In a Surprising Turn of Events
Kung Fu Strike is one of the few games that I can think of that made it to Steam BEFORE Xbox Live Arcade. The Steam release was on July 24th and from what I can tell the XBLA release is scheduled for September 5th. All the more curious is that Kung Fu Strike, from all outward appearances, seems to have been designed with the “XBLA” template from the beginning. From the achievement window to the menu select screen, the design is very reminiscent of the era when XBLA was reinventing itself. Personally, it’s to the point of a Pavlovian Response when I see these types of games from the beginning. The feeling is very similar to Backbone Entertainment games, such as Commando 3, Space invaders Extreme, 1942: Joint Strike. Right off the bat, I’m expecting these “nuggets” of gameplay that manage to make sense regardless of how much time you have to invest. One other interesting quirk about Kung Fu Strike and what leads me to believe it was largely targeted for XBLA is the complete omission of setting the resolution within the game’s GUI. Because PC’s are awesome, you need only browse to the game’s .ini file and change the height and width of your screen to match your resolution and then your done. Still.. just to come full circle on my beginning sentiment, it’s weird to see an XBLA game hit Steam first.
I am Brawler
In yet another surprising turn of events, Kung Fu Strike ranks as one of the only games of its genre that manages to play well on a keyboard. Considering it was the first option before turning on my 360 controller for PC, I thought I would just give it a go so that I could make dismissive remarks about its usability. I was totally prepared to use iOS virtual controls as an analogy to playing this game on a keyboard. Unfortunately, I won’t get that opportunity. However, while the keyboard is usable, the controller is necessary when attempting to reach a rank of B or higher. Your rank is determined by a number of criteria but most of all it’s a meter to determine how much you suck. Which leads to one of my gripes about the game. If you were to chart the difficulty of this game, it would be a hockey stick. It’s very easy to play, you only have a few buttons to fret over and chaining silly combos in air or on the ground is painfully easy to accomplish. My only issue with the game is your defensive manuevers do not supersede your attacks. Kung Fu Strike wants you to chain combos. It is very alluring and fun to go kung fu-king crazy all over your enemies, but because you have to be mindful of parries and evading, (not to mention keeping an eye on deflecting projectiles like arrows, shurikens and evading bombs) you are forced to pace yourself or you will be punished by losing health.
The mechanics of the game are such that you have to limit your fun to make sure you don’t get frustrated from dying often. To top it off, unblockable attacks are introduced later on in the game (The visual indicator being an exclamation point. I.E. “EFF YOU!”), where your only real solution is to evade instead of parry and your evade skill seems to only work provided you aren’t even inside of an attack animation. If this were handled better, I’d have a better time overall as this can severly impact the pacing of the game. I can admit that perhaps I am playing the game “wrong” but I can’t help but feel this is how I should be playing the game. I.E. Feet like lightning.
Outside of the core mechanics of the game, you can earn money to buy upgrades to your character via equipment or buying new skills. Some of the skills are down-right necessary (deflect in air) and some are more of preference. Probably one thing that shouldn’t add to the fun of the game but ultimately it does, sometimes defeating your enemies results in a fountain of coins and rice balls exploding from their death. While it straddles the border of being politically incorrect, I for one enjoy this extra nonsense added to the game. Ultimately, even if you don’t pick up any coins from defeating enemies, you get money from just finishing a level or its bonus objective for the round, like finish the round in under three minutes.
Some of the additional features to the game that helped minimize my frustration where the ability to spend gold during your round to call in support from your “Army”. It’s just enough to help you out in desperate situations.
Thankfully, when equipment, skills and army aren’t enough to stop you from dying, the checkpoint system is designed well enough to leave you off not too far where you died, but most importantly you can change the difficulty in between your round and start off at your last checkpoint. That is actually a very clever addition, as most games from..ever(?) have normally punished you for trying a difficulty too hard and would force you to replay from the beginning or at least from the beginning of the current stage. Last but not least is story section told through a neat looking Japanese scroll/inkwork style that, storywise, I could honestly care less about. But it was still a pretty neat art style that spanned across the entirety of the menu. The last thing worth mentioning is that multiplayer is in the game but seems to be , regrettably, local only.
8.0/10: A genuinely fun arcade-style brawler worth the price of admission.