Legend of Condor Heroes 1994 was not very popular with the Hong Kong audience when it came out. In fact, the entire show had gotten a seriously bad rap because it was constantly measured up to (and constantly come up short to) the 1983 TVB classic. However, this show when viewed on its own, is a very good show with a good cast and a can't lose plot. The show stars Julian Cheung and Athena Chu, two relative unknowns in Hong Kong until this show thrusted them into stardom. Also starring in the show is Gallen Lo and Emily Kwan.
The plot of this version follows that of the novel much closer than the 1983 version. This version almost repeats the novel word by word, which explains why this series is much shorter than the 1983 version. Because of how closely it follows the novel, this series flows at a very consistent pace and has almost no part in which it drags on. I would give a summary of the plot, but that would take too long and spoil the story. The costumes in this show is very good, although there is almost no change in most of the character's clothing through the entire show, Athena Chu only has 2 sets of clothing as Huang Rong, for goodness sake (not counting when she dressed up like a beggar and a guy).
As for the cast of the show, TVB made the right choices on most of the characters. Some people have commented that Julian Cheung is too smart looking to be Guo Jing. I have to disagree, Julian Cheung is very good as Guo Jing, he pulls off the innocent and dumbness of Guo Jing very well. The only vice in his acting is that he does not show enough devotion to Huang Rong. For example, he does not get too upset when he thought that Huang Rong died. I mean, Guo Jing is supposed to be completely devastated when he discovered that, yet all Julian did was not talk and look down. The show would definitely have been better if Julian had shown more emotions on his face as Guo Jing.
Athena Chu had some really big shoes to fill when she was casted as Huang Rong. It was really a hard situation for her to be in since Barbara Yung had portrayed Huang Rong to perfection in the 80's version. No matter how good Athena was she was not going to be seen in a favorable light when compared to Barbara's portrayal. Nevertheless, Athena still was very good as Huang Rong. She deserves an enormous amount of credit for portraying Huang Rong in her own way and not imitating Barbara. Athena's Huang Rong was not as bratty and spoiled as Barbara's and yet still had the special magic in her. Despite that, the chemistry between Julian and Athena leaves something to be desired. There was not much of that "special something" between them that Felix Wong and Barbara Yung shared. Often, the emotional scenes between them fall short.
The supporting actors all did a very good job with a couple of exceptions. The most glaring one is Gallen Lo as Yiang Kang, although it is through no fault of Gallen. Gallen should not have been casted as Yiang Kang; instead, it would have been much better had Gallen and the actor that played Ou Yang Ke switched roles. Gallen looked much too old for Yiang Kang, who is not even supposed to be 20 in the story, and Gallen looks as if he's around 30. Other mistakes include the casting of Huang Yao Shi and Zhou Buo Tong. The actors looked much too young for the characters (at least some facial hair would have helped). However, there are also some great performances as well, namely the character of Wuan Yi Hong Lie--the actor portrayed him to almost perfection. His character and also the character of Ghengis Khan is one of the few places where this version outshines the 1983 version.
As for the music, the theme song is very disappointing. The song really sounded bad when compared to the amazing themes of the older version. The substitute theme, however, is wonderful. It captures the love and innocence of Guo Jing's love for Huang Rong perfectly and probably should have been the main theme.
The special effects is a double bladed sword in this case. Some of the effects are wonderful, such as "18 Dragon Palms." However, in other places the effects are embarassingly bad and almost laughable. This is painfully obvious in any scenes involving the pet condors, or any condors for that matter.
I, like most people, still prefer the 1983 version, but I would watch this show any day as well. Overall, this series, despite some drawbacks, is great and worth seeing because of its wonderful characters and story. This is more a credit to Jin Yong than to TVB and the actors.