Preview: Iron Phoenix (XB) Hands-On

Publisher: Sammy Studios / Developer: InterServ Int. / Genre: Fighting Action / Release: 03-22-05

The setting is ancient China. A giant meteor crashes to earth and plumes of flame sprout from the site in the form of a phoenix. For days not a single soul goes near the site, but somehow a blacksmith finds the courage to do so. Coincidentally, he finds nine identical iron pieces to forge nine completely unique weapons. Before the last blade cools he is murdered and a thief steals away with the weapons formed from the “iron phoenix.” As centuries pass, wars are waged over the weapons because it is murmured that he who controls the weapons will control the world.

This is the scenario that plays across the screen if you got your hands on that xbox demo. From there, I was wondering whether or not substance was tossed right out the window.

The demo consisted of solely the online play portion of the game. You can mix and match with four characters and four weapons to make things more interesting. Each character and weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses. If you choose a big heavy sword, be assured that it will slow you down, but it will also deal a huge amount of damage. Stereotypically, the females have a huge amount of dexterity, but their attack and defense is as low as it can go. I found myself playing a man more often than not, because they just seemed to have the advantage. And believe me, I’m not happy about that.

In most fighting games, you gain special moves and attributes by the characters. In Iron Phoenix it’s different. All of your moves are based solely on which weapon you choose. In the demo you can pick between a dagger, spear, sword, and talons. I liked the talons best because they were quick moving and brutal. Although they seemed to look like small animal skulls with long teeth and were suspiciously “un-ironlike.” Each of the nine weapons has the potential for at least 20 unique moves through combos and in my case, a lot of button mashing. I can’t say that they didn’t have variety on their mind.

The only map that you are able to play in the demo is the Great Wall. There are plenty of stairs to be climbed and walls to run off of. If your chi meter allows, you can stay aerial for quite some time by double jumping and pushing off walls. There also seemed to be a huge number of exploding barrels that got hurled at me by opponents that didn’t feel like kissing up to my talons right away. And of course, with Xbox-Live you get to hear the mad gibbering insults of every 12-year old on the planet.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’ve become narrow-minded and completely shut this game off my radar, but I don’t feel as though this demo completely represented the game. 16 player online play has become a norm in the games of today and I think that to be innovative you have to do better than a hack and slash deathmatch(or team deathmatch). I also think that it might have been a mistake to focus so intently on the weapons, thus making the characters insignificant shells. At least that’s the way it appeared to me playing the demo.

I’m curious as to what the full game has to offer, specifically in single player mode. I’d like to see what type of advancement is being made on the plot, if any. The online deathmatches were fun for about the first ten minutes and then it started to become repetitive. Then again, I’m a gal that’s hard to please.