Flying fists, ancient and deadly techniques, atrociously bad overdubs, and no-shadow kicks are but a few of the marvels found in the world of import martial arts flicks. Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao borrows liberally from this treasure trove of Kung-Fu nostalgia. And we love it for that. But before long, you just might stop throwing punches and start throwing controllers with this one.
A once great martial arts master and accomplished general, Han Tao has long since sunken into a drunken haze of despair and apathy. The sudden appearance of an evil overlord who steals an invaluable artifact Han Tao vowed to protect spurs the fallen hero to sober up and dust off his Kung-Fu playbook. Without warning, he’s suddenly attacked by a steady stream of martial arts thugs. From that moment onward, the action never lets up. The intensity is great at first, yet it gets exhausting quickly.
Each of the large, closed-in levels acts like a massive jungle-gym. Being able to work the environment to your advantage, from scaling vines for a quick escape to kicking pots in order to stun enemies, is a nice touch and a clever homage to the martial art’s cinematic roots. The same goes for the grainy film quality visual effect applied to the screen and thematically appropriate story cutscenes. Short chapter vignettes string together each location, as wave after wave of gutsy enemies impale themselves on your fists of fury. Foes have various strengths and weaknesses to play to, but you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed once lightning-quick ninjas start arriving on the scene en-masse.
The fluidity of Han Tao’s movement, along with subtle battle flourishes and his overall visual grace, is remarkable. It’s too bad this does him little good against the inevitable swarm of ninja warriors that attack unrelentingly from all sides. A solid medley of slick-looking punch and kick combos can be pulled off with speed, and you can also duck and dodge incoming blows. Coupled with Zen powers like meditative healing and speed boosts, Han Tao’s fighting abilities should be formidable. Truth be told, this tiger is far from invincible.
Despite the appearance of finesse, it’s surprising how quickly everything devolves into frantic button mashing and rote flailing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of your adversaries, who chase you around with a hunger for blood. They’ll often whittle down your meager appropriation of lives in seconds, and dying too many times forces you to re-play all of the chapters in the current level from the beginning. Sacrificing your score to buy increasingly expensive extra lives can only sustain your killing spree for so long. Invincible Tiger has great spirit but poor implementation. As a result, even the most diehard Kung-Fu fans will find disappointment in this brawler.
Sep 3, 2009