The game is set in a fantasy version of China called the Five Kingdoms. The title character, Shuyan (who is voiced by Kristin Kreuk), is a princess of the kingdom of Nan Feng, but avoids her official duties and studies martial arts instead. When an invading tyrant starts conquering the kingdoms one by one, Shuyan has to take a leading role in defending Nan Feng and its people. This requires her to master not only kung fu, but also the mystical powers she inherits as Nan Feng's princess.
Tropes present in this game:
- Badass Normal: Downplayed by Jian. He is strong enough to fight on even ground against Shuyan in Book 1, when she's still only mildly supernaturalnote . However, while he's brave, he Can't Catch Up, and at no point after Shuyan studies the Phoenix Way does he ever face a supernatural opponent in battle.
- Blue/Orange Contrast: The hard, offensive power of Qi is associated with orange, while the soft, defensive and Counter-Attack-focused power of Gong is blue.
- Bodyguard Betrayal: The king of Nan Feng is betrayed by his own guards. Having an Evil Chancellor probably has something to do with it. The guards themselves seem to be motivated by fear of the invaders — one tells Shuyan that she doesn't understand "the power of the Guer, what they can do to you".
- Bookworm: Shuyan's friend Lily is always reading something, and has just gotten a job as an archivist. She's not of the fighting type, being one of the few characters in the game who doesn't seem to know kung fu. When the Guer invade, Shuyan has to choose whether to prioritise saving her mother or saving Lily.
- Can't Catch Up: In Book 1, Jian just a strong dude, but he's a Badass Normal capable of taking on Shuyan, and he saves her life multiple times. But by Book 3, he's still just a strong dude, while Shuyan has unlocked her Gate and mastered the Phoenix Way, and her other companions are students from the Mountain Temple with supernatural powers. He even loses his status as The Big Guy to Baojia, who has actual Super Strength.
- Combat Clairvoyance: One of Master Shan's students, Guo, can see into a second or two into the future while fighting. (He claims it's "not that great", but doesn't elaborate.)
- Counter-Attack: Soft Kung Fu involves Greeting the enemy's blow, then countering it. A perfect Greet followed by a perfect Counter leads into a free Limit Break.
- Cutscene Power to the Max: You don't fight out a battle when the Phoenix awakens. You just win the battle.
- Decadent Court: The prosperous kingdom of Zhong Rong, a long way from any fighting, is not big on taking action. They seem to lean more towards the overly-sensitive, artistically-minded kind of decadence than debauchery, but it has the same result — they don't want to send troops.Lily: Shuyan, Ive never seen a lazier court. They break mid-session to look at plum blossoms!
- Disney Villain Death: This initially seems to happen when Jade fights Shuyan and goes over the side of the mountain. However, it's quickly pointed out that for someone who can become effectively invulnerable at will, the fall was probably not fatal.
- Ditch the Bodyguards: Shuyan's determination to learn kung fu despite her parents' disapproval means that she sometimes ends up running from her own guards.
- Elemental Powers: The guardian spirits of each of the Five Kingdoms seems to be associated with a different element (and since the Five Kingdoms are based on China, the elements are probably the five classical Chinese elements). The Vermillion Phoenix, protector of Shuyan's kingdom, is associated with fire.
- Enemy Mine: When the Guer invade Nan Feng, Shuyan finds herself on the same side as Jian, a thug whom she has previously fought. Jian is a refugee from a kingdom the Guer had already conquered, so there's no way he'll knowingly help them, but he still has no particular loyalty to his new home, and would rather simply leave than risk his life defending it. He and Shuyan therefore argue a lot. In the end, they become friends and Jian returns to help free Nan Feng.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The Guer pay Jian to help kidnap Shuyan, but he makes it clear to her that he's "getting paid to bash you. Not kill you." Even then, he only goes along with it until he learns who's paying him — he won't work for them knowingly. Eventually, he does a HeelFace Turn.
- Evil Chancellor: The chancellor to the King of Nan Feng turns out to be working for the invaders; this is why some members of the court are so quick to dismiss warnings that the invaders are using "unnatural magics".
- Fruit Cart: In Shuyan's first appearance, she's fleeing from some guards through a marketplace, with predictable consequences for some of the merchants and market-goers. The guards don't expect their encounter with this trope to go down well:Guard: I'm sure the Queen will be thrilled to hear that one of her elite palace guards was foiled by a grandmother getting her groceries.
- Good Needs Evil: Master Shan believes this, and therefore rejects the idea that wanting to eliminate evil is sufficient reason for learning martial arts.Master Shan: It is not wrong to stop evil when you come across it. But you cannot fight evil for the sake of ridding it from the world. You will never succeed. The bad exists so that people can truly understand what good is.
- Guardian Entity: True masters of the martial arts can call on powerful beings for protection (with each of the Five Kingdoms having a different protector). Only the rulers of each kingdom can draw on their full power. In the prologue, however, the leader of an Guer invaders has little trouble defeating the White Tiger of Jin Wu when it is summoned, since he has his own power to draw on. When Shuyan inherits the Vermillion Phoenix of her own kingdom upon her father's death, she still has to go through a lot of training before she can actually do anything useful against the Guer.
- The Horde: The Guer are invading the Five Kingdoms, bringing death and destruction wherever they go. Given that their leader's name is Mongolian (Ganbaatar), the Guer are presumably inspired by the Mongol invasions of China (of which the Five Kingdoms are essentially a fantasy version).
- Inevitable Tournament: There's a martial arts tournament on in Nan Feng at the start of the game, and Shuyan participates against the wishes of her mother (the queen). Shuyan's friends are of differing opinions about the whole thing — Wuyang thinks the fighters battle for glory and honour, but his sister Lily thinks they're just beating people up for money. The tournament leader, Jian, initially refuses to fight Shuyan, claiming that she'll pay her way to victory, and when he finally does fight her, he's done a deal to help someone kidnap her.
- Limit Break: Once your Qi or Gong meter fills, you can employ either a Qi Stun or a Gong Special Attack. Later, both meters get an extra use: Qi powers up your normal attacks, Gong heals. Jade's Iron Skin ability is also Gong-powered.
- Mind over Matter: Dongmei, one of the students at the mountaintop temple, has this as her particular ability. She's somewhat erratic in its use, however — she meets Shuyan when she breaks a large vase she was trying to move. In the final battle, however, she is able to lift Shuyan herself.
- Not What I Signed on For: Jian's a professional street fighter and doesn't mind hiring on for thug work, but he draws the line at treason. When he learns that the Guer hired him to bash the Princess, he immediately switches sides.
- One-Man Army: Once Dongmei finally gains enough confidence to master her power, she can defeat the Guer guarding Master Long's Kwoon in a single burst of Mind over Matter.
- Only the Pure of Heart: Calling on the full power of each kingdom's guardian spirit is partly down to Royal Blood, but partly down to purity of heart. As such, Ganbaatar considers Shuyan to be potentially more dangerous than her father — and therefore in need of being "broken".
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The King of Nan Feng seems to be the most level-headed person at court, being willing to believe credible witnesses and not standing too much on ceremony. (He's killed in the first Act.)
- Rebellious Princess: Shuyan feels restricted by her status as princess, and dodges official duties to study kung fu (which, depending on player choice, she may say is "the one thing I have chosen for myself"). Her mother is unimpressed, but her father is a bit more tolerant. When the Guer attack, however, she's just as dedicated to her country as anyone else.
- The Rest Shall Pass: Shuyan tries to do this to cover her allies' escape from the Guer. Jian isn't impressed:Shuyan: Get to the tower. I'll keep them occupied.
Jian: With what? Your slow painful death?
- Sealed Evil in a Can: An evil spirit called the Python is sealed away in a now-ruined temple. It attracts cultists by promising power if it is released — and one of the people who answers is Jade, who thinks that freeing the spirit will give her enough power to fight Ganbaatar (and who is angry that the "useless" Shuyan already has a spirit). In reality, of course, the Python is just going to possess anyone who performs the rituals.
- Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Master Long isn't usually this, but he can be provoked into it. When Shuyan is late for class:Master Long: Students, attack Shuyan.
Shuyan: Sure... uh... we're gonna go over the instructions first, right?
Master Long: We went over them before you arrived. You will have to learn on the spot.
- The Shangri-La: After Shuyan has to flee Nan Feng, she receives a vision of pointing her towards a mountain-top temple where she can continue to learn. In addition to the terrain, people wanting to visit the temple have to contend with supernatural defences which make you Face Your Fears.
- Supernatural Martial Arts: The powers of Qi and Gong are based in Hard and Soft Kung Fu, respectively. Both allow for superpowered Limit Breaks when charged up enough by their respective combat forms.
- Super Toughness: Jade's special skill is called Iron Skin, which does pretty much what it says. However, it fails if her concentration wavers too much, and since she has serious anger management issues, that's a problem.
- Token Enemy Minority: Master Shan tells Shuyan that if she transcends her anger, she'll see that despite the damage done by the Guer in the name of the Red Dragon, "the Guer are victims of the Red Dragon" too. It turns out that Jade is Guer, and wants to free them from the rule of Ganbaatar. This doesn't equate to being nice, however — or to choosing the right methods.
- Unblockable Attack: If your opponent is showing red, that means that their attack is too strong to block. You have to either interrupt it with a faster hit (not always possible) or Greet it with Soft Kung Fu.
- Unwanted Rescue: If Shuyan chooses to rescue her mother, she gets called a "foolish, irresponsible child". Apparently, she should have had the sense to flee and seek help from a neighbouring kingdom instead.
- Wuxia: The focus of the game. Almost everyone seems to be a martial artist of some form or another.
- Your Eyes Can Deceive You: Some of the training Shuyan gets from Master Shan involves being blindfolded. From the player's point of view, this means that the screen is mostly black, but ghostly outlines of attackers appear when they're about to strike.