On PC and the Nintendo Switch, published by Neon Doctrine, The Legend of Tianding is the Taiwanese Robin Hood. There: that’s saved some explaining. To summarise, you play the titular Tianding, a vigilante wanted by Japanese colonial forces in Taipei City.
As the people’s hero, you must rise against these oppressors, notably the Police Chief Shimada, completing a series of fetch quests, honing your martial arts skills, and navigating hostile locations avoiding traps, but more importantly, battling it with the police. Psssst! They’re the baddies.
The action feels underused, though, as The Legend of Tianding isn’t too different to a visual novel. Other than moving Tianding through the streets or grabbing a taxi, it was dialogue after dialogue, fetch quest after fetch quest. A typical scenario would be heading to a primary objective, retrieving an item from a few screens away, returning, then bringing another.
Luckily, I liked the story, and it was well-written, despite the odd expletive that seemed totally out of place. I wasn’t offended, but it’s like hearing your grandma call someone a twat. Storytelling is through open dialogue and comic book panels. The latter was a highlight and captured a classic action comic that doesn’t have a hero in spandex.
If the story and comic book panels are good, what’s the problem? Well, the action is the opposite of the core gameplay. From learning new character names to strolling through the streets, the experience isn’t remotely demanding, but the action is. If these were two different games, great, but as it stands, it felt like it was on rails, and I was eager to get back into the platforming/combat.
When I played The Legend of Tianding preview, I played with the keyboard and struggled. Now I have a DualSense explicitly for PC gaming; the controls are fantastic – especially when you get the wall jump and triple(!) jump. When using a keyboard, the combos weren’t working, and poor Tianding was eating so many buns to restore his health that I was concerned about his metabolism. Not the case now: he crouches like a duvet, hides like commitment.
The game was no longer the button masher from before. There were clever double jump tactics, combined with special moves to reach higher platforms or secret areas, evasive techniques that unleash a shadow version of yourself and keep you from harm, plus there’s an amulet where you can add multiple buffs based on your playstyle.
Tianding will beat the enemies, whip out his sash and steal their weapons as if straight out of a Golden Harvest flick. Weapons have durability so limited, but they mix up combat to make it fun – especially with a bazooka. Most enemies are manageable, but the bosses are a little overpowered, making it a satisfying experience when you beat them. It’s a typical Capcom-like scenario where they go through multiple phases with some ridonkulous specials.
Originally I had said that this wasn’t a narrative-driven adventure, but that’s the complete opposite. Naturally, the preview was a snippet of the action, so I was pretty surprised by the amount of text in the game. Again, I have to stress that the story and storytelling techniques are great, but because you know that there’s some action coming up, you can’t help but want to push the story forward, which is a shame as, as I said, it’s an interesting story, but it’s just a little too much at times.
The Legend of Tianding is like fusing Robin Hood and an Asterix story with a Taipei flavour. It may bring back a lot of nostalgia for older sorts in terms of the comic elements. The core themes, regardless of demographics, are very relatable – a classic tale of rebellion and a definitive hero. When you get to the action bits, it’s a very satisfying experience, though I wish there were more focus on these areas. That said, it’s a recommendation from me.