Cobra Kai, along with the rebirth of The Karate Kid in terms of popularity has been an impressive wave to watch grow. While I personally am a little outside the scope for the main franchise, I do love a good beat-em up, which on paper sounds like a perfect fit for the popular television show. Does Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues pack a punch or does it need a bit of training before it is ready for the big leagues? Let’s find out.
There is quite a bit of story packed into this romp, as players get to choose from one of two, selecting to represent the Miyagi-Do dojo or the Cobra Kai dojo. Without giving too many spoilers away, most elements from around the second season of the show are here, with familiar foes, allies, and bosses.
Playing as mainly Johnny, Amanda, Miguel, and of course Daniel, players basically beat up enemies, get fed a bit of story through progression, and move forward. The narrative is told through voiced still scenes and lightly animated comic sequences, which are fine, but seem a bit of an easy way out (or cheap, if you will) for such a big namesake.
The gameplay is where Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues kind of starts showing its development life. I am sure Flux tried with the development, and it does show, but there is a lot of roughness here, as for a 2D beat-em up, the mechanics feel broken at most times. Let’s start with the combo system, which is pushed heavily throughout. The game rewards high combos and there are plenty of repeating enemies that will allow it. The issue with the combo system is that the core gameplay is a bit unhinged, lacking polish. For instance, enemies will go one frame above you in the street while you are attacking and stop taking hits, which makes this process feel disjointed due to constant interruptions. There is no smooth flow due to this, meaning if I am laying into an enemy, entering correct inputs to pull off a combo, one small movement may falter the entire process.
The AI also is a huge mixed bag. One of my first boss battles was way too simple as he got stuck in some sort of walking loop and I was quickly able to lay in attacks until he was defeated. I think during my entire time with the game I only looked at my life meter in worry maybe once or twice as the AI for all enemies is so predictable and broken that I never really felt a true challenge. I kind of started to think “Oh, he is going to do this, so I will just stand here and wait, then move in for some hits.” There is so much depth to this system that I do think this wasn’t intentional, as the quick back and forth character switching, power-ups, and so on have a lot of thought and meaning behind them, but the game just doesn’t seem to need to use them due to its own bugs and shortcomings.
The skill tree within the game is awesome as you can make a character feel customized to your own liking, with no walls up for linear growth. That was great to see as I can make any character stronger in defense, offense, and so on – but with the execution of the gameplay’s core, you don’t really get to feel the payoff and overall effect of such a well-crafted system in play. There is a lot of game here and it is playable. I can even say co-op is a lot more fun as you and friend can do quite a bit to bring more to the table, but I recommend going in without thinking about Streets of Rage or Double Dragon as this title just does not live up to any of the famous beat-em ups from the past, even though there are times you can see with more time applied, it probably could have been so much better.
Visuals & Audio
The graphics are fine for the most part. I dig the art style and the environments, but yet again there are signs of a rushed release. Background models sit in shaded areas with no problem, looking as they should. Even if you go in the shade, your character is still just as lit up as they ever were, and the effect it conveys on screen is kind of jarring, making the game look cheap. Animations also look wooden, as the player rarely has a smooth connection during attacks, despite dealing damage heavily.
Sound wise, the voice actors, which are mostly from the actual show do fine to bring their parts to life. Sometimes the change in audio however make it seem like one is in a poorly filtered sound room, while others seem to be in a normal studio. When these two opposites come together for a conversation, it again feels unnatural and noticeable. The soundtrack is fine, with tunes from the show setting an atmosphere to thwomp enemies in. There are also some generic tunes throughout, which blend it all into what can be thought of as a forgettable set-list overall.
Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues will certainly be acceptable to fans as it does capture the product it is representing. That said, as a video game, and a beat-em up at that – it simply feels far too rushed and rough to recommend. I think there were a lot of awesome ideas on the table and the developers simply tried to push them all in, without seeing if the core actually functioned with the depth they were adding to enhance it, leaving with what feels like a huge missed opportunity as with patches and more attention, this title could be good. As it stands, both dojos are in need of “under construction signs, as for the price tag, this is sadly another licensed title that just doesn’t feel complete.