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Kung Fu Panda 2: The Video Game - DS Review

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Kung Fu Panda 2: The Video Game

DS | THQ | 1 Player | Out Now
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24th June 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Typically I find that multi-platform releases based on animated movies don't do so well on the DS. In the case of Kung Fu Panda 2: The Video Game, the console versions have focused on fighting mechanics, while the DS version is completely different by comparison. Regardless, THQ has made claims that all four games "capitalize on the strengths of each format", and while I can't comment on the validity of this statement for the console releases, I can confirm that this is not factual as far as the DS version is concerned. Kung Fu Panda 2: The Video Game fails to innovate, it most certainly does not take full advantage of the system's capabilities, and although the foundation presents some interesting ideas, the entire adventure is seriously lacking in the fun department.

    The story in this game follows Po and the rest of the Furious Five team as they search just outside their homeland for a rising threat. Initially, you'll only have Tigress as your partner, but as you venture to new locations, you'll meet up with the other members of the Furious Five, and they will then become available for play. With a basic tale that pits the six heroes against an oppressive entity, the story isn't worth paying attention to. But that's to be expected, I suppose. 

    There are two main phases to the game: Adventure and Combat. The first involves using the stylus to control Po and your other active teammate on a flat map screen. Tapping dots on the map even when not prompted to do so will initiate a quick search of the area. You'll usually find Gold Coins that can be used to purchase items at the Shop, or collectable cards for a special mini-game known as 'Five Card Fu'. Furthermore, the World Map features gold exclamation marks that hover over key locations that will advance the storyline. At these moments, you'll find yourself conversing with NPC's or engaging in battles. The silver icons represent secondary, optional side-quests that you can choose to take on if you're in the mood for them. These usually involve facing someone in a match of Five Card Fu, recovering lost items or serving as an escort for a person in need. You don't have to clear them right away, but you can't reach 100% completion until they've all been taken care of.

As for the second aspect of gameplay, combat takes the form of a simple turn-based RPG. Although you'll sometimes find shadowy figures wandering about on the World Map, battles are traditionally instigated when you select marked locations. You're only allowed to take two characters into battle at a given time -- Po and another teammate of your choice -- and the game doesn't allow you to switch out one partner for another mid-battle. It's disappointing to see that because your utilization of the other members of the Furious Five will be less than frequent. 

    The turn order is determined by a 'Chi' system, an energy gauge underneath each character's player icon that will only allow you to attack again once it's full. Each ability will consume differing amounts of energy depending on how powerful they are. The types of attacks that will be performed on both ends are relatively simple. In fact, many of the animations don't feel different at all. True to form, there's also a decent helping of status effects that one can inflict upon an enemy, including Stun, Poison, Weaken and Disable. 

Each character has their own strength and weakness indicated by a three-stage cycle. The game swaps out elements such as Fire, Wind and Water for three Kung Fu styles: Fierce, Tough and Clever. But just because a given character may specialize in a certain style does not mean all their abilities must conform to it. Experience points (XP) will be awarded at the conclusion of each battle, culminating in a New Sash Gain when you've reached a specified clip. When this occurs, you get to choose one of two new abilities for the characters to learn. In so doing, the game tries to add a semblance of customization, albeit its attempts to do so aren't all that exciting. I did want to point out, though, that it felt weird unlocking new attacks for characters that weren't even playable yet. That didn't make much sense. 

    A bigger issue, though, is the fact that the battle system is flawed on multiple levels. The attacks present in the game and the way they're executed give evidence that Kung Fu Panda 2: The Video Game lacks much of the action elements present in the film it's based on. All it boils down to is choosing attacks and just watching them unfold, which may be okay for very early RPG players, but anyone else will take issue with it. 

    For a game that allegedly "takes advantage" of the DS' strengths, the interaction during battles definitely should have been a lot stronger. Perhaps they could've had players sliding the stylus along markers or tapping targets to determine accuracy/power of an attack. Not that mimicry would have necessarily been the best option here, but with the way it is now, there's little to keep you focused with everything that's taking place. 

    In addition, the game becomes repetitive quickly. The methods you undertake to execute character attacks are boring and not in the least bit engaging, regardless of what age you are. And here's the final kicker. The unlockable Team Attacks are over-powered finishers that can easily deal upwards of 500 HP in damage to some of the standard enemies. As a matter of fact, I defeated the final boss with no trouble whatsoever because of this move. Clearly, there are some things wrong with the way the game is laid out. 

    One thing that wasn't half bad, though, was the Five Card Fu mini-game I mentioned earlier. It's a simple two-person activity where you take turns placing cards in one of nine empty slots, trying to earn the most steals by the end of it. Each card features four numbers (one per side) that must be matched with an equal or higher value against cards placed directly beside them. Playing against opponents in this mini-game does wear thin after a while, especially since they follow predictable strategies. But taking into consideration the lack of quality present in the rest of the game, this does help make the experience a bit easier to digest.

    As far as presentation goes, there's not a whole lot to say. Most of the character models look rough in appearance and the backgrounds are pretty standard-looking, but the menus and maps look nice and smooth. So that's a plus there. While it is admirable to see voice clips pop up here and there, all other aspects of the in-game audio do nothing for the experience. Also, during my playthrough, I did encounter a game freeze at one point. Other than that, though, what you see is what you get.

    It will only take most players a few short hours to see everything there is to see, including the optional side-quests. The game features a multiplayer option that allows you to play Five Card Fu with a friend wirelessly, but only if they have a copy of the game themselves. Honestly, there's absolutely no reason to come back to play this after you've beaten the game. But, as you surely realize by now, it's not like everything that leads up to this point is all that great either. 

    Kung Fu Panda 2: The Video Game is a dull experience overall. The simple-minded gameplay and the stale battle system really don't lend themselves to anything satisfying. Never mind the fact that you won't have reason to come back to this later on, I can't see why a person should step into this to begin with. 

13/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 5/10 - Main mechanics are really lacking, battle segments aren't as fleshed out as they could have been, side-quests, gain new abilities, 
Presentation 6/10 - Standard graphics, good presentation on menus and the World Map, voice acting, game freeze, animations largely remain the same
Enjoyment 1/5 - Repetitive, not enjoyable, lacks action and excitement, weak player interaction, Five Card Fu isn't too bad
Extra Content 1/5 - Can beat the game pretty quickly, can play Five Card Fu wirelessly, no reason to return after completion, not worth the price

Equivalent to a score of 43% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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Kung Fu Panda 2: The Video Game
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