Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style
|Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style|
North American cover art
|Writer(s)||Adam Goldberg (story)
|Mode(s)||Single-player, multiplayer (2-4 players; must use multitap for 3-4 player game)|
Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style - released as Wu-Tang: Taste the Pain in PAL regions - is a four-player, 3D fighting game for the PlayStation. The basis for the game's story and setting is the real-life rap group Wu-Tang Clan, featuring characters based on their stage personas and the martial arts themes of their music. Some members of the group also provided voiceover work for the game and made vocal and production contributions to the game's music.
Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style uses a unique game engine created by Paradox Development, originally made for their unreleased PlayStation title, Thrill Kill. That game was noteworthy for allowing up to four players to fight simultaneously, a feature heavily utilized in Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style.
Due to the game's graphic depictions of blood and violence, a special code printed on the instruction manual had to be entered within the game to see the full, uncensored action.
The story is mostly told through FMV sequences and tells the tale of a group of martial artists studying under Master Xin, the last practitioner of the ancient kung-fu discipline of Wu-Tang. The first FMV sequence shows a small army of warriors practicing martial arts in a Chinese open-air kwoon under the watchful eye of Mong Zhu. He declares his plans to discover the secrets of Wu-Tang from Master Xin, who he has discovered to be hiding out on Staten Island in New York, which will presumably give him the power to take over the world. Soon after this, Master Xin is captured by Mong Zhu's goons and the Wu-Tang Clan vow to track Zhu down and rescue their master.
The clan fight their way through Mong Zhu's various minions in an effort to rescue their master, leading them through Staten Island, mainland New York and finally China. Unfortunately for them, during a torture session (using an old, rusty cutting machine) Mong Zhu discovers the secrets of Wu-Tang are tattooed on Xin's chest. Wasting no time, Mong Zhu viciously cuts the skin with the tattoo from Xin's chest, killing Xin in the process and giving Zhu access to the secrets of the Wu-Tang.
When the clan arrive, they take down Mong Zhu and the last of his henchmen. Mong Zhu activates a gas bomb in a last-ditch attempt to take the clan with him. Realizing that his talisman is the same as the bomb Mong Zhu just used, RZA activates his own gas bomb and shoves it in Mong Zhu's mouth. While the rest of the clan open the portcullis blocking their escape, RZA grabs a lamp from the ceiling of the dojo (which is actually made from the tattooed skin cut from Xin earlier). The clan then escape outside, whereupon an explosion destroys the entire building. The game ends with Master Xin's spirit watching down over the clan and smiling.
The game runs off the Thrill Kill engine. It is a tournament-style fighting game with matches ranging between two and four fighters at once, with either every fighter for himself or in 2-on-2 or 1-on-3 team matches (in the single-player game modes the player will regularly be faced with multiple opponents and be outnumbered in matches). Stylized versions of all nine members of the real-life Wu-Tang Clan appear as characters in the game, with a number of fictional fighters also included in the character roster ranging from human martial artists to powerful deity-like beings with magical powers (which typically serve as the game's "bosses").
The combat is similar to many 3D fighting games: two punch buttons, two kick buttons, a block button, and a crouch button. The game differs from the norm, however, by the inclusion of "lives" which are lost when the player's health bar reaches zero. When this happens, the player respawns and a life is subtracted. Should the player be killed with only one life left, however, their character will not respawn and they will lose the match (in team games, all the members of a team must die for victory to occur).
The player also has a power-up meter that fills when the player scores or receives hits. When full, the power-up can be activated by pressing all four face buttons at once. Once this is activated, the player's moves are significantly more powerful while the power-up meter drains down. Once the meter is fully drained, the effect wears off. Players are free to refill this meter as often as they can during the course of a match.
Defeating the last opponent in a match will result in a fatality being performed on them in a similar vein to the Mortal Kombat series. Each character has five different fatalities which correspond to the four face buttons on the controller, plus one corresponding to the character's throw move. Thus, the fatality performed depends on the last moved performed. Each character only starts with one available finishing move, and must unlock the additional four by playing through the story mode.
The 36 Chambers
Throughout the course of the game's Story Mode the player advances through a series of challenges, called the 36 Chambers - a reference to both the real life rap group's debut album and also a classic kung fu film, both of the same name. These challenges range from visiting certain locations to performing combos of a certain length. Rewards for completing these include character concept art, new game modes, characters, and fatalities. Given that some of the chambers requires pulling off a certain fatality, the player may be forced to complete a certain goal before proceeding to the next one. Also, the player cannot face the last opponent (and therefore complete Story Mode) until they have first gained 35 chambers - the 36th being awarded for defeating Mong Zhu himself.
Praise for the game came from Gamepro (4/5), Absolute PlayStation (90%), and IGN (8/10), while it received a much colder reception from Gamespot (5.2), Electronic Gaming Monthly (4.5), and Game Fan (63%). Complaints were focused on the game's poor frame rate, unresponsive controls, and steep difficulty curve of the story mode, while the game's supporters lauded the then-innovative four-player matches, in-depth story mode, and creative use of the Wu-Tang Clan license for the characters, music, and tone.
Special Edition "W" Controller
Activision released a special edition set of the game, including a controller in the shape of the characteristic Wu-Tang "W". It featured all of the buttons of the original PlayStation controller, but had neither the vibration capabilities nor the analog sticks of the DualShock. Due to its unique shape it was very difficult to use, making it more of a collector's display piece than a functional control device.