The days of the classic beat-em-up are long gone, sadly replaced by anything with guns, space marines and a few shades of grit. Sure, it’s cliche (and a little hypocritical) to complain about “video games these days,” but sometimes it’s too easy to hearken back to the simplicity of arcade games from years ago.
A small number of games have been able to capture that feeling, presenting a perfect throwback for fans of yesteryear, but for every success lies a mountain of failures for it to stand on. Kung-Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise sits somewhere in the middle of the pile, not terrible enough to be a total waste, but still marred by enough flaws to be an extremely cautious purchase.
Developed by Qooc Soft, Kung-Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise tells the story of a general who is fighting a shadow army while learning new arts that will aid him in his fight. It’s all very bare and feels tacked on, just like an arcade game should. However, the story is told by gorgeous panels that flash by in-between levels. The dialogue stays on the screen for a few seconds before disappearing, so you’ll be lucky if you can read even half of what the characters are saying. That being said, you’ll be too distracted ogling the beautiful panels, so there’s nothing to worry about.
Once you move on to the actual gameplay, the graphics change to a cel-shaded look that is surprisingly effective. They aren’t mind-blowing or innovative by any means, but they could have been a lot worse than they were. Whichever part of Kung-Fu Strike rubs you the wrong way, it definitely won’t be something from the visual end of the game. You’ll fly through enemies, tearing them apart with beautiful flurries of excellently choreographed strikes, but of course this is only when the game decides it wants to work at its highest potential. More on that in a second.
The audio isn’t anything special, although it is competent for the game. Punches and kicks hit in quick succession, sounding like every cheesy kung-fu film you’ve ever seen, and the groans and screams of defeated goons can be quite satisfying. All of this overwhelms whatever music is playing in the background, although the soundtrack is probably the least of a player’s concern when he’s busy kicking tail.
Kung-Fu Strike tries its best to play as a retro fanboy’s dream, but it makes a few key mistakes that keep it from ever really connecting. Perhaps the biggest fault here was its development team’s decision to go 3D. For a genre that is usually restrained to 2D for good reason, this jump just does not work. The wonky controls don’t help either, with terrible hit detection and restricted combat holding back the fun. The extended animations also lead to some cheap undeserved deaths. Getting knocked over is almost certainly an instant death, because every enemy will gang up on you and will keep knocking you down before you can retaliate.
The game works on the “easy to learn, hard to master” premise, but sometimes the levels are just cheap. Some enemies smash the ground and knock you over, leading to deaths similar to the ones described above. If you get pushed into a corner, it’s the same deal: game over. It’s easy to see what Qooc Soft was going for, but the controls keep the experience from being good, old fashioned, difficult fun. The whole experience feels cheap.
Sometimes the controls do work, however, providing glimpses of what Kung-Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise could have been. Kicks and punches are lashed out in a flurry, enemies are knocked back as you smoothly fly between them and parries are swift and focused. However, these fleeting moments of potential are too few, only showing seconds of what we could have been playing.
Multiplayer isn’t much different, except this time you have a friend who can either break you out of corners or get trapped in them himself. Going further, a versus mode becomes available after you complete the main story, allowing you and a buddy to knock the snot out of each other. While this was more fun than the arenas filled with glitchy enemies, there were still a few problems present. Fights were meant to be centered around strategy, with perfectly timed blocks, rolls and punches being the key to victory. Instead, the fights can turn into a button mashing frenzy, and not a very good one. When fought right, versus mode is pretty solid. Otherwise, it doesn’t stand on its own to save the game.
There’s not much in the way of extra incentives for replay, with only a handful of achievements available to breeze through. The combat is repetitive, and the new abilities gained throughout the story aren’t interesting enough to warrant a second play through. It doesn’t take more than a handful of hours (three or four) to run through everything the story has to offer.
Even though Kung-Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise does its best to try and evoke the arcade games of yesteryear, it just doesn’t cut it. Too many design issues mar the simplistic gameplay, and it’s hard to recommend even if it only costs 800 Microsoft Points. Quite a few quality arcade games were released this summer, and this release unfortunately doesn’t stack up to them.
This review is based on a copy of the game that was provided to us.