Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Considering the success of the Super Smash Bros. games, it's a bit of a shock that more developers didn't try their hands at similar titles. Ubisoft gave the genre a try with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up a while ago, and it wasn't too bad – plus it gave PlayStation 2 owners the chance to get their, ahem, Smash on when they had no other opportunity outside of Nintendo consoles.
Now, Little Orbit has rolled the dice with a Smash-esque title of its own, based on the Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda franchise. Showdown of Legendary Legends features a variety of characters from the films, many of which will be making their return to Kung Fu Panda 3 when it releases next month. The game features plenty of locales and antics inspired by the films, which isn't really any surprise. However, what may throw you for a loop is that the game's not half bad. It has its balancing issues here and there, and lacks the kind of polish to compete with Nintendo's mighty juggernaut, but for those seeking a multiplayer brawl, it does pretty well.
Time To Be the Master
Fans of Kung Fu Panda should be thrilled by the offerings included in Showdown, particularly with characters. Not only is Po a noteworthy fighter, but many others – the Furious Five, Shifu and even Mr. Ping – have plenty of surprises in store, with a set of solid moves and aerial techniques that will keep them from drifting off the map. Some of the special moves (final Smashes, in an alternate way) are a little limited, like a fireball that can go nowhere if it misses, but the general aesthetic of fighting remains intact.
That said, the hit detection can sometimes be a little bit off, and some moves that are meant to be powerful instead come off as brushes. For instance, when launching into Po's aerial attack, I expected to knock an enemy into the stratosphere. Instead, I guess, depending on their energy level, they just take a small amount of damage. Vicious Cycle should've tweaked this a slight bit more just to make the feeling of knocking someone around feel like, well, actually knocking someone around.
These are small instances, though, and the gameplay is pretty solid throughout, especially as you start learning your character techniques and effectively attacking others. For good measure, the multiplayer stands out, as you can take on up to three other competitors either locally or online. Online matches can take a while, mainly due to the lack of community, but there's no question this is a pretty good party title – you know, if you don't have a Wii U around with that obvious alternative.
Decent Content, But More Would've Been Nice
The game's multiplayer is pretty much dialed in about right, although things can get a little too frantic when you've got four competitors going at it. Then again, the same could be said for Smash, and it can take just a few matches to get used to how everything works, and then bust some heads. What's more, the all-ages set-up for the game makes it a fun title to play along with your kids – and considering the depth of most fighting titles, you can't really say something like that often.
I just wish there was more to the single player portion of the game. It's serviceable, as you can enter tournaments with various difficulty settings and take on a number of opponents in each match. But that's really about it. A story tie-in of some kind, particularly with Kung Fu Panda 3, would've been ideally welcome.
In addition, did we really need to get DLC shoved in our face right away? Showdown of Legendary Legends would've fared better just including everyone in one shot, making it a feasible bargain for its $40 price. Besides, looking at the DLC roster, none of these characters are really stand-outs anyway, compared to what we have on the main roster.
A Good Presentation to Please Fans
While Kung Fu Panda doesn't nearly look as good as Smash – it just lacks the kind of diversity that makes Nintendo's series shine – it's good as far as its cinematic world goes. The 12 stages featured here are familiar locales from the movie, and look great to fight around, particularly if you've got a "destined" location where one of the movies' epic fights took place.
The animations are very good as well, though not perfect. There are some missing frames here and there, but nothing that will get in the way of having a fun time watching Po belly-bop everyone, or Mr. Ping let loose with a food flurry of vengeance. Fans will be pleased by how the game looks. On top of that, the audio is pretty good as well, with music similar to the nature of the films, and some decent voice acting (though no sign of Jack Black – at least his sound-alike is on point).