Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise is a throwback to classic martial arts films in every possible way due to it being simple, over-the-top, and just plain fun. On the surface the game may seem rather easy given its colorful presentation, but beneath lays a rather difficult yet fun brawler that rewards patience and skill over endless button smashing. Featuring a decent selection of stages and co-op support, Kung Fu Strike may not be one of the best XBLA games released in 2012, but it’s certainly one whose enjoyment can be appreciated by gamers looking to perform a spinning jump kick while battling warrior monks.
+ Combat is easy but takes some skill to perfect.
+ Even with some design tropes the game manages to provide a consistent visual style that at times is actually nice to look at.
+ The experience may be long as there are only twenty stages, but there is near infinite replayability thanks to the co-op mode and the quest in perfecting individual stages.
- Having a bit of additional combat depth would’ve been nice.
- A few of the stages do feel repetitive at times.
Even though I may not have a black belt or have spent countless hours within a dojo practicing my craft, I’m a huge fan of martial arts. There’s just something interesting about martial arts in general, not just for the element of kicking ass in a stylish way, but because it can say a lot about a person based on what style they practice. We’ve seen a lot of games in the past go forth on a heavy martial arts journey, though it’s rare for these games not to be traditional 1 vs. 1 brawlers like Tekken or Mortal Kombat.
There have been games in the past which have featured deep martial arts action in an action-adventure setting, but there’s always been something missing from the equation. Unexpectedly, one of the more interesting martial arts games to be released this generation is Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise. Basked in simplicity, Kung Fu Strike manages to provide complex martial arts action that will make any gamer feel like a true Shaolin Monk, albeit one who is very good at gaming.
If you’re a fan of movies made by the Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest, or equally love Kung Fu Hustle then you’ll probably love Kung Fu Strike. While it may not feature one man battling a hundred axe wielding goons nor does it feature Sammo Hung showing that even the most rotund of men can still deliver a beat down, the spirit of those classic films and the battles they depicted is more than evident in the game. I guess I should note that unlike the aforementioned films/companies, Kung Fu Strike isn’t really heavy in the character department since the story is incredibly thin.
Upon deeper reflection one would assume that a martial arts brawler wouldn’t have a deep story as even modern day classics such as Merantau aren’t the Citizen Kane of the action genre. But aside cutscenes with a graphic novel presentation there isn’t much in the way of the story found in Kung Fu Strike so much so that I actually got bored. Thankfully my boredom was soon alleviated once I could do a spin kick and fight a mysterious adversary in a perfect moonlit setting.
Kung Fu Strike is all about beating people up and unlike how the story is presented; the game did an excellent job at making me feel like I was a kung fu master or was controlling an interactive Yuen-Woo Ping fight scene. Presented in a 3rd person perspective, the game is a bit unconventional in the sense that it often changes up the plane of combat, though not in a sporadic sort of way. With some levels allowing me full control in an arena while others were restricted to the 2D plane, in order to enhance the mood and nature of the fight, the design of Kung Fu Strike is interesting and isn’t really predictable in every way.
The shifts in perspective aren’t as jarring as one may think they would be since the basic combat of the game is really approachable yet isn’t simplified in an insulting way. With my classically styled warrior having one basic attack move, I was able to go back and forth all while doing airborne moves and full-on counters. It may sound like Kung Fu Strike really doesn’t do anything we haven’t done before, but the real spirit of the game comes from the flow of the combat, which in the case of the game is all about the lone warrior fighting large groups of enemies and bosses that would look like they were ripped out of Master of the Flying Guillotine.
Kung Fu Strike may be not a 1 vs. 1 fighting game, but most of the battles play out as such despite the obvious differences in the perspective and the lack of a robust moves set which consists of multiple button input combos. Now the lack of elaborate combos isn’t a knock to the game as moves can be upgraded and unlocked via coins and scrolls that enemies drop during combat. Upgrading my warrior’s moves was a necessity as it not only allowed me to inflict greater damage, but it enabled me to stay on even ground against the ever challenging hordes I faced.
Dishing out a series of combos will take care of basic enemies, but trying to attack and defend against a series of foes brandishing massive staffs or broadswords did take a bit of practice since I had to concentrate and focus on my attacks instead of going buck wild button smashing everything. The skill in the game comes from having to deal with multiple enemies and in turn me having to make sure my reflexes were sharp in order to properly counter enemies, which is represented by an on-screen prompt. It’s this mixture of pure attacking and quick countering/evading which makes for some intense battles, more so since the game doesn’t hold back at all.
With each stage of Kung Fu Strike depicting a different locale and a new set of enemies, the game ups the difficulty level in ways that made each stage feel like a true challenge. Now I don’t want to oversell the difficulty of Kung Fu Strike in a sense as the game includes three difficulty settings which can be adjusted at any time during the single-player campaign before a stage is started. But even then, going to the easiest difficulty setting doesn’t result in a dumb-downed experience akin to the infamous one button mode in Bayonetta. A few elements of the game may be easy on the lowest setting, but the battles are still intense as the bosses can be near unforgiving. Things do become a bit simpler when playing the game co-operatively with a buddy, but the action doesn’t instantly become a cakewalk as it still takes time and skill to properly clear a level and hopefully receive a final grade that won’t bring shame to you as a warrior.
Again, my statements may have a tinge of hyperbole to them, but the bosses in the game are designed in a way which puts player skill to the forefront rather than having the battle turn cheap through repetitive tactics and moves that are simply over powered. The end battles of each stage are definitely the highlight of the game as each stage has that movie like feel in which I could tell this was all ramping up to a climatic conclusion that would likely have me sweating at the end. While other games merely do a wash & repeat of their bosses, in design principles at least, Kung Fu Strike again takes a balanced approach as each boss is different in their attacks and style (one zips around the stage DBZ style) and they were fun to play, even when I had to go on my fifth straight attempt to defeat a villain once and for all.
The way that Kung Fu Strike establishes that classic martial arts movie feel is not just through the combat, which looks like 1970s era wire-fu taken to the next level, but through how the game looks as well. Putting aside the small amount of design tropes we’re used to seeing from games set within Asian culture, Kung Fu Strike has some rather high production values which are evident by some of the stages and the visuals which are rendered. Detail may not be infinitely high in the models for the enemies or the stages, but there are nice graphical touches present in some of the ornate temples and a good arrangement of colors are used to enhance certain levels, adding a lavish sense of drama to the fighting based proceedings.
Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise may not be built around an elaborate combat system or a narrative that’s truly gripping, but just like the classic martial arts films which inspired it, the fun in the game lays in how easy and straightforward it is to enjoy. With a nice amount of difficulty and a decent amount of content thanks to the various levels and co-op gameplay, Kung Fu Strike encapsulates the perfect amount of fun that’s to be had in a $10 XBLA game.
A review code was provided for this game.