Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends (Wii U) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 26.04.2016

Review for Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends on Wii U

Big franchise tie-in videogames have always been the subject of much jabs and mockery among gamers. It's true that over the years, they were frequently served as products of questionable quality, just for a quick cash-in over the current craze of a recent film release, especially an animated one. That is perhaps not always taking into account that rights holders determine how much budget the studios have to work with, how much time they're given to quickly get something out on the market to be there on time for when the film releases, and so on. Therefore, it's not always due to the people behind the game being lazy, or not wanting to create something good, but the making of a licensed product might be more complex than one would perhaps imagine. Therefore, it is with this kind of an open mind that Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends is approached for review.

Vicious Cycle Software did produce some decent software in the past, including licensed products such as Robotech: Battlecry for the GameCube. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon which they developed for consoles of the past generation was received well too, so we do know that the developer is capable of producing quality products, despite a sometime hit-and-miss track record. Kung-Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends presents itself as no less than a Super Smash Bros. clone. A 2.5D brawler, where the goal is to throw opponents outside of the boundaries of the arena; a décor made of famous locations from its source material, laid out with platforms.

Each character has a health gauge represented by a percentage, with the lower the percentage, the higher the chance that the next hit received will throw a fighter off screen. Battles can either be stock based (where a player out of stock is automatically out), or time based (where the character having ejected the most opponents wins the match). Last but certainly not least in the realm of basic battle components is a blue gauge under the character portraits on screen that fills as damage is dealt to other characters, which once filled up allows said character to perform is "awesome attack", which is basically their final smash, except that the conditions to unleash them are a bit different from classic Smash Bros. rules.

Though this title is multiplatform, on the Wii U, it will inevitably go head to head with the crown champion of the genre, which is also one of the most popular games on the system. However, just because the king is in the place, it doesn't mean that there can't be any more contenders, and there's potential here for doing things that perhaps the Super Smash Bros. series never did. From the outset, things do look and feel very similar, however, not straying too far from the well-established formula. A few different modes of play are on offer, from a simple single player tournament mode pitting players against a series of 10 battles until reaching the final boss. One on one, two on two, or one on three stock and time battles, succeed each other in a way identical to the classic mode from Nintendo's smash hit Wii title Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Screenshot for Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends on Wii U

What it doesn't do is including more special types of battles along the way to mix things up, and break monotony. There are no "break the targets," "team polygon," or "team character X", "metal or giant character Y" battles to be found; just regular fights against any of the main playable characters. The roster itself isn't particularly vast either, compared to other offerings with 20 characters to choose from, though each one has something in their move-set to recall their roles in the franchise; easily recognisable to kids who used to love the series so much that they watched the films over and over. With that being said however, not only were the original voice actors not hired back (though some of them do make good impersonations), but voices are only available in English - sadly limiting their appeal to kids outside of English speaking countries.

Another strange choice for a product obviously mainly targeted at a young audience, is that "Legend," the highest difficulty setting out of five, is the one selected by default. Everyone should know that a child is likely to just hastily select his or her favourite character, and not care for any other extra options, therefore, that's a clear oversight. Luckily, each character feels different enough from one another, and the voices (perhaps a bit too intrusive in the Smash Bros. series), are here held back a bit more, which feels better in terms of concentration, although this may also be just a matter of personal taste. Controls do not feel quite as tight however, with everyone being a bit too floaty; something that making picking up the randomly appearing items a bit tricky.

Occurrences where trying to slightly push the control stick to make subtle adjustments, and actually be able to grab an item will often result in another CPU or player controlled character taking that chance to deal massive damage, which does feel frustrating when items are supposed to offer help, not hinder it. Items range from weapons and restorative items, to character tokens which summon other, unplayable characters from the franchise. Though this will unavoidably recall a certain franchise's assist trophies, their usefulness here is questionable at best, since their attacks are in, 90% of cases, easily avoidable, and even those don't pose any major threat. Once the single player tournament is over however, there is nothing much left to it.

Screenshot for Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends on Wii U

All there is to do here, is simply playing again on a higher difficulty level, or with a different character, but, there is not much incentive to do so, other than to fill out a collection of awards; an achievements-like system that lays out a series of objectives to meet, in order to earn a simple tick in a box, marking the completion of a mission. Another nod to Smash Bros. comes in the inclusion of a free camera upon pausing the action that lets players post on Miiverse their favourite characters in various positions. However, the team didn't bother to develop the scenery that much, and rotating the camera around will show the skybox and the edges of the rendered environments on plain black background, as if this function had not been finished completely, which is sad altogether.

It doesn't do much to allow a gamer to get a lot of fun on his/her own, especially since there is no online mode. The rest of the single player modes only include a crude tutorial that no fan of the Smash Bros. series should ever need to watch, as well as a practice mode against non-acting CPU characters. At least the Versus mode (which was mainly designed for multiplayer action), does allow for selecting CPU characters instead of human players - having friends or family around will be the indispensable way to get the most out of the title, though.

Thankfully, pretty much every single type of controller that the Wii U is compatible with (save perhaps for the GameCube adapter) will work with this, so anyone having controllers lying around from Wii U's predecessor, or a Wii U Pro controller, as well as the Gamepad itself, should have enough pads to work with to get all four possible players into the action at any given time, and this is perhaps one of the most clever efforts the team could do to ensure that everyone could play this. Timed, Stock or Timed Stock battles are the regular mode of play, but Showdown of Legendary Legends does finally offer some originality in its few additional modes. "All You can Eat" lets players fight over each other's' stash of mandarins; hitting others makes them drop their mandarins, and the one holding the most at the end of the fight wins.

Screenshot for Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends on Wii U

"King of Kung-Fu" and "Master of the Inner Peace," though, both feel so similar, that one could wonder if it's not a programming error (both let players fight over a Ying-Yang token in a timed battle for who manages to hold it on them for the longest amount of time). Last but not least, "Kung-Fu Hill" has characters fighting over a certain section of the stage for exclusive possession of it. Not only does one has to stand on it, but also manage to keep other players out of it as timers keep track of how much time each one managed to be the sole player in that area. A clever mode indeed, that, along with the others, does provide a genuinely fun experience not seen in Smash Bros - if you can believe that.

Moreover, those modes don't necessarily require mastering the controls all too well, they offer some simple fun for kids, and are thoroughly enjoyable for those that do remain fans of the films, since they sport some likeable characters that speak out some funny lines of dialogues at the beginning of each fight. Granted those modes round out the selection of what this game has to offer, and it still lacks variety in spades, like its main source of inspiration has come to offer us through numerous iterations. But it's nice at least that part of the experience can and will prove perfectly enjoyable for the target audience. Interestingly, some rather expensive DLC content does increase the amount of stages and characters available considerably. Although rather expensive, four additional stages depicting locations from the films are up for grabs, as well as 15 additional characters. Those are however mostly variations of already existing characters.

It's interesting to note however that two fighters, Chicken Master and Li, are available as completely free to download, bringing with them their funny quotes. At the end of the day, this title can't compare to the excellence of its main source of inspiration, and nobody really expected it to do so either, not on the budget, time constraints and most likely size of the development team that this game had to be made with, not to mention that it had to be made to run on so many different platforms at the same time. It doesn't look too bad visually, with every character being rather faithfully recreated on the Wii U hardware, and it does run well, at least. Kids who are fans of the films, and who might not be specifically fans of Smash Bros., will still be able to find some enjoyment in this, although, admittedly, mostly in local multiplayer.

Screenshot for Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Not everyone can be Smash Bros. Other bigger studios have tried that with a bigger budget, bigger roster, bigger… everything, and have still failed to entirely recapture the magic that is to be found in it. However, what must be understood is that not all games need to be Smash Bros. in order to be good! What Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends tries to do exactly like it, it doesn't do it quite as well. What it tries to do differently from it, however, does feel remarkably good, which does seem to indicate that the great ideas the team does get on its own, are those that translate best in a playable form at the end of the day. This title can be enjoyed by very young fans of the movie because it's not a bad one, and it does offer some things that Nintendo's popular franchise doesn't - maybe not enough of them that would make anyone choose this one over the latter one, but even though it's lacking in more than one department, it can still provide some fun, under the right conditions.

Developer

Vicious Cycle

Publisher

Little Orbit

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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