(PC [reviewed], Xbox 360)
Kung Fu Strike is an arcade beat ‘em up mixed with a fighting game, with some light RPG elements thrown in for good measure. The game itself is the Western version of a game called HurricaneX2, which was developed by an actual Kung Fu practitioner. The developer wanted to create a martial arts arcade game that focused on timing and countering, rather than mindless button mashing.
The game begins with the player as General Loh, insisting that he must talk to Master Mo at a temple in the mountains. Master Mo’s pupils don’t take kindly to Loh bossing them around and Loh soon finds himself fighting his way to Master Mo (at least for the first few stages, anyway).
Kung Fu Strike is split up into 28 stages and the story is told through comic panels at the loading screen for each stage.
The game starts out a little on the easy side, though there are three difficulty levels. In the first few stages the game will walk you through the basic gameplay, and due to this, it actually takes a few stages for the game to become interesting. The first stages will have you master striking, blocking, rolling, jumping, and doing special moves. Later you will also unlock the ability to call backup NPCs to help you in battle (for a price). Though the controls are simple, the difficulty soon ratchets up and you will find yourself dying quite a lot unless you master blocking and evading.
The way that the difficulty ratchets up in Kung Fu Strike reminds me a lot of classic arcade games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Metal Slug. In fact, I found that by the 16th stage I had to turn the difficulty down in order to even progress. Unfortunately, with the influence of great arcade games, some of their annoyances come along as well: Bosses will call for back up, some enemies will have regenerating health, and some enemies will one-shot kill you right at the end of a stage.
Kung Fu Strike doesn’t make battles completely unfair though: Blocking and evading will (for the most part) save you entirely from damage. If your health gets too low, a small amount of it will regenerate as long as you avoid damage. Defeating enemies also randomly drop health, chi (used for special moves), money, and horns (used to call backup). You will also unlock money at the end of each stage and occasionally new moves and equipment. You can then spend your money at the stage select screen to unlock new moves, equipment, and health/chi upgrades.
Graphically speaking, Kung Fu Strike is not the prettiest game. The graphics are at the level of something you probably would have seen five years ago. However, that’s mostly forgivable since the art style is similar to Okami or Street Fighter IV which helps create its own believable atmosphere. The colorful graphics help easily differentiate between different enemy types, letting you know which fighting style you should use. Enemies range from monks, bandits, monsters, and even an old man. New enemies pop up often enough to always keep things fresh and force you to change your fighting style. It’s also worth noting that the game runs incredibly well with no slow down, even with dozens of enemies and projectiles on the screen at the same time.
Sound in the game is ultimately forgettable. There’s no real voice work other than the grunts and groans of battle. The music is equally forgettable. I literally can’t remember any of it. Overall though, the sound works well enough, forgettable as it is. All of the sounds are appropriate and serve to enhance the sense of action.
The main story in Kung Fu Strike will probably take you 4 to 5 hours at most to complete. It will take you longer to unlock all of the different moves, backup troops, equipment, and upgrades. It will take longer still to get S ranks in every stage or if you decide to play through the campaign again in local co-op.
Kung Fu Strike is a great twist on the classic arcade beat ‘em up. The battles are awesome and satisfying, though sometimes extremely frustrating. Whether or not you enjoy the game will ultimately depend on how patient you are, but there’s a great game to be found if you can get past its frustrations.
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