Kung fu with an Ancient Twist

New game debuts at Fan Expo
By Ryan Moffatt
Ryan Moffatt
Ryan Moffatt
Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver.
August 28, 2013 Updated: August 28, 2013

From superheros to games, avatars to anime, Fan Expo Canada has all the trimmings of the gaming and fantasy world. 

Tradition and innovation collide at fan expos as both fans and artists celebrate the past and look to the horizon, pushing the boundaries of technology—and sometimes taste—to create something new.

One group of designers at this year’s expo, held in Toronto Aug. 22-25, has taken inspiration from China’s ancient past and the real roots of kung fu to create a game that accurately depicts the essence of this much-loved but oft-misunderstood art form.

Video games have taken a turn for the violent in recent years and the debate on whether these games desensitize children and society at large to the realities of violence rages on. Games like “Mortal Kombat” and “Streetfighter” have become the norm for the genre. Skill against skill, fight to the death. 

“Shuyan The Kung Fu Princess” offers a different take on the martial arts. Breaking with the modern status quo, the game is not about defeating others but instead mastering oneself—a key principle of kung-fu largely glossed over in the entertainment and gaming mediums.

“We really set out to create an authentic kung fu experience,” says creative director Drew Parker. “And you know what? Kung fu isn’t actually about bashing heads in.”

The game centres around Shuyan, a stranded princess in ancient China with an explosive temper. In order to return home, Shuyan must master self-control and learn to fight without fighting—a refreshing concept that is sure to have the backing of parents concerned with their children’s exposure to gratuitous violence.

Authentic Chinese scores, hand-painted backdrops, and the motion-capture of a trained Wing Chun Kung Fu artist add to the game’s appeal.

Created for iPad, the game is designed especially for the tablet interface. 

“There’s no on-screen D-Pad, no button mashing, no combos,” says Parker. “We aimed to replicate real kung fu movements right in your fingertips through intuitive tapping and swiping.” 

“Shuyan the Kung Fu Princess” will be available exclusively for iPad in the fall. 

Ryan Moffatt
Ryan Moffatt
Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver.