Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

There's nothing especially remarkable about a side-scrolling kung-fu fighting game – unless it's in stereoscopic 3D.

Invincible Tiger is going for a more immersive gaming experience by including various 3D formats as gameplay options along with the traditional 2D mode. The plot of the game and the basic combat action are a throwback to the kung-fu films of the 70s; but the fancy art style the local/online co-op modes are a definite nod to more modern gaming sensibilities.

What Is It?
Invincible Tiger is an Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network 2D brawler that features optional 3D modes. Players take on the role of Han Tao, General of a Thousand Voices tasked with reclaiming the Star of Destiny some Evil Overlord who took it. The environments are layered 2D – you can go into the background or foreground of a level by interacting with things in the level that flash red, such as tree vines or doors.

What We Saw
Namco Bandai showed off the stereoscopic 3D mode in a 360 build of Invincible Tiger, featuring one of the game's early levels that's set outside a temple. This required the use of special glasses (not the cheap red-blue kind you get the Imax). The game will support a variety of 3D modes, so you apparently won't have to buy a fancy TV the likes of which Tiger was being demoed on. But exact pricing and whether or not 3D glasses will be somehow provided to gamers who download the title hasn't been hammered out yet.

How Far Along Is It?
Somewhere between Alpha and Beta, I think. It was hard to tell based on the look of the game since it looks different than any other game I've seen. A little over two months ago, it was "close to Beta," but the exact number of levels and total length of the game haven't been decided yet, which is an indicator that it's still early days in the development cycle. The "summer 2009" date has been changed to just "2009" as of last night's event.

What Needs Improvement?
Monotonous: Invincible Tiger's combat is based around combos Han Tao can pull off and increasingly difficult waves of enemies. It's classic, I suppose, but I started to get a little bored fighting hordes of blue-clad ninjas just so I could fight hordes of black-clad ninjas that were slightly better at ducking, and then fight a bunch of sumo wrestlers who could both duck and block. It's the kind of thing that'd be more fun with a partner.

Not a Spectator's Game (in 3D): I'm a social gamer and I like inviting my friends to sit around while we take turns passing a controller. That's not going to work with Invincible Tiger unless my friends all have their own special stereoscopic glasses. It might not even work with normal 3D modes because not everybody wants to wear headgear to enjoy a video game. Here's hoping 2D can hold its own in terms of entertainment.

No Trophies or Versus Modes Announced: Yet.

More Like Fragile Tiger: I don't see how I'm the Invincible Tiger if I keep getting my butt kicked. Maybe they're talking about somebody else…?

What Should Stay The Same?
Local and Online Co-op: I didn't get to experience it, but I'd argue this makes any arcade game better.

Pretty Art Style: The colors were rich, the cherry blossoms delicate and even the subtle film grain overlay looked smooth enough to lick. It lent the brawler a sense of artsy prestige – like a glass dildo that could double as a centerpiece.

Sense of Depth in Levels: It's not only the 3D that makes Invincible Tiger feel deeper than it is – the various sections of level connected via interactive red items create a feeling that there's more to do in a level than just hammering on the face buttons. Even when presented with a boss fight where you have to kill a specific blue- or black-clad ninja, you could spend a lot of the fight just bouncing around a level and breaking pots for the hell of it. It felt pretty good.

Controls: I agree with Jim – they felt pretty good.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I was happy with Invincible Tiger up until the point where I got a headache from taking the glasses on and off to ask the PR rep questions and give other players turns at the controls. That aside, I appreciate the sense of innovation that comes from making a 3D mode for a 2D game, but I do not want to buy a fancy plasma TV to enjoy it. Also, I'm not so sure the fact that the game can be played in 3D is going to mitigate or distract from bland gameplay – but that's also impacted by game length and visual repetition between levels, neither of which I got to see in this demo. Here's hoping it all levels out.

Check out these non-3D screens:

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience

Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao Preview: An Eyes-on Experience