Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise is very much like a kung-fu action movie: Oftentimes, story just takes a backseat, a venereal placebo to the action and the choreography. Foes spill in, one upon another, till the hero is left standing, and quick reflexes are essential to survival. But would that make this a good kung-fu action film, much less a fun and entertaining game? Here’s where the problems again.
There is no premise per say, aside from “Kung Fu! Hit people!”. Static panels enunciate the “story” as you play some General going around beating up dudes to find some guy, and perhaps do something along the way if you haven’t fallen asleep already. It’s at this point you shut up and put up – no either/or choice here. Remember, this is an XBox Live Arcade game, so it’s not going to have the biggest budget. But man alive, there’s no progression, aside from the aggravating difficulty which shoots up as you come across the mysterious “Swordsman”.
You could bash up some big dudes, only to be faced by the real boss. And the fight still won’t end, until you wipe out every last minion. You could be paired off against a single foe, but those are often exercises in punishing game reviewers for thinking they possibly had any skill to begin with. This is the game you give Agent Smith when he says there’s no escaping purpose. Simple arena-style combat, a purgatory of button mashing and countering, where the game tells you to gather the collectibles when you’re done and get out, or it’ll kick you out (also known as “The Y button”).
Does the fighting system justify throwing plot and character development to the wind? Not really. What feels nifty at first quickly becomes repetitive. You’ll probably gain a new move after a stage or three, which range from flitting through the air to sweeping enemies off their feet. You can deflect using B, while X is your standard attack and A is your jump attack. The right trigger functions as evade.
You can hold down X to unleash a lightning quick flurry of strikes, which leads to the classic counter frenzies seen in kung-fu classics, before you trigger A to break guard and begin the pummelling. You can unleash Chi attacks using X+A, tie them into combos and outright own enemies. But there are no alternative styles or switching. If there are weapons, I wouldn’t know. And that brings us to the bane of Kung Fu Strike: The difficulty.
It starts off innocently enough, but as soon as you hit the Swordsman, are you in a world of pain. You must counter at just the right time, switch from flurry to guard breaks, and expect to critical the big guys long enough to take care of the smaller enemies, who also must be countered and reversed. It gets even more irritating when Chi Attacks can be countered by the smaller enemies as well, while low attacks can’t be blocked or deflected at all.
No amount of counters will work once you’re surrounded by foes in a corner. The evade function feels like a faster means to traverse locations than a real dodging tactic. Which would have been great in a normal platformer, but this is a simple combat game. I’m not ashamed to admit that I gave up after facing off against bow-wielding sub-bosses, their students, two giant ogres, a posse of normal hand-to-hand fighters and some more bow-wielders, one after another, only to be greeted by a lone Master in the next stage who simply defied the logic of switching from attacking to countering and back because screw that guy and screw this game.
There’s a point where a game stops being fun and feels like a chore in button mashing anarchy. And as if channeling some Ninja Gaiden-like mean streak, points are deducted when you retry from a checkpoint. So go back to the beginning and go through all that pain again, like a good boy, if you want enough coins to upgrade your character and continue suffering.
Kung Fu Strike is by no means an awful game, though it’s far from being the all-out action adventure it could have been. There aren’t any bugs, and when the difficulty is not trying to smack you back down the Earth, it’s a nice way to pass time. One could forgive the overall imposing difficulty but there’s no escaping the lack of variety, ho-hum graphics and music, and complete lack of fulfilment.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Combat is easy to pick up and roll with. Some one-on-one encounters are nice. Feel like a bad-ass when you're not being mugged mercilessly.
Repetitive combat. Cheap and downright thuggish difficulty. Complete lack of plot and story presentation. Little replay value. Sub-par graphics and art-style.