Hidden Dragon: Legend is one of the few PlayStation 4 games we’ve seen come out of China. Although the console market isn’t as well established there, whether in terms of game developers or console owners, the PS4 is helping to propel this burgeoning scene with studios like Oasis Games at the helm. It’s great to see a more diverse array of developers working on the system though Hidden Dragon isn’t what you’d call a trailblazer. In fact, it’s a fairly primitive take on the 2D action genre – at least by modern standards.
You’ll go from stage to stage, looking to confront the Trigram Organization as they spread corruption throughout Imperial China. Bar the odd diversion or side route, these levels are fairly self-contained and linear with no Metroidvania-esque overlapping.
As you progress, platforming becomes more of a focus, especially as you eventually unlock a grappling hook, but Hidden Dragon is notably combat heavy. Despite being somewhat of a button basher, there’s a satisfying weight to each sword stroke, especially when lunging into a devastating combo. You’ll feel your sword bite at the enemy as they get slapped and juggled around, the on-screen hit counter slowly building.
It becomes repetitive all too quickly, however. Oasis does a good job of chucking in new enemy types, urging you to spend points on weapons and powers. This adds some much-needed variety, though that freshness doesn’t last long as you fall back on the same spammy combo over and over, just to get rid of enemies and push on to the next area.
The lack of defensive options is also disappointing. A dash acts as your only means to negate incoming attacks, phasing through enemies and their projectiles. It’s functional but drains combat of any dynamism as you frantically sidestep from combo to combo in an endless cycle.
The enemy AI doesn’t make combat any more enjoyable. They’re not the kind of punch bags that are fun to play around with as in some games. They’re spongy, unimaginative, and some are made even more annoying by the fact that their attack chains can’t be stopped.
Despite boasting some of the best concept art you’ll lay eyes on, that majesty and style is completely lost on its journey from canvas to console. Characters look stiff during play and almost laughable when locked into one of Hidden Dragon’s cutscenes. The voice acting, while OK in places, does little to improve the overall package.
Hidden Dragon isn’t terrible, but it’s sorely stuck not one, but two generations in the past. The sidescroller is by no means dead, yet those working in this shrinking subgenre are either emulating its most celebrated champions or pushing the boundaries with something new and inventive. Hidden Dragon does neither, nor does it have the visual oomph that can often help overlook a game’s shortcomings.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Pro