Created in 2003 by Vicarious Visions, Bruce Lee: Return of the Legend is an excellent side-scrolling beat ’em up that presents Bruce Lee in the role of a martial arts student fighting an evil crime syndicate in revenge for the murder of his master.
It’s an excellent game too – surprisingly so.
I say “surprisingly” because I didn’t expect too much from the game and it turned out to be better than anticipated. Bruce moves around convincingly and his jumps, kicks and punches are well animated and have a good weight to them, which is exactly what you need in a beat ’em up. The controls are good too. You have to learn button combinations to pull off certain moves, but once you’ve learned how to double kick, or do a flip kick, then fighting large groups of enemies becomes easier.
Fighting multiple enemies at once is really the essence of Return of the Legend and the tutorial gives you the opportunity to practise against many opponents before playing the main game. You can pick up and use weapons (sticks, knives, nunchuks, etc.), but they have limited use and can also be knocked out of your hands when hit.
You can also take the stealthy approach by hiding in alcoves and avoiding being seen by enemies. In fact: this is required on some stages. Some enemies – if they see you – will blow a whistle to bring in more guards, so taking them out before they do that makes the situation easier.
One cool feature of Return of the Legend is that the screen zooms out (and in) on occasion, to give a better view of the entire level or for dramatic effect. Another cool feature is being able to choose different outfits for Bruce at the start of the game (others can be unlocked by completing it once).
The only real disappointment is that there are no multiplayer options – Return of the Legend is single-player only. But the single-player game is so good that this can be overlooked.
Is this the best Bruce Lee game ever made? Mmmm. I dunno. I love the original Datasoft Bruce Lee a lot, and this is good, but… I don’t know. It could be. Maybe there’s an even better Bruce Lee game that I’ve not yet discovered? Maybe there’s not. I will have to look into it.
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