Chu's Dynasty combines the strategic fighting of street-fighter with the multi-tiered 4 player fighting mayhem of super-smash brothers. Chu's then adds a new twist to the genre with time manipulation. Fight through four campaigns and learn how the gods where born. Fight with up to 4 players in free for all and team modes. Control Time and Space with each of the characters unique time powers.
Developer Tribetoy notes that its fighting game Chu's Dynasty is heavily inspired by Super Smash Bros., Nintendo's four-player mascot brawler with more of an emphasis on ring outs than knock outs. Chu's Dynasty invites players to choose any of four distinct characters and battle it out across a handful of multi-platform stages in a variety of solo and team fights. The mysterious Dr. Chu, a frog-like creature as old as time itself, engages the three gods who are inadvertently bringing about the end of the world with their rumblings. Chu's Dynasty may draw its title from Dr. Chu, but it is not solely his tale as each of the game's four fighters have his or her own story to tell, depicted in between each level via loading screen text and beautifully illustrated artwork which bookend the single player action. Though a solid fighter through and through whether marching through the single player battles or playing locally with up to four players, the star of Chu's Dynasty has to be its excellent presentation.
Camillie Chu and Tara Rueping have imbued Chu's Dynasty with a professional sheen thanks to their high resolution artwork and excellent character design. With the game limited to just four characters, Tribetoy ensures each fighter is distinct, representing a specific visual and fighting style. The god Viotale acts as the game's brute, a hulking blue demon free of the heavy gold chains he still wears. As the resident strong man, his attacks are heavy and damaging, and he can take a pounding himself, dispatching his opponents more quickly than either Noah or Heta, the other two deities in the game. Noah looks all the part of the Far Eastern warrior complete with coolie hat and quick martial arts attacks while Heta fills in the role of a token female and is the game's primary projectile fighter. Dr. Chu himself is a bit of an oddball, using a couple of small spirits and his toad tongue to attack his enemies while teleporting all over the place. Although the character roster of Chu's Dynasty certainly lacks in quantity, its sparse four fighters are exceptionally crafted and great to look at and play. The high resolution artwork can leave the solid animation looking a bit choppy at times a la Guilty Gear in comparison to the quality of the sprites, but this remains largely unnoticeable during gameplay and still makes for one fantastic looking title.
Chu's Dynasty launched with three playfields, two of which offer some changes such as scrolling platforms to shake up the gameplay. The artwork here, again, is beautifully done, and the arrangement of each level appears designed to compliment the "home" deity's strengths. Fonu Fonua, a floating island oasis in the sky, is a lengthy horizontal battleground best suited for Heta's long range attacks, while Noah's Umm Hills consists of just a few small platforms atop a tiny mountaintop, perfect for sending opponents over the edge. Despite its Smash Bros. stylings, Chu's Dynasty has a robust, innovative fighting engine with multiple moves and tactics available to each character including time based attacks. Each character can use the bumper buttons to trigger a character specific time attack to damage or evade an enemy. Heta can record and play actions while Viotale can rewind time back a few seconds when needed. While the combat engine is surprisingly solid, it's these time manipulation maneuvers which truly make Chu's Dynasty's gameplay worth checking out. These specialized attacks along with all other commands are explained a bit in the in-game manual, but it still took me some time to adjust to learning how to implement them into the otherwise standard fighting attacks. I must admit though that for the most part I find myself relying upon the two basic and two special attack buttons when playing because while the time attacks are certainly accessible, they just don't feel as intuitive as traditional fighting game moves.
Although the game makes for an excellent Smash Bros. "clone" for Xbox Indies, some will likely be disappointed by the paltry selection of characters. For all the work which has went into crafting unique story lines for each character, ultimately the single player mode is feels entirely too repetitive, first having players fight each of the other three characters alone then doing another three rounds in four player battles while teamed up with each of the other characters before finishing with one final match man-to-man against the player's first opponent. With multi-player limited to local only, finding people to play let alone willing to invest the time learning all of the intricacies of Chu's Dynasty seems unlikely for many people to which the game may hold appeal. The characters and game engine are complex enough to warrant extended play, but the shallow single player experience coupled with an overall low difficulty setting no matter what the AI is set at leads to a dull game without friends to compete against. While this should go without saying in a fighting game, it still bears mentioning due to how restrained the selection is in the game and how quickly players will exhaust the given roster.
Chu's Dynasty is an extremely ambitious game with incredible artwork, a fun fighting system, and excellent presentation. Unfortunately, it would seem that all of that exuberance comes at a price with a small pool of fighters which may or may not satisfy those looking into the game. Nothing should take away from everything Matt Hoesterey and Tribetoy have accomplished with this release, but I can't help but wonder if people will balk at the slim selection and write it off before exploring the depths of game, despite there being little question that Chu's Dynasty is among the very best of games on Xbox Live Indies.