and film-star Bruce Lee. The story involves the many struggles and hardships of the young man which often led to fights and new enemies. Bruce was pronounced dead on July 20th 1973, aged 32. The cause of his death is widely speculated but the story tells of a dark phantom that tortured his soul and dreams through his whole life.

During his short life Bruce managed to become world-famous and one of the most influential Kung Fu legends of all time.

The Game

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story – the video game is based on the movie with the same name. The movie tells the story from Bruce’s personal point of view and focuses on the various challenges and difficulties that he faced during his adult life up until the inevitable death.dragonbruceleestory3

The game is simply a fighting game that allows you to play as Bruce Lee and the story will take you through some of the cruel and somewhat bizarre fights that Bruce had to go through in his life. Having control of a great Kung Fu fighter like Bruce Lee you might think that a game like this would be a breeze, but that is far from the truth. This game is very hard and even punishing at times. Not only that, but it is also clear that the game has quite a few game breaking issues as well.

Controls

The controls need some time to get used to. They seem a little delayed at first, but when you attain the right timing and rhythm, it’s quite manageable. Some of the more advanced attacks, like stomping or throwing your opponent are awkward to perform but the standard attacks are simple enough to do. There are some special attacks that you’d need to reference the manual about.

Content

Before the game starts, you’ll be able to select from a few different game modes; You can either play the story mode alone or together with a friend. The game only has one playable character, so you’ll be playing together with a Bruce Lee clone. You can also choose to play a single standard fight between you and a CPU controlled opponent (perhaps to practice for the story mode). There is also options for two- and three player battles, that allows up to three fighters on the same stage in a free-for-all set up. The game also has options to adjust game speed and difficulty, which is a much-needed feature in this game.

The story mode is, of course the main focus of the game. This is where you’ll be able to play through the ten stages of the game, starting at the Lantern Festival Dance and ending in a life and death battle against the phantom.

Even on the easiest setting the game is menacingly hard and you’ll probably need to give it a few tries before even beating the first stage. The main reason to why this game is so hard and punishing is this; The CPU controlled opponent is relentless in countering your every move. It also knows exactly at what distance it needs to have in order for each attack to land on you. This is something you really need to learn the hard way – because most your attacks will either be blocked or miss altogether if you stand too close or too far and the game is very picky with it. Even if an attack looks like it could land, if your distance isn’t exactly right, the attack will miss. As each new opponent you meet has new attack moves and even weapons, you will probably end up being beaten if you don’t know their attack moves by heart. To make matters worse, lots of moves will render the opponent invincible during the animation, making timing extremely important.

Bruce knows about 20 different attack moves, but to have access to them all you need to gather Chi from fighting well – every time you land an attack, you gain some Chi to your Chi gauge and if you get hit you lose Chi. When you reach a certain level of Chi you can enter the “Fighter stance” where you can do ultra fast attacks and maintain your supremacy in the battle (since you have been fighting so well to gain it!). Furthermore, if you manage to max out your Chi gauge you can enter the “Nunchaku stance” where you will pull out the Nunchaku, which is a deadly weapon in its own right. Attaining this much Chi is very difficult though, and the “Nunchaku Stance” impairs attacks other than with the Nunchaku – and these moves costs Chi to use.

Another way to gain Chi is to collect the Yin-yang symbols that pop up on the screen from time to time. This mechanic has the potential to turn the tide of battle or other hopeless situations but sadly it’s rare that it does.

Playing the story mode together with a friend is fun for a while despite the stringy controls. Some different strategies can then be used that aren’t otherwise possible like surrounding the enemy. But this game mode also introduces a new level of difficulty. Your attacks will hurt the other player, and Bruce doesn’t seem to be too fast when it comes to facing the real opponent. This means that you’ll unintentionally attack your friend more than a few times and it seems to be easier to land a blow on your fellow Bruce Lee than it is on the AI controlled opponent.

It’s strange though that after each battle you have to battle against your friend and thus making him lose a life. This means that one of you is going to lose a life after each battle no matter how good you fare against the AI.

Graphics

The graphics are quite good. The stages are varying and the backgrounds are detailed. The only problem with the backgrounds are that they look a little washed out no thanks to the limited amount of colors that were used to draw them. The animations of the characters gets the job done even though some of them look ugly – like the jumping kicks and jumping punches. They simply didn’t add enough frames of animations there and it basically boils down to being one single frame that travels across the screen. Thankfully this flaw is minor and the rest of the game’s visuals are pretty good.

Sound

The music is very moody and resembles typical fighting-scene music from a Hollywood movie with an Asian twist. The sound effects mimics those of an old Kung Fu movie – it has over-the-top smacking sounds when punches connect and swooshing sounds come from kicks. It’s all charming in a way and goes well with the theme.

Summary

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is one of those games that is too hard to be truly enjoyable and that likes to punish its players. It’s great fun to play a truly hard game from time to time and this game surely can provide that novelty. Your opponents seem to have unfair advantages in that they can and will block most of your attacks and they have dangerous special attacks that quickly drains your health bar. To even stand a chance in this game you must play it thoroughly but because of the stiff controls it probably won’t hook the regular gamer. It’s definitely a fresh experience to play with a friend, but in the long run you’ll probably just submit to the cruel difficulty.

Developed By: Virgin Interactive
Published By: Acclaim Entertainment
Version Reviewed: Super Nintendo
Genre: Fighting
Players: 1-2
Also Available On: Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, Jaguar
Released: 1993

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