Dale mentions in his review that Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style had the potential to be "something really great" and its not hard to see why. I don't consider myself a rap connoisseur, but I still really enjoyed those full-motion video sequences that Dale apparently had issues with. The storyline is admittedly kitschy, but that wasn't what I liked about it. It was more the offbeat style from the amalgamation of old-school Hong Kong chop-sockey flicks and youthful urban hip-hop flavor with a dab of Hollywood pop-culture that caught my eye. Usually, computer-generated images look dry and lifeless, but the ones in Shaolin Style by comparison are bursting with personality and plays like a straight-faced parody that manages to be funny and serious all at the same time. There is a bit of stereotyping (its actually more camp if you ask me), but it doesn't dominate the sequences and there's clearly a level of dignity toward the representations of the Wu-Tang Clan as I'm sure they had final approval over their digital counterparts.
Shaolin Style surprised me again after spending several minutes practicing with a few of the characters in the training mode. I immediately noticed the amount of depth and complexity that went into the vicious over-the-top attacks. It's clear that the developers put forth a solid effort in conceptualizing a wide variety of attacks for the multitude of characters in the game. Its also worth noting that the training mode in Shaolin Style is especially useful the way it displays onscreen the directional motions and button-presses necessary to execute a particular move and the display only changes when the player properly performs that move.
However, the unique style and sheer amount of attack moves cannot save Shaolin Style from its utterly repetitive and dull gameplay. I didn't mind the gore so much (in fact, I was mildly amused), but there wasn't a sense of competitiveness like there was in Smash Brothers or a notion of strategy as in Power Stone. As Dale indicated, every battle, whether against computer or human opponents, more or less leads to overly chaotic and bloody pileups where technique and skill mattered little. The game also tries to keep things interesting by maxing out the 4-player brawl premise by having three-on-one or two-on-two match-ups. But no matter how the game tries to dress things up visually or through the story, every stage plays more or less like the one before it and there isn't a sense of progression or development. Things got even more repetitive later in the game when I had to replay difficult stages over and over again until I finally managed to win.
Shaolin Style isn't the worst game to ever come under our inspection. The game has its merits, as I had mentioned earlier, and I can see fans of the Wu-Tang Clan having a good time with this one. It's just a shame to see a game with its heart in the right place and seemingly so technologically capable to finally come up short in the gameplay department. Shaolin Style clearly could have been a contender.
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