Review by: Jason Purdy
Published: May 6, 1999
There is a very good reason Dreamworks is as successful as it is. Not too many people would have thought to cast Woody Allen in an animated film and even fewer would have thought to combine the gameplay of Double Dragon with a protagonist reminiscent of Tony the Tiger. As strange as it may sound, this is the basic premise behind Tai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger, and even more surprising is how well it works. Good games have come from stranger concepts, and you shouldn’t let Tai Fu’s cartoony nature turn you off without giving it a try.
The game gets its name from its lead character, Tai Fu. Tai is an orphaned tiger who was raised by Pandas in their dojo in the mountains. The years he lived there were spent shaping his body, honing his kung-fu skills and smarting off to his teachers. While he was still a teenager, the head of the evil Dragon clan destroyed the Panda’s camp and slaughtered all of its members.
The last remaining member of the Dragon clan is doing everything he can to crush the more peaceful clans as part of an attempt to bring himself back into power. By the time the game starts, he has hunted down every member of the Tiger clan except Tai Fu, sent the Leopard and Monkey clans into hiding and killed all but the head of the Crane clan. The leader of the Cranes was captured in a gilded cage and given to the sinister Rat clan in order to ensure their loyalty to the Dragon. The Rats have since joined the Snake clan to form an army the Dragon believes will allow him to bring the entire world under his influence. As with all evil overlords, though, he has not reckoned on the intervention of Tai Fu. In fact, in the opening sequence, he even makes the cardinal evil overlord mistake of letting Tai Fu live because he is too inconsequential to make a difference.
Tai Fu begins as the young Tai leaves the ruined Panda dojo and sets off to meet the wise, old Mantis. After battling his way there, he meets the Mantis and learns a new technique for fighting his enemies. The gameplay continues in a similar manner as Tai progresses through the world, seeking out the different clans and learning from their masters. Each master teaches him a new set of skills, such as the Jaguar Leap, the Crane Dive or the Monkey Pounce. The levels also progress in such a way that each one forces the player to incorporate the learned skills into his repertoire in order to overcome obstacles. This method of advancement prevents the learning curve from being too steep and ensures the player keeps advancing his abilities.