The Legend of Tianding is an excellent Robin Hood platform game

The game logo with Liao Tianding and various rivals in the background.

Picture: Neon Doctrine

In my mind, The legend of Tianding is a perfect gaming experience. Not because he can do it all, or that he allows the player to do anything. It’s perfect because it achieves all of its aesthetic and narrative goals without exceeding its welcome. Although it offers only six chapters focused on history, its grainy portrayal of colonial Taiwan is full of mystery and possibility. This surprised me, as the game doesn’t pull any hits on its oppressive setting.

The legend of Tianding is a narrative platformer game set in the bustling Taiwanese district of Dadaocheng circa 1909. Long before the events of the game, the Empire of Japan defeated the Qing in the Sino-Japanese War, giving Japan control of Taiwan . In LegendAround the world, ordinary Taiwanese citizens work tirelessly to enrich their colonizers, overseen by relentlessly brutal police. Locals sell to gain favor, and only those collaborators who help the Japanese police operate their own country can live comfortably.

Comic page of Japanese police confronting Taiwanese resistance fighters.

Screenshot: Neon / Kotaku Doctrine

Amidst this backdrop of cynical historical fiction, you play as Liao Tianding, based on the legendary real-life ‘Robin Hood’ action figure– who steals from the police to give back to the poor. He’s also so sympathetic that it should be illegal. Tianding is a charming boy, foiling his wicked cartoonish pursuers with devious ploys, and he truly cares about improving the lives of his people. Never tempted by power or personal wealth, the protagonist’s old-fashioned heroism kept me invested in his story, even though the fairly predictable plot rhythms didn’t lend itself to anticipation. When the police beat old people on the street, I don’t want to face the moral ambiguity. I just want to ask the asskicking. And this game allows you to throw a parcel of the colonizer’s ass. Most of the time you shoot down the Japanese police. Sometimes you fight Taiwanese who have chosen to ally themselves with the colonial government.

Legend is secretly a Kirby game that disguises itself as Streets of rage. The cops that Tianding fights use a variety of weapons, and you can control any of them during the fight with a dedicated “steal” button, but not until you have reduced their health with your knives. Whether it’s a bamboo staff, pistol, bazooka, or grenade, all of these weapons have durability value. So it’s a constant rush to grab something new when your last weapon runs out. Sometimes what you are able to grab is not the ideal weapon for your specific situation. Bad luck, but you can always rely on Tianding’s default knives.

One of my small gripes is that the ability to “steal” is very difficult to target. While the flight animation is elegant, it also lasts for a few seconds and can grab enemies that are holding nothing. So if I caught the wrong enemy, I would have interrupted my combos for nothing and I would have to reposition myself to steal the guy I was originally targeting. While that’s probably realistic about how a real skirmish would go, I prefer fluid combat to the frustration of catching the wrong enemy twice in a row.

Otherwise, Legend is a well-designed platformer game that never lets you guess your next move. At no time did I feel the levels were too long or stuffed. The game uses the dangers of the platform to add challenge to the fights. Enemies can put you in these dangers just as easily as you can do the same to them. While it’s easy to lose track of Tianding in the Sea of ​​Bodies, constant situational awareness is essential for surviving protracted battles. Overall, I found the combat engaging despite the scarcity of different types of enemies. As long as I had something to steal, I could experiment with different playstyles. Some weapons had high penetration, a shield could deflect, and melee weapons often had high recoil potential. While some charms allow Tianding to always steal specific weapons, I preferred to be on my guard.

Liao Tianding robs an enemy policeman.

Screenshot: Neon / Kotaku Doctrine

I also like that the game is not content tell sure Tianding is a popular folk hero but conveys this message with his gameplay. While you can use your stolen money to buy upgrades in stores, the bulk of it will come from handouts from NPCs begging on the streets. They will give you talismans that will slightly increase your combat performance, which will help make it seem like you are fighting evil cops on their behalf. The combat is smooth and fast, but nothing is more satisfying than handing out the money at the end of a long level.

Although your relationship with them is transactional, you never pay for a specific upgrade. All of them are completely random. Even though I would prefer to use a specific weapon, I might get an upgrade that doesn’t suit my playstyle. This forced randomization diminishes the direct benefit I get from helping the needy. However, I had customization options with my talismans. When I bought upgrades from merchants I knew exactly what I was getting up front. My generosity has yielded much less predictable results. I actually liked this approach to weapon upgrades, as the exchange established reciprocity between Tianding and its grantees, but the randomization kept me from seeing the upgrades as my end goal.

I get nervous when a game tries to be too many things at once; mashups that cloud their creative visions tend to be completely forgettable. Legend manages to strike the perfect balance between street brawler, platformer, and visual novel. If you like any of these things individually, it’s very easy to accidentally fall in love with the other aspects of the game.

I’m generally a complete freak when it comes to narrative gameplay results. I killed elven clans in several Dragon age games and let the whole family of the protagonist die Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. But when I realized that I had obtained Parcelthe “bad” ending of, I immediately felt compelled to replay to see how I could change Tianding’s fate. He’s a hero I really want to lean on, a stark contrast to the murderous vigilantes that normally play in single-player action games.

Plus, I could really feel the love the designers had for Taiwan. Every time I picked up a power-up, my collectibles tab was updated with a bit of history on Taiwanese popular culture. The various advertisements and alcoholic beverages directly educate players about Taiwan’s “low culture”, rather than simply giving a top-to-bottom historical view of this tumultuous period in history.

The game emphasizes his heroism based on a magnificent comic style. Every part of the game is completely hand drawn, and although I hesitate to call the art style “manga”. The way he dramatically renders Tianding’s heroic exploits in bold, flat colors, with heavily textured scenes that don’t rely too much on negative space, is more like a manhua that I grew up reading in game form. video. I’ve played a lot of games that use comics as the shallow wallpaper on a video game—Borders is an obvious example, but Legend Stubbornly refuses to compromise its gaming or comic book identity, which helps it to stand out in a crowded realm of 2D platforming games.

The boss room of the first owner of The Legend of Tianding.

Screenshot: Neon / Kotaku Doctrine

Legend is primarily voiced in Taiwanese, with the exception of police characters who speak in Japanese. Western audiences often experience Asian animation through a Japanese perspective, and its former colonies are often portrayed as inferior. Legend reverses this dynamic by showing the Japanese police as predominantly corrupt and the Taiwanese as heroic and daring. Playing Parcel, I quickly began to associate Japanese and Japanese imagery with colonial oppression. Even with his exaggerated comic art, Legend is a highly effective narrative that showcases the immersive abilities of indie games.

The game has a few flaws in the way it presents the characters. The first boss is a greedy owner whose weight becomes the constant subject of Tianding’s ridicule. Personally, I had the impression that his real flaw in his personality was his ways of seeking annuities. The localization also uses “Jap” as a shorthand for “Japanese”. While the word is probably not problematic in Taiwanese, “Jap” is a racial insult that white Americans used to refer to as Japanese Americans during World War II. A little more care in checking its unintended English meanings might have helped Legend avoid that bit of awkwardness.

The legend of Tianding is about to try too many ideas at once, but still manages to hold up landing most of the time. It is fun to play and always manages to impress artistically. Parcel reinvents several established genres by threading a powerful story through all of its independent elements. Even now, I feel compelled to replay the game to seek its true end.

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