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Video Game / The Legend of Tian-ding

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Witness the truth behind a legend.

In 1895, the Qing Dynasty lost the First Sino-Japanese war, and ceded Taiwan and Penghu Islands to the Japanese.
With the treaty of Shimonoseki signed, Taiwan entered the Japanese colonial period.
Unwilling to kneel to a foreign ruler, the people of Taiwan begin to form a resistance...

... and heroes are born from oppression. Among them, hides an elusive outlaw, a legend among the locals of Taiwan.
His name is Liao Tian-ding.

The Legend of Tian-ding is a 2021 Metroidvania-style open-world action game developed by Taiwan's Creative Games Computer Graphics Corporation and published by Neon Doctrine. It is a remake of a 2004 Flash game by the same director, Maso Lin.

Loosely based on a real-life historical figure, the game chronicles the escapades of Liao Tian-ding, the hero of Taiwan and a mythical thief who steals from the rich, Just Like Robin Hood, in his last days during his struggle against Japanese imperialists. Told in a manner reminiscent of Manhua, players assumes the role of Tian-ding as he completes quests and attempts to buy the freedom of his girlfriend, A-Guai, while staying one step ahead of the Japanese chief of police, Matsumoto, who will stop at nothing to arrest him at all costs.

But the legend of a powerful artifact hidden in the hills of Taiwan resurfaces, with a ruthless Japanese commander seeking to find it. Tian-ding eventually uncovers a conspiracy to instigate doomsday, and it's up to him to stop it.

The game is available for the PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Once Upon a Time in 1900s Taiwan...

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: In order to infiltrate Piggy Wang's mansion, Tian-ding needs to cross a huge sewer full of enemies and traps. One large enough for him to swing around.
  • Acid Pool: The sewer levels beneath Wong's mansion somehow contain entire streams of potent acid, that kills anything that falls inside.
  • All Myths Are True: The legend of the Pirate Queen's Sword of Seven Shackles, which allegedly grants immortality and control of the elements to its wielder. Tian-ding dismisses it as a myth when Ding Peng tells him about it; but as the game's ending attests, it's very true.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Mansion 28 hall gets captured by General Shimada, owing to their leader, Ding Peng, actually being a traitor serving the Japanese. Most of their members are executed on the spot under Shimada's orders, with Tian-ding nearly suffering the same fate if Matsumoto didn't suddenly have a change of heart.
  • Anachronism Stew: As per history, the deeds of Liao Tian-ding are from Taiwan in the late 1900s... but then again, it's a manhua-like setting that runs on Rule of Cool.
    • The rocket launcher-mooks uses weapons which are far too advanced and modern for the game's setting. Note that the first Japanese-made shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, the Type 4-70mm, made its debut in 1944.
    • There's also the shield-carrying enemies whose weapons appear to be ballistic shields, introduced in the 1970s.
    • The entire boss fight against Nakamura, basically. His weapons wouldn't look out of place in a modern-day war film, from Gatling guns to shotguns to modern-day rocket launchers.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Tian-ding, after witnessing the Mansion 28 massacre, gets pinned down by two Japanese soldiers. When the hero refuses to give in, Shimada then orders the soldiers to fire. Cue a gunshot... from the reformed Matsumoto shooting at his own men to free Tian-ding.
  • Band of Brothels: There's a red-light district uptown, where A-Guai - Tian-ding's girlfriend and a Hooker with a Heart of Gold - works, as a result of being sold by her family. One of Tian-ding's major character arcs is trying to earn enough money to "buy" A-Guai's freedom after learning she's going to be sold off to a Japanese tycoon, but sadly it doesn't work, requiring a stealthy plan to sneak her to safety.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The normal ending. Tian-ding has defeated Shimada, destroyed the Sword of Seven Shackles, and saves Taiwan - and the world - from Shimada's tyranny, only to be shot by A-Lin, who mistook him as a traitor. In the aftermath, Matsumoto will clear Tian-ding of his crimes and ensure history remembers him as a hero, as A-Lin, learning the truth, spreads the word so that future generations of Taiwanese will remember Tian-ding's deeds.
  • Booby Trap: The game has plenty of hidden traps and obstacles throughout various levels, all of them trying to skewer or crush Tian-ding for existing. From bamboo spikes in the sewers to gears and blades in the warehouse, as well as falling rocks in the underground mausoleum (which inevitably leads to an Indy Escape with Tian-ding outrunning a boulder).
  • Clear My Name: After Ding Peng, the Mansion 28's leader, is revealed to be a traitor, his subordinate, Ching Feng, then sets off to the big city with false news that Tian-ding is the one who sold them to the Japanese leading to the resistance being massacred. Tian-ding must prove himself innocent by thwarting General Shimada's final plan. He barely succeeds, but unfortunately couldn't convince his protégé, A-Lin, of the truth, leading to A-Lin killing Tian-ding in the final cutscene, if the player didn't fulfil the conditions for the Golden Ending.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: In the Jianyue-lou Restaurant stage, Tian-ding - disguised as a waitress named Ding-ding - "accidentally" spills some wine on the shirt of a rogue collaborator working for Shimada, and quickly offers to clean his clothes. And pickpocket one of the MacGuffins he need for the game, of course.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: The normal ending's final cutscene has Tian-ding getting killed by a single bullet fired from A-Lin, who still thought Tian-ding was a traitor. The hero will die regardless the amount of health he has left over after defeating Shimada, even though in gameplay he could survive getting hit by rockets.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the obscure 2004 Flash game which this one's a remake of, at least. The original game is a straightforward platformer light on plot; this one has themes like forced prostitution, betrayals and backstabbings, Tian-ding going through far more intense situations and facing severe, near-death moments, and it is possible to obtain a depressing Bittersweet Ending to boot.
  • Disguised in Drag: Tian-ding disguises himself as a woman twice in the game; firstly as a courtesan to infiltrate the Jiangyue-lou Restaurant, and later as an elderly woman to sneak past Matsumoto's checkpoint in the train station.
    Tian-ding: [disguised as a courtesan] Now, it's time for Liao Ding-ding's big debut.
  • Disposable Decoy Doppelgänger: Tian-ding can utilize a shadow-clone jitsu as a Doppelgänger Attack, and the shadow clone can be "killed" in Tian-ding's place. The cutscene after the weapons plant stage notably has Big Bad General Shimada announcing his presence by impaling Tian-ding In the Back via katana, only for the skewered shadow-clone to dissolve - the real Tian-ding is already well outside the plant.
  • Elite Mook: Some enemies are higher-ranked, deals more damage, and far more durable than lower-level mooks. These are few in-between regular enemies, but can be identified by their purple health-bars.
  • Foreshadowing: While the game's ending is pretty much a Foregone Conclusion because is based on real life, this line from Tian-ding to his mentor, Master Zeng Guo-ying speaks massive volumes in the light of his inevitable demise in the ending.
    Tian-ding: I remember you told me that "While duty is heavier than a mountain, death is lighter than a feather." I'd rather do something meaningful before I die than hide in a mountain waiting for death to find me.
  • Giant Mook: Japanese boxers, who fight using their fists, are taller than Tian-ding with muscles bulging out of their uniforms, and absorb more damage than regular enemies before going down. Sometimes they can be seen carrying rocket launchers.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The 28 amulets and seals which can unlock all of Tian-ding's abilities, of which only around half is needed to finish the game. Of course, collecting more will make the final battle against Shimada easier.
  • Grave Robbing: The Mausoleum of Lu Yao-hsian, a legendary pirate queen from the Qing Dynasty, which stores entire vaults filled with gold (the game states that a single chest can last for three lives) and a powerful Cool Sword that the Japanese is seeking after. The final stage has General Shimada and his men finally entering the mausoleum, and Tian-ding needs to prevent Shimada from obtaining said sword only for Shimada to retrieve the sword moments before Tian-ding. Cue an insanely tense and long Final Boss battle.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Several enemies carry firearms, and their bullets deal slightly more damage to Tian-ding's health than bayonets and swords do. On the other hand, the bullets can be deflected back to their shooters simply by way of punching.
  • Heart Container: Collecting high-quality wine will expand Tian-ding's maximum health by a new bar, and restore it to the new level. There are only four areas in the entire game that allow this function, though.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Tian-ding gains health from eating mantou buns and drinking tea. Somehow a stuffed bun can offset the damage from five bullets.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The final area of the Lu Yao-hsian Mausoleum, where Tian-ding must jump over platforms and bridges on lava or die instantly from A Molten Date with Death. It's also the area where Tian-ding fights Shimada as the Final Boss.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted: On one hand, the game's depiction of Taiwan in the 1900s looks exactly like the real deal, save for the hero Tian-ding performing some exaggerated feats during gameplay. On the other hand, there's a kunoichi with actual ninja powers, a Chinese acrobat with unexplained Playing with Fire abilities, a magic sword that grants the user Elemental Powers... and that's not getting into the villain General Shimada turning into a shadowy demon after his defeat.
  • Locomotive Level: After escaping Matsumoto's checkpoint and boarding a train heading towards Taipei, Tian-ding needs to contend with Japanese soldiers on board and fight his way through. Predictably, it leads to a Traintop Battle.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Some enemies carry firearms, but their bullets tend to be ridiculously slow, where Tian-ding can simply jump or waltz over to avoid them. Or deflect with his fists.
  • La Résistance: Mansion 28, the local Taiwanese resistance who opposes the Japanese governing party. And turns out to be a ruse started by their leader, Ding Peng, in order to flush Tian-ding out of hiding.
  • Resting Recovery: Finding a tea-station will have Tian-ding pausing to take a sip, restoring his health to max.
  • Roof Hopping: Most of the outdoor stages have Tian-ding jumping from one rooftop to another, either to escape enemy officers, pursue clues or retrieve vital items.
  • Rotoscoping: In a behind-the-scenes interview, this is how the game's production crew made the backgrounds, by visiting older buildings around Taiwan's Dadaocheng area and incorporating them into the scenery.
  • Sentry Gun: Oddly enough, the game has areas containing steampunk turrets which fires upon Tian-ding on automatic. They belong to the Weak Turret Gun variety, however – two or three slashes is enough to dismantle them (or alternatively, deflecting their shots which destroy them instantly).
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: Japanese soldiers and military police with riot shields can take far more damage than their unshielded counterparts, though their shields can be smashed by repeated punching and slashing. Alternatively, Tian-ding can relieve them of their shields by tying them via sash, and collect those shields for himself.
  • Sidequest: There are around 10 optional side-quests besides the main storyline, all of which involve Tian-ding retrieving assorted MacGuffins and items for the townspeople to boost his reputation as a hero, which players can complete or ignore. From locating Cheng's certificate, getting the Kaoliang Liquor Label, finding Mr. Huang's stamps, completing Uncle He's medicinal broths, and others.
  • Sitting on the Roof: While most of the beggars in the city are sitting in the streets, one of them is sitting on a rooftop (how did he even get there or expect to come across generous passers-by is beyond anyone's guess), in a hard-to-reach spot. Finding said beggar and giving him alms will reward Tian-ding with a special item.
  • Stepping Stones in the Sky:
    • The level where Tian-ding fights enemies on top of a train has occasional eagles passing by. That he can use the spiderwire to grab and use as platforms... yes, eagles.
    • In the final cutscene, after Tian-ding defeats Shimada and sends the villain to A Molten Date with Death, he then escapes the collapsing cavern by jumping on rocks.
  • Storybook Opening: Or manhua opening, the game opens with the pages of a manhua depicting the deeds of Liao Tian-ding unfolding, which then segues into the hero's introduction.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: While the game tends to have tea stations (which boost Tian-ding's health to maximum) at random points, they show up most of the time a few areas before bosses. Notably the restaurant stage which contains a tea station five seconds before Kaguya reveals herself.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Performing good deeds will bestow Tian-ding with rewards - giving alms to beggars, helping the innocent townsfolk by performing side-quests, distributing wealth to citizens, all these will increase Tian-ding's experience points and boost his health.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: In the normal ending, the game ends with a montage in the credits, depicting the fates of every other character after the death of Tian-ding.
    • Ching-feng, the actual traitor, was eventually arrested for his crimes, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
    • The reformed Matsumoto decides to reveal his superior Shimada's atrocities to the public, and clear Tian-ding of his crimes posthumously. He was promoted for his subsequent efforts, but still regrets over being the pawn of a bloodthirsty traitor.
    • A-Guai, Tian-ding's girlfriend, was unable to attain her freedom, where she later marries a Japanese tycoon against her will. She spends the rest of her life unhappily while mourning the hero who saved Taiwan.
    • A-Lin, who pulled the trigger, learns the truth that Tian-ding was a good man framed by the actual traitors. Filled with remorse, A-Lin, upon being released, takes over Tian-ding's role as leader.
    • News of Shimada's treachery and betrayal reaches Tokyo, where the Japanese governors, ashamed of Shimada's actions, decide to have his crimes swept under the rug. The promoted Matsumoto takes over Shimada's position and decide to make amends to the local Taiwanese, just the way Tian-ding would have wanted.
    • The Japanese occupation in Taiwan eventually comes to an end. A-Lin, now a free man, gathers the remaining resistance members to build a shrine in Liao Tian-ding's honor, with it a statue in his likeness in the center. Decades later, the deeds of Liao Tian-ding are stories of legends to the entire nation.
  • Written Sound Effect: Punches, kicks, and most physical impacts will be illustrated via onscreen text, in Mandarin. The most common of these is "碰!" (peng, or the equivalent to "bang!").