|Title||:||T'ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Forget guns, explosives, lead pipes, pile-drivers, and motorcycles. Sink your claws into real kung-fu action with T'ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger, a Sony PlayStation title by DreamWorks Interactive and published by Activision.
Set in a feudal Japan populated by clans of intelligent animals, T'ai Fu is the last of the Tiger Clan, orphaned from birth by the evil of the Dragon Clan, and raised by the Pandas. Now a teenager, T'ai Fu sets out to discover his past and rid Japan of the Dragons.
As T'ai proceeds through the twenty stages, he will encounter the Masters of other clans. If he can defeat them, their unique kung-fu style will be added to his own repertoire, allowing him to combine and execute punishing moves.
Graphically, T'ai Fu is colorful, but unimpressive. There is no muddiness or lack of distinction, and some nice lighting effects, but no full-motion video or other visual tricks. Cinema sequences occur in real-time, though the characters continuously sway as they speak.
The music is not bound to the traditional Japanese score, instead playing some fast-paced action tunes more suited to T'ai's rough, teenage personality. The voice acting is good, and often comical.
With six clans from which to learn moves, you'd think the control would become complicated, but T'ai Fu neatly avoids that trap. New moves are introduced regularly but throughout several stages, each designed to focus on the most recently-learned skills. These periods are excellent opportunities to become familiar with T'ai's repertoire and to combine new moves with old ones.
There are two difficulty settings, normal and hard, the former being not very hard. An experienced gamer will often find himself with two dozen lives in reserve, battling the final foe within five hours of starting. Some bosses are intended to be attacked with certain strategies, but often relentless head-on attacks can prevail. The challenge comes as much from the foes (which, in any given stage, do not much vary) as from the environment: making difficult jumps, fighting the current, etc.
T'ai Fu brings the old style of Double Dragon and Final Fight to the modern day and a new environment with little difficulty. After a slow start, it proves to be a solid, fun exercise in button-mashing. Get in touch with your animal side: take T'ai Fu lessons.
This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 19-Apr-99