Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus
1 April 2005 | 0
Let’s face it: You can’t please everyone all the time. And if there is one thing that this clichéd phrase could apply to, Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus would be it. While some Xbox fans will ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over the game’s aesthetics, others would have preferred to see the same amount of effort go into the gameplay.
As with every other fighting game on the market, there is a story behind the combat — although whether you’ll care enough about it is, as always, anyone’s guess.
The twelve fighters are split into two rival gangs: the Pale Lotus and the Black Mantis. Each gang holds six pieces of a powerful ancient artefact; both gangs want it all. The game’s Quest mode deals with this aspect of the game. Each fighter must pit themselves against six fighters from the rival clan to win the pieces of the artefact and then finally, against the ultimate boss. Of course, each fighter has a back story, and bits of this are revealed as you take on each player in the Quest. The difference between Tao Feng’s Quest mode and the one-player modes in other fighting games is that as you defeat each fighter, the game automatically saves. So you can turn off the Xbox, leave it for a few days and come back to it. While it is obviously beneficial, it also takes some of the challenge from it.
The usual fighting modes are also featured, including a training mode and a team battle option.
Tao Feng has a few new features that fighting fans will enjoy. There are no rounds as such in Tao Feng. Instead, fighters are given three health bars; when these are depleted, you lose. As each of your health bars is emptied, the fight pauses for a few seconds to allow the defeated fighter to pick themselves up off the floor. This approach gives you the chance to make a comeback and snatch the win from your opponent, even if you’ve lost two health bars already.
Fighters can use the backgrounds to stage more powerful attacks against their opponents, swinging from poles or launching off the wall.
Throwing your opponent against the scenery enough times may cause them limb damage. When the initial damage occurs, you’ll be given a warning. You’ll get a second warning before the limb damage becomes a hindrance; your fighter will fall to the ground, clutching the affected limb. From then on, the damage caused by your punches or kicks could be almost halved — depending on which limb was affected.
Remember that one frustrating player who blocks your attacks for the entire fight, only dropping it now and again to throw some sneaky punches and kicks that gradually wear down your health? Tao Feng eliminates this boring aspect of gameplay; block too often and you’ll earn yourself warnings for limb damage.
The fact that you can’t block without causing some limb damage can be frustrating at times, but it adds an extra dimension to the game that is missing from other fighting games such as Tekken.
As the fighters engage in combat, their Chi bar builds up. This has two functions: it can unleash a special attack on your opponent, or it can be used to heal limb injuries.
The defining feature of this game is the much talked about ‘real damage’ that the battles inflict on the fighters. Bruises, cuts, torn clothes… all are the results of the skirmish. Real damage might be a bit of an exaggeration — after all, one punch from the game’s strongest fighter should cause massive injuries to others, but all you get is a bruise on the cheek.
Each character shows the damage inflicted in different ways — although it seems that the female characters in the game lose a bit more clothing than their male counterparts.
Some of the moves propel the victim to the ground with a disproportionate amount of force, but it raises the entertainment factor a little. Walls and floors get smashed up, glass is broken; the fighters basically destroy the environments around them as they try to defeat each other. They can also trade insults, although a little more variety would have been welcomed.
The moves are a little less inspiring, particularly when it comes to creating combos. Gone are the days when a simple mashing of the buttons on the keypad would produce a spectacular move that would defeat your opponent in one fell swoop. Of course, this also means that you don’t spend the rest of your fighting career trying to recreate the move that got away — and getting beaten in the process. Moves are also quite simplistic.
The game’s tendency to change perspective when you least expect it can be a little difficult to adjust to, especially when you are trying to attack your opponent — in a second, you’ve been switched to the other side of the screen as the camera moves around the fight. This can be a bit disconcerting and it may take a few seconds to get your bearings again — long enough for your opponent to land a few punches or kicks.
For all its visual beauty, there is something missing from Tao Feng. Perhaps it’s that the moves don’t seem as smooth as its combat predecessors on the Xbox. The interaction with the environment and the real damage are the outstanding features of this game. Unfortunately, the fighting itself could use a little work, so I’m waiting for the sequel to see if there are any improvements. While it has a way to go before it can overtake Dead or Alive 3 on the Xbox, Tao Feng nonetheless has the makings of a worthy rival.