Dark Legend


Review by Matt Paprocki

Data East


Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

With such a glut of fighting game out there in the early and mid 90's, some of them are going to get lost. "Dark Legend" is one those. It's not a classic, but a really solid, well balanced, and excellently designed piece of software. It's also one of the best non-Capcom fighters for the system.

Eleventh century China sets the stage for the battles. Twelve warriors fight for a shot at Song Jiang, the toughest of the warlords. All they need is one amongst them to defeat him and end his evil regime.

Data East crafted this well to do brawler, a game you could almost imagine as "Samurai Shodown" with combos (and minus any blood). Six buttons, three kicks and three various weapons attacks, are used giving the game a wealth of moves to choose from. Combos come off beautifully, and there's a nice juggle system in place. This can make for some spectacular maneuvers and you don't need to study an instruction booklet for hours on end to pull them off.

Most of the special moves are the usual motions, half circles and charge moves. When a fighter's life is extremely low, they can pull off a desperation move, but these are guesswork. Scouring the internet for these moves proved useless and the manual is no help either. In an interesting choice, a player can throw his weapon (quite powerful if it actually connects), but he'll be without it for the rest of the match. Weapons can also be destroyed if a player "turtles up," and you'll know if you're in the danger zone thanks to the bar in the bottom of the screen.

Most of the characters here are quite odd and a few are unfortunately palette swaps. Never before in a fighting game has a blob of water become a weapon, but this is "Dark Legend" and it seems to work. Everything is well balanced, the special moves and strength spread about perfectly. Hit detection is excellent, really sending home some of the blows. Just about everything a fighting game needs, the developers got right, but those load times can be brutal and there is no way to turn off features in order to speed up the process.

"Dark Legend" is far from the best looking game on the system. Character sprites are well detailed, but very under-animated. Most moves only contain a few frames, some even less. Much like the competition, the game zooms out when the fighters separate. Things get quite pixely when this happens and only adds to the background troubles. Parallax is oddly absent in almost every stage (along with any animation) and at the most only contains one layer. Worse, the low resolution gives each backdrop an overly grainy look. It almost looks like these fighters are on some sort of stage performing.

A fantastic soundtrack that doesn't really stick to one style powers the action, and in the end that's a great choice. Some of the music will fit the games age while other stages have some light rock that really seems to liven the already fast pace. It's both epic and a great listen at the same time. Not as nice touch are the voices. Sure, the standard calls when a special move is executed are here and acceptable, but the screams of pain when someone takes a hit are not. These quickly become irritating and grating, particularly with certain characters. Weapons clashes sound fine, but they can't overpower the voice work.

Likely because of the oddball characters, sub-par graphics, and load times, "Dark Legend" never really got the attention it deserved. Yes, it is derivative of just about every game in this incredibly crowded genre, but it does do enough different to make it a worthwhile entry for fans. It's obvious quite a bit of care went into making this game play right and that's the important part.


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Last updated: Saturday, December 04, 2004 08:37 AM