Reeling in the years
Sifu is out right now for those with the deluxe edition, and launching tomorrow for everyone else. It’s a tough, punishing game with a few pointers not made readily apparent. And as the resident master here, I’ve got a few Sifu tips to help make fights go a little smoother.
I worked my way through Sifu, tackling both the normal and “true” ending. In truth, the most you’ll want to strive for is mastery. The more you know what to expect and how to answer it, the better you’ll progress through each encounter. Let’s start with basics, though.
Get comfortable with the left shoulder button
Forget others. Forget your friends, family, and loved ones. Your L1 button, or LB on an Xbox controller, is your closest friend in Sifu. It is the light at the end of your dock. It is the method through which you will not just win, but decisively win.
Jokes aside, the left-shoulder button is crucial. One aspect Sifu doesn’t make very apparent is that while L1+Down dodges throws, for example, you can simply hold L1 and wait for the right moment to flick the stick down. The same can be done for ducks and the left or right avoids. Timed well, this lets you avoid almost any manner of attack: sweeps, overheads, and basic attacks.
An early new-player trap is getting too accustomed to the Dash, or R2+direction. It has its uses, but it also has a long recovery time, and will sometimes put distance between you and your target that you’ll need to make up. Get used to dodging in place, and you’re in prime position to fire back with fists. Plus, L1 is also your parry option—a mechanic that’s helpful at first, and crucial for clearing bosses under certain conditions.
Prioritize your permanent unlocks
Identify a few key abilities you feel like you can’t live without, and work on getting those permanently unlocked. In each run, you can buy an ability to unlock it for that lifetime. Sifu lets you keep re-buying it though, eventually permanently adding the upgrade to your arsenal.
The choice is yours, as I’ve seen players with different playstyles than my own (an admittedly very defensive, reactive style) have success. A few are absolutely crucial to unlock, though:
- Environmental Mastery
- Pushback Cancel
- Weapon Catch
- Ground Parry
- Strong Sweep Focus
The first four options simply add more versatility and options to your move set. Environmental Mastery is a godsend for dealing with large groups, and Pushback Cancel helps mitigate otherwise disastrous situations. The last suggestion, Strong Sweep Focus, is an alternate to your Eye Strike attack that gives you more options, in my opinion. Otherwise, find moves you like and experiment.
Don’t be afraid to run
There are rooms and encounters in Sifu where you will easily get overwhelmed. Enemies have no problem ganging up for multiple strikes and attacks together, and it can get hard to parry and dodge all of them.
When in doubt, book it. You can’t fully run away from any encounter, but pressing in R2 and taking a quick jog around the arena can help. Isolate one enemy in the chaos and remove them from the group. Find some environmental help or maybe a weapon sitting around, unused. Even just moving to a more ideal arena—say, a narrow hallway where it’s harder to get surrounded—can help a ton.
Many of the large group fights take place in big arenas, so move around a bit. There are plenty of times when I’d find some hidden help in a corner of a large area and kick myself for stubbornly standing still.
Spend XP in Sifu when you can
The most obvious time to dump XP into skills is with each death in Sifu. Before you rise again and tack on more years, you can dump XP into any skill you’d like.
One thing you might not have noticed is that Jade Statues, the upgrade stations you usually run into after getting past certain sections of each level, also let you spend XP. And even better, you can spend XP from a level clear at the tree in the middle of your hideout, between levels.
Don’t hold your XP until you fall, as some of those upgrades may make the difference early on and save you some years. The goal, after all, is to get your age down. Which leads into…
Re-run past levels to get younger
Sifu has what I’d call an exponentially scaling difficulty slider. Die once, and you lose a year. But die more, and even more years get taken away. Each one brings you not just closer to the hard-loss decade of your 70s, but accelerates the speed at which you’re getting there.
It’s tough to manage this early on. Even with some enemies taking numbers off your death counter, and Jade Statues letting you spend XP to reset your counter, you’ll still age fast in the beginning. Each level retains your “best” clear so far; make it to The Club at age 32, and that will be your start age every time you go back, until you lower it further.
With that in mind, it can help a lot to go back and set lower clear ages. Each new area in Sifu will pose new challenges, ones that will most likely surprise you and take some years. That escalating cost gets easier to manage when you’re starting in your 20s and not your 50s.
Plus, you will just naturally improve over time. Heading back to beat The Botanist, for example, gives you a chance to set a new start for The Club. Eventually, you can get a high age start at a much later level and be stuck with only a few lives to live. Going back and getting younger starts will help when tackling some of the later-game challenges.
Use your resources
The RPG player inside me always says, “Don’t use potions, you might need them later.” Well, in Sifu, later is closer to the end. Spend resources in the here and now.
Part of this is the Focus meter. By hitting, striking, dodging, and parrying, your student builds up Focus. You can then spend this on a special attack, like the Eye Strike or Sweep. These are extremely helpful. Too many enemies? Eye Strike one to leave them out for a while. Enemy holding a knife or staff? Sweep them and they’ll drop it. That’s two birds with one sweep.
The other part is weapons. I’ve never found the need to be precious with weapons, especially when goons have no reservation in using them against you.
Use weapons to your advantage. Take out small fries in a single hit, or rack up big Stature damage on a tough enemy. My favorite move is to combo an enemy, then chuck the weapon at them for an extra hit. Sometimes the weapon will bounce back intact, and you can Weapon Catch it for another quick round.
Hope these little tips and tricks help you fight your way through to the finale of Sifu. The best advice though, is to simply take breaks. Breathe, relax, let your wrists rest, and get ready for the next battle. Best of luck on your quests for vengeance.