HOLLYWOOD RUMBLE: BLADE VS. BUFFY

BRUCE LEE: QUEST OF THE DRAGON
Developer: Ronin Entertainment
Publisher: Universal Interactive
Platform: Xbox

Bruce Lee was one badass motherfucker, but he was also one seriously deep motherfucker, who wrote at length about his martial-arts philosophies–when, of course, he wasn’t driving people’s noses into their brains. A mere videogame, alas, can replicate neither Lee’s philosophical stylings nor his uncanny screen presence; all it can do is present a Jeet Kune Do-using CG facsimile of Lee. This is a fundamental problem, as 90% of videogames feature a lead character that kicks ass more spectacularly than Lee, bound as he is/was by the limitations of reality, ever could.

“Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon” isn’t the first videogame to feature Lee, as the 1993 film “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” spawned a tepid side-scrolling beat’em-up. That decade-old game, however, is “Grand Theft Auto III” when compared to this atrocity, the sheer awfulness of which allegedly enraged the Lee estate, and resulted in the well-deserved termination of at least one Universal Interactive employee. Literally everything about “Quest of the Dragon” is flawed beyond belief. The animation is stiffer and jerkier than a 15-year-old boy watching Skinemax; the control scheme is unintuitive and unresponsive; the camera system is buggier than E.G. Marshall in “Creepshow”; the voice acting is, well, just as shitty as all videogame voice acting; and the “gameplay” consists of dispatching endless waves of cheap-ass enemies with unspectacular punches and kicks.

“Quest of the Dragon” isn’t the worst beat’em-up on the Xbox–that dishonor belongs to “Kabuki Warriors,” ten minutes of which will make the most hardcore videogamer think it’s time to pursue a less expensive and more rewarding hobby, like smoking crack–but it’s definitely number two, in both senses of the term.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Developer: The Collective
Publisher: Fox Interactive/EA Games
Format: Xbox

The upcoming seventh season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is almost certainly its last, as Sarah Michelle Gellar–basking in the glow of Scooby-Doo”–is poised to bail for a full-time movie career. Which is a damn shame, as the show remains a sparkling oasis of intelligent writing and emotional depth in the vast wasteland of network TV. (If you truly believe that “Big Brother 3” or “According to Jim” are quality programs, you are beyond redemption, and I can only weep for your lost soul.)

What’s most impressive about The Collective’s interactive interpretation of Buffy is how perfectly it replicates the essence of what earned the series its rabid cult following: not just the martial-arts action sequences (although it is an undeniable pleasure to watch the nubile Ms. Gellar beat the holy hell out of people), but the witty repartee and complex relationships between Buffy, her friends, and her enemies. “Buffy” features several levels in which the Slayer and the Scooby Gang simply engage in banter at the Sunnydale H.S. Library, and these chatty get-togethers are also ingeniously tied into gameplay. Giles gives Buffy new pages for her Slayer’s Journal, each of which describes a special fighting move; Xander hands over oddball weapons; and Willow uses the crystals collected by Buffy to boost the latter’s Slayer Power and health gauges.

The gameplay serves up hors d’oevres of “Tomb Raider”-ish puzzle-solving and platform-jumping, followed by a main course of beat’em-up action. Among the “lite” challenges presented by “Buffy” are starting fires in ceremonial bowls, pushing enormous buttons to open distant doors, and burning through thick spider-webs. Only the newest of the newbies (and The Collective apparently expects quite a few to purchase this game) will be stumped by any of the game’s attempts to impede the player’s progress. In addition to her fists of fury, Buffy also indulges in more-than-occasional armed combat. At the beginning of the game, the most important weapon is the stake, used to gig a vampire when his energy meter has been reduced to nil. Buffy also gets to rumble with a pool cue, a baseball bat, a shovel, “grenades” of holy water, and a crossbow.

Fox Interactive dragged the series’ supporting cast into the recording studio to provide the voices for their in-game avatars, and they all do fantastic work; Sarah Michelle Gellar, alas, does not voice Buffy herself. Did she ask for too much fundage? Is she simply sick to death of the character? Tobey Maguire provided voice-over work for the “Spider-Man” tie-in videogame, and he’s a big-time movie star, dammit–what makes SMG think she’s too cool for school? Ah, well. The sound-alike actress who subs for Gellar does an excellent job, and I don’t mean to impugn her talent; I’m just confused and bitter (not just about Gellar’s vocal no-show, but also life in general).

As great as “Buffy” is, I’m looking forward even more to The Collective’s next game, “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb,” which uses the “Buffy” engine, and which is guaranteed to be the best Indy videogame yet made. (Not including the Indiana Jones pinball machine, of course.)

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Writer and avid gamer Zach Meston gives us the low down on what recent movie and television show based videogames are worth your time and allowance. Funny thing is, some of these games end up being more entertaining than their counterparts.




Posted on October 29, 2002 in Features by

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