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"Long ago, a great battle was waged here, during the last days of the siege. Blood of the noble White Tiger Clan stains these very stones."
"And now...they're all gone?"
"Long gone...but their spirits are all around you."
The Mantis Master, telling T'ai Fu of his heritage.
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Back in 1999, a somewhat less-known company known as DreamWorks Interactive would produce one of the era's unsung legends—an epic kung-fu tale of a solitary warrior named T'ai Fu. After the forces of the tyranical Dragon Master lay waste to his temple home, attack the monks who took him in as an orphan, and leave him for dead, T'ai sets out to discover why the Dragon Master wanted him dead in the first place. Along the way, he encounters the other clans and learns their distinctive martial arts styles, learns more of his own heritage, and comes to understand that he may be China's last hope for freedom from the Dragon Master's evil reign.

By the way, the entire cast is composed of anthropomorphic species. This lends itself especially well to their kung-fu arts—the Leopard Clan can sprint along on all fours like their real-life counterparts, the Cranes can soar through the air on their wings, and T'ai Fu himself has a pretty sharp set of tiger claws to go with his martial arts.

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Despite not receiving a lot of media coverage, T'ai Fu, Wrath of the Tiger is a pretty solid experience, combining elements of platforming and fighting games to produce an entertaining romp through mythical China. The fighting techniques you learn as you progress through the game can help you navigate the environment just as easily as they let you savage your enemies—you can leap, bounce, or glide across hazardous pitfalls, and use Chi bolts to activate mystical switches that raise bridges or open gates. With colorful characters, solid voice-acting, a compelling story, lush graphics, and a kickass soundtrack, this game is worth picking up and giving it a go.

Another fun fact—Dreamworks Animation went on to produce Kung Fu Panda, which uses a number of similar concepts. And Jeffrey Katzenberg worked on both titles. Make of that what you will.

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Examples of tropes in this Video Game:

  • All There in the Manual: The manual has a lot of information and backstory that's only alluded to in the game proper, including:
    • The history of each clan, and how the Dragon Master's reign has affected them.
    • How certain enemies have distinct ranks in their masters' armies (Leopard Captains being the honor guard of Princess Lotus, for example).
    • Greater insight on the characterizations of the supporting cast.
    • The fact that the Dragon Master seeks to bring about a new race of Dragons by transforming his Snake warriors in magic rituals.
  • All Your Powers Combined: A variation on this—during the final battle, the Dragon Master uses four of the five elemental Chi styles against T'ai Fu.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: T'ai Fu has some shades of this, particular in his post-battle taunt towards bosses. He grows out of it as the game progresses.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical: Zig-zagged with the Chi Shot technique—while shooting energy bolts is cool in theory, they don't do a lot of damage, and you're better served just closing the distance and beating up the enemy with your martial arts. On the other hand, the Chi Shot is invaluable for activating distant switches, and collecting an elemental Chi Scroll often transforms the Chi Shot into a devastating projectile that does impressive damage to enemies.
  • Badass Beard: The Leopard Master doesn't actually fight in-game, but he rocks a pretty impressive beard. It goes all the way down to his waist!
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: T'ai Fu—and most of the cast, in general—don't bother with shoes.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: After being defeated the second time, the Boar Boss trudges to the ceremonial statue of his Clan and hurls all of his remaining bombs at it, blasting the head off said statue so that it falls and crushes him.
  • Big Bad: The Dragon Master.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: T'ai Fu seems to have this going on with Lotus, the Leopard Princess.
  • Character Development: T'ai Fu starts off as a cocky rebel who thinks he can take on the world, but subtly matures into a wiser, more serious fighter as the story progresses. By the time he's learned of his clan's full history and confronts the Dragon Master, he's become quite solemn and intense.
  • Chi Attacks: The cornerstone of the Mantis Style, which grants T'ai Fu the ability to project focused missiles of spirit energy or unleash a massive radial burst of power. It becomes even more lethal with Elemental Chi Scrolls.
    • Other enemies that T'ai faces also have access to energy attacks—the Leopard Captains can use the Leaping Slam Fist to unleash a shockwave of red energy, the Stealth Vipers can spit a caustic yellow-orange stream of energy, the Statue Warriors can fire Chi Shots, and the Dragon Master uses almost all the Elemental Chi variations in the final battle.
  • Climax Boss: The Boar Boss, who T'ai Fu must defeat in the Mountain Pass before he can discover his father's resting place. He even Turns Red via tribal magic, and has a cutscene devoted to his final demise—something that only the Final Boss can boast, as well.
  • Critical Status Buff: When T'ai is nearing death, his health bar glows red.
  • Cycle of Hurting: When T'ai gets knocked down and flat on his back, enemies can pound him as long as they want. When surrounded by several enemies, this leaves the player unable to get back into action, often leading to losing a life.
  • Deadly Lunge: The Leopard Pounce Combo, which has T'ai lunge at his foe like a jungle cat before clawing them savagely.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: After T'ai Fu vanquishes him, the Dragon Master's body can no longer handle the immense power flowing through him, and he vanishes in a rather flashy explosion.
  • Death from Above: The Crane Hover Claw combo, which T'ai Fu can only use while doing the Crane Hover.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Panda Temple, which comes under attack from the Dragon Master for having given shelter to the orphaned T'ai Fu. The Pandas are forced to send T'ai away afterwards, lest the Dragon Master learn of his survival and return to finish the job.
  • Elemental Powers: The Chi Scroll power-ups that T'ai can find grant his Chi attacks a number of elemental properties that make them much more devastating:
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The masters of the various clans are usually referred to by their titles—the Leopard Master, the Monkey Master. and so on. One particular aversion is the Crane Master, whose real name is given as Fei Lu.
  • Everything Fades : When eliminated, all enemies in the game become translucent for a second then vanish. Albeit only visible for a few frames before the screen goes black, T'ai himself fades away in an identical fashion when dying.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Dragon Master has a deep, gutteral voice.
  • Follow the Money: Pieces of jade can be found throughout the stages. Depending on which difficulty you're playing, collecting either 50 or 100 of them will grant you an extra life.
  • Foreshadowing: Both the Leopard and Mantis Masters refer to a legendary Tiger warrior named Lau Fu, the honorable leader of the Tiger Clan. He turns out to have been T'ai Fu's father, and his spirit acts as T'ai's final mentor.
  • Furry Confusion: While most of the cast is anthropomorphic, the Rat Pirate Captain's junk is infested with regular rats that will try to bite T'ai Fu, and the Boar Clan's ranks include feral boars that seem to be more bestial than the others.
  • Game Play And Story Integration: If you read the manual, you learn that the Snake Clan hopes to become dragons thanks to the Dragon Master's experiments with magic. The Cobra Captains you face in the final level are the result of said experiments.
  • Game Play And Story Segregation: According to the manual, the Rat Clan consists of craven and honorless cowards who overwhelm stronger foes through weaponry and numbers. In the game itself, you only encounter one Rat—the Rat Pirate Captain who holds the Crane Master hostage. He's huge, carries a hook-sickle, and is Made of Iron.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Lotus' Stripperiffic outfit aside, one of her attacks during her boss fight is to pounce on T'ai and pin him to the ground, then deliver a fierce elbow strike. Depending on the positioning of the characters, it can look like she's doing a Groin Attack...among other things.
  • Ghostly Goals: As long as the Dragon Master remains in power, Lau Fu's spirit cannot rest. When T'ai kills the Dragon Master, his father is able to pass on to the afterlife.
  • The Great Wall: One of the stages has T'ai fight across his world's equivalent of the Great Wall of China, battling the Boar Clan the whole way.
  • Goomba Stomp: The Monkey Bounce Combo, which has T'ai curl up into a ball and bounce off his enemy's head. Especially effective against the Rat Pirate Captain and the Boar Boss.
  • Ground Pound: The Leaping Slam Fist of the Leopard Style evokes this, combining it with the blast-wave from a Shock Wave Stomp for good measure.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Generally averted—while T'ai doesn't wear a shirt, he still has pants on; and most of the other cast—with the exception of the Snake Clan, who don't have humanoid anatomy except for standing upright and having arms—are fully-clothed.
  • Hannibal Lecture: The Dragon Master gets a rather hammy one against T'ai prior to their final battle:
    Dragon Master: Not one clan could stand up to me in the past, yet you are so bold as to now suggest that with your combined powers, you'd be a match for a Dragon?! For me?! You arrogant fool! You pitiful infant! Prepare to commiserate with your father--you'll be with him shortly.
    • Which leads to a simple-yet-poignant Shut Up, Hannibal! from T'ai Fu:
      T'ai Fu: That's just as well. It's time I returned this to him!
  • Harmless Freezing: In the Mountain Pass, you find the Boar Boss frozen in a huge block of ice. When you enter the boss arena, he smashes free and leaps in after you, boasting about how he's going to enjoy the fight.
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: When teaching T'ai Fu new techniques, the various Kung Fu masters blatantly describe the button inputs the player has to put on the controller.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Throwing a stalagmite at an enemy in the Mantis Caves will result in a spurting spray of crimson from them before they die—even if the enemy in question was a statue warrior.
  • Hurricane Kick: The finisher to T'ai Fu's basic combo is a two-legged version of this.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: In two flavors—the Invincibility Tablet, which surrounds T'ai Fu with a shimmering blue-white aura and makes him invulnerable to enemy attacks; and the Invisibility Tablet, which renders T'ai invisible to his foes and lets him strike with impunity.
  • I Shall Taunt You: T'ai Fu is fond of Trash Talk, often wrapping up a boss battle by telling the vanquished foe that their kung-fu is useless against him. It's actually a gameplay mechanic—if you hit the Taunt button after landing a combo of 5+ hits, T'ai Fu will regain some lost health.
  • It's All My Fault: In the opening cutscene, T'ai blames himself for the misfortune that's befallen the Pandas after the Dragon Master lays waste to their temple. One of the monks, Lo Ping, reassures him that this was a necessary sacrifice to keep T'ai safe, and that he shouldn't dwell on the matter.
  • Kirk Summation: T'ai Fu gives one to the Dragon Master after passing through the Shadow Gauntlet:
    T'ai Fu: So, you know who faces you! You must also know that I have conquered the Shadow Gauntlet, and have come here a true master of all Kung Fu styles—Mantis, Leopard, Monkey, Crane, and Tiger. As one, we are unstoppable. I cannot fail.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: The Dragon Master is a rather literal example, as he wields both deadly physical blows and elemental Chi in your battle with him. T'ai Fu might arguably be another example, as he also unleashes Chi attacks in addition to being a talented martial artist.
  • Last of His Kind: T'ai Fu. The rest of the Tiger clan was wiped out by the Dragon Master, out of fear that they would be able to unite the other clans to oppose his reign. According to the manual, the Dragon Master himself also qualifies—the other Dragons wiped themselves out through infighting after their pride and ambition got the best of them.
  • Living Statue: In the Mantis Caves, you must fight statues of the Mantis Clan that have either been possessed by the spirits of the long-dead Mantis Clan, or enchanted to life by the Mantis Master himself—it's not very clear which.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Lau Fu, the Tiger Spirit, is the ghost of T'ai Fu's father.
  • The Mentor: The Mantis Master, to T'ai Fu. He often appears in a flash of light to give the tiger some sage counsel, then vanishes into thin air.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lotus, the Leopard Princess. Her royal garb is decidedly Stripperiffic, her pounce attack subtly evokes something else, and her pre-battle taunt has a rather sultry-yet-challenging purr to it:
    Lotus: Come on, Tiger!
  • New Game+: After you beat the game, T'ai Fu can go visit any of the stages on the map and play through them again—this time with his full arsenal of Kung Fu techniques!
  • Not Quite Flight: The Crane Hover technique, which allows T'ai Fu to float through the air after a jump, giving him more air time than he'd otherwise have.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Monkey Master—when T'ai first encounters him, he seems to be a drunken fool who's biting off more than he can chew by taunting T'ai Fu. One boss battle later and some post-fight dialogue reveals that he's actually an insightful Old Master who uses his banter to encourage T'ai Fu to prove his worth.
  • Panthera Awesome: T'ai Fu, without a doubt. The Leopard Clan also qualify, being a tribe of skilled warriors.
  • Parental Substitute: Lo Ping, the Panda monk who raised the orphaned T'ai Fu. At the start of the game, he's the one who encourages the tiger to seek out his true heritage, and learn why the Dragon Master wants him dead.
  • Psycho Electro: The Shock Vipers, semi-aquatic enemies that you encounter in the Mantis Caves.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Leopard Master, full stop. Considering that T'ai Fu basically trespassed upon his Clan's jungle fortress and battled his way through his guards—potentially by setting a good number of them on fire—he's surprisingly willing to hear T'ai out and teach him the ways of feline martial arts. Provided, of course, that T'ai can defeat his daughter in single combat...
  • The Remnant: From their entry in the manual, the Leopard warriors that T'ai encounters in his quest are all that remains of a much larger army—they fought so ferociously against the Dragon Master that the tyrant nearly wiped them out in retribution.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Snake Clan, who willingly allied themselves with the Dragon Master for the sake of power. And, of course, the Dragon Master himself.
  • Rich Bitch: Lotus, the Leopard Princess—who, if the manual is anything to go by, is a feisty and arrogant warrior who's used to having her orders obeyed.
  • The Rival: According to the manual, the Leopard Clan always envied the Tiger Clan for their mystical prowess, but nonetheless respected them. It's why the Leopard Master agrees to test T'ai Fu's worth when the latter comes asking for training, and it probably fuels Lotus' intial disregard for him.
  • Scenery Porn: For PS1 graphics, the environments—especially the skies—can be quite pretty.
  • Slave Mooks: The Cranes, forced to fight T'ai Fu because their master is being held in captivity by the Rat Pirate.
  • So Proud of You: At the end of the game, Lau Fu's spirit praises his son for the fine warrior he's matured into. Afterwards, the Mantis Master responds to T'ai's gratitude for having faith in him with the following remark:
    Mantis Master: Faith, young master T'ai, is a belief in something for which there is no proof. (Beat). It does not apply here.
  • Shoryuken: The final technique that T'ai Fu learns, the Fist of the Tiger. It's easily one of the deadliest skills in his arsenal.
  • Tiger Versus Dragon: Literally—the Tiger Clan is stated to have been the only clan that could match the Dragon Clan in terms of power, both in martial arts and spirituality. It's why the Dragon Master sought to wipe them out, and why T'ai Fu is the one with the best chance to defeat him.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The pendant around T'ai Fu's neck is revealed to have belonged to his father, Lau Fu.
  • Turns Red: Two of the bosses do this:
    • The Rat Pirate Captain periodically goes into a berserker rage, gaining a blood-red Battle Aura. He's completely invincible in this state, forcing T'ai to find an explosive barrel and hurl it at him to bring him back down to normal.
    • The Boar Boss in the Mountain Pass is revived by tribal magic after T'ai kills him the first time.
  • Unique Enemy: Rather than use Pallete Swaps of enemy types, each major region of the game has its own unique variety of enemies, each with their own distinct fighting styles:
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Shadow Gauntlet—a Lethal Lava Land wreathed in darkness, with platforming perils beyond anything the game's thrown at you up to this point, cobra-dragon hybrids who can teleport and shoot Chi blasts at you, and a sinister soundtrack that's both intense and somber all at once.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: T'ai Fu can pick up enemies and throw them off cliffs, toss them into blazing fire-pits, hurl razor-sharp stalagmites to impale them...and that's not counting all the ways he can mess them up with Elemental Chi scrolls.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: T'ai Fu wears pants, a belt with a Yin-Yang symbol, and nothing else—all the better to show off how ripped that tiger-striped chest of his is.
  • You Are Not Ready: When T'ai initially tries to break into the Forbidden Palace, the Mantis Master appears and warns that unless T'ai fully masters his skills, and learns the secrets of his Clan, he'll stand no chance against the Dragon Master. This is what prompts T'ai Fu to journey across the Great Wall to the Tiger Mountains in order to finally learn the truth about who he is, and discover the full extent of his destiny.
  • You Killed My Father: T'ai, who discovers that his entire clan was wiped out by the Dragon Master. By the endgame, it's revealed that the Dragon Master also killed T'ai's father, playing this trope completely straight.
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