Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise
Platforms: XBLA (reviewed), PC
Release Date: September 5, 2012 (XBLA); June 12, 2012 (PC)
Price: 800 MSP – Starting Sept. 5th (XBLA)
When diving headfirst into a new game, I feel it is important to learn something from a title to make it memorable. Kung Fu Strike brought baos, a vegetable or meat filled bun, into my life. And now I know of an unique Chinese pastry dish that can be a hearty meal. Interesting enough this is the first brawler game that has invoked hunger for pastries as well as increased my personal health bar. Let’s take a look and see if Kung Fu Strike can sate more than just my hunger.
A three pronged war had begun with the Tian empire, the northern country of Shaa, and Tian rebel forces. All have been consumed by hatred for one another and no lines of peace can surface without the crumbling of the others army. General Loh has set out to acquire an outpost at the Talin Temple but his arrival is met with heavy resistance. Upon reaching Master Mo, Loh discovers that his destiny lies elsewhere rather than taking on the forces of Shaa. Deception is corrupting the Tian empire, but who is behind it all?
Rather than experiencing long, drawn out cut-scenes, Kung Fu Strike is able to present the story effectively at each stage interval. Before every stage, a brief interlude explains Loh’s objective and purpose to excavate the area. With consistent stream of active storytelling, the message is apparent and melds with the current setting and characters involved.
Let’s start off with the basics. General Loh has two basic forms of attack – (X) normal and (A) jump attack. Holding the normal attack down will cause Loh to create a spinning combo that will continue to unleash damage until interrupted. Using his normal attack in junction with his jump attack will keep Loh in the air for a longer period of time performing aerial punches and face stomping kicks. Beyond attacking foes, Loh is able to stop most incoming attacks with his deflect move (B). Deflecting attacks can be difficult at times due to enemy difficulty. However, learning key moments to deflect is crucial in order to advance in the story. Certain moves cannot be deflected such as leg sweeps or potentially lethal special boss attacks. This is when Loh’s evading maneuvers particularly come in handy. His first evasion maneuver is readily available at the start of the game by using the right trigger. His evasive move allows him to make quick roll preferably out of reach of the incoming attack.
General Loh can build up a large amounts of chi during his battles which can be released in forms of special attacks. As his chi meter builds up, Loh will be able to enough into a chi slot which will allow him to utilize a special move. By pressing (X) and (A) at the same time, Loh will unleash a special move that is a high momentum kick that will knock an opponent across the screen. Other moves can be acquired during his journey and then purchased in the pre-mission lobby.
During the campaign, you will be able to pick up a wide range of items. Money, baos, and chi elixirs are the most commonly dropped items. Baos will increase your health during the current mission. A single baos will increase your health by a small portion, but a large plate of baos will heal your health bar most of the way. Chi elixirs can help you immensely in a fight by providing quick access to your special move list. If all of your chi slots are being used, you will not be able to pick up the elixir – great thinking on the developer’s part. Lastly, money will help you throughout the stages by being able to purchase new items to wear as well as purchase new skills.
Loh’s equipment consists of two open slots for gear and one slot saved for a fighting style. One such available gear from the get-go is called the “Herb of Life” which will resurrect Loh from death to 200 health points. Eventually, you will be able to upgrade this gear piece to heal more upon death. Other gear could include the “Wonder Coat” which reduces all incoming projectiles and explosions by 25%. Thus, knowing your stage becomes increasingly important when dealing with explosions or dart throwing damsels. The third slot is saved for your fighting style. Your starting style is “Lightning Fist” which delivers fast blows with fist attacks. After defeating the game through, I was able to pick up “Lightning Kick” which delivers some deadly kicks to opposing faces. The main difference lies in only the style, but a subtle difference can be seen with a combination of the feet based style and gear “Light Boots” as it delivers even faster air attacks.
Even with tremendous strength, Loh may be unable to utilize crowd control to dispatch hordes of enemies entering the fray. To deal with this, Loh can unleash his own bodyguards for a slight cost in coin. Through your battles, different army pick-ups are made available for Loh to unleash and are increasingly more expensive. One of the more costly summons is the skilled swordsman at 350 gold pieces – who happens to be a boss in the game. One deterring aspect to keep in mind is once you have spent your money on recruits be sure to win because the money you spent will not come back.
Tactics are ever changing in this game which makes Kung Fu Strike hard even in its easiest difficulty. If you are not playing with an “Herb of Life” – you should be, reflecting attacks becomes very important. After parrying a target, the enemy will be enveloped in a green hue. (HINT) – This means you are able to steal life from this target now. Another aspect that took me a little while to understand was when a boss turned glowed with a red hue. The red offers more than one opportunity for both player and enemy. During these moments, the boss may have a chance to unleash a special move that can do damage and drain your life essence. Obviously that is not good for the cause of winning. To counteract the move, it is possible to unleash a special attack on the boss with red hue to cause a critical strike! Once you have accomplished this the enemy will take plenty of damage and be vulnerable for subsequent attacks. (HINT) – Save up your chi slots so more than one special attack can be performed.
Boss battles can occur at any moment and becomes apparent at the very start of the game. While General Loh wishes to meet leader of the temple, its guardians are not willing to let just anyone enter. As the minor defendants of the temple dwindle down, a large behemoth drops in for some not so gentle smashing. I would consider these combatants as minor bosses due to their repeated occurrences throughout the campaign. The major bosses have more pronounced abilities like those of Master Mo. He produces an entrapping circle near his body that will deliver a special attack to Loh if he passes through it. Environments that contain major bosses can also change in time due in accordance to the boss’s health. Minor enemies might join the battle or even the perspective can change because of the increased/decreased attackers.
Modes of difficulty can be very deceiving to the untrained combatant. I tend to try just about any game on normal to test the waters before I dive into a higher difficulty. Kung Fu Strike made me alter my normal transition, and I found myself losing some stages on easy. Dedication and perseverance pulled my beaten carcass through with a “D” ranking managing to complete the campaign. As mentioned on the official website, this game is not for the faint of heart.
If you found the game too challenging, there is an option for a two player co-op campaign. However, playing as two similar characters poses as a problem itself. Occasionally, you will become lost in the environment or torn across the screen from your teammate. Additionally, the second player’s progress, statistics, scores, and achievements will not be recorded. Beyond the negatives of co-op campaign are the advantages such as using combined attacks to defeat your foes. When a boss is showing the red hue, your partner could first a special attack then follow up with your own creating devastating amounts of damage. You will be clearing levels faster and potentially gaining better ranks. And the obvious plus is that you are playing with a friend.
Once the single or co-op campaign has been completed, two players can face each other in versus mode. Only four arenas are available for battle with specific game modes for each. This greatly reduces custom versus play and restricts players to a limited selection of arenas. Only one arena is set for a bomb match where a player can utilize falling bombs to damage the opponent rather than actual combat. Two arenas have breakable vases that withhold certain ally forces. The first person to break the vase will gain a specific force but can lose the unit if the opponent knocks it out. Taking out an opponents allied unit will cause that unit to switch sides and attack on your own behalf. I found a minor glitch where upon losing a unit to the opposing force the unit became invisible. After killing the invisible unit it returned to normal and did not present the glitch again.
Visual / Audio
Each level enters with a short comic strip pasted on an ancient scroll. Alluring would best describe the animated comic as you are cautiously waiting to see what new forces you will encounter in the story. The attentiveness brings the comic strip to life as it is an ingenious way to invigorate the story’s emotions before a level commences.
The artistic tastes of Kung Fu Strike are different than most games. Drawing from the designs of Chinese folklore and calligraphy, the environments emphasize the beauty of an ancient culture by traveling to temples, rooftops, and treasure guarded dungeons. Even the special effects are vividly noticeable with almost dark ink blotches moving from fist to foot contact. If the screen turns to redness, you know something is going to happen!
Sound effects spark more intensity into brawler type games rather than music as far as audio is concerned. When you are playing this type of genre, you want to hear each and every contact. And so this title delivers with loads of sound effects from insignificant grunts to breaking glass on critical hits. The music played during the credits and game entrance are just bonuses to plentiful amounts of sound effects.
So we learned that baos can be a delicious meal. That alone won’t make this a great game to play. However, the campaign offers a plethora of challenges and ranks to attain that will keep a perfectionist on his/her toes for a bit. Beating the game through once will not garner all the goodies that you would desire. Even a co-op campaign is available for added help on those increasingly hard missions.
Well, if the food is good then what faults does the game have? For one, the difficulty does not deter me from playing this title, but I can foresee the ones with the “faint of heart” purchasing this title and walk away hours later feeling defeated. Even the developers warn the public about easy being fairly difficult to complete on some missions. While there isn’t an online multiplayer, there should be one. The offline versus seems relatively useless beyond training yourself with a newly acquired skill. Allowing to play as the minor bosses could be an interesting concept for online matches. One more negative feature is the following camera once the perspective changes during a match. Changing views when hitting a corner can be quite confusing when a boss is planning a special attack.
Kung Fu Strike acquires some bonus points for two additional reasons. During the credit roll, you can actually continue to play as your character fighting off foes until the credits run out. And when you are loading for a new level, you can see two men in the bottom right corner of the screen with (X) and (A) appearing next to them. Interesting enough if you hit those buttons the person on the left will make and attack on the other. Neat little bonuses to enjoy while you wait for the game to load.