Your kung fu is weak – Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise for XBLA (review)


Price: 800 MS points

Rating: ESRB Teen, PEGI 16+

Genre: Action / Brawler / Beat-‘em-up

Playmodes: Single-Player, Local Co-op and Versus Mode

Until I got the chance to review it, I’d never heard of Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise (KFS), but I liked what I heard: “Taking its inspiration from ancient Chinese tales of revenge and retribution, then adding a dash of over-the-top martial arts and old school arcade fun, Kung Fu Strike features 28 stages of fast-paced combo-based fighting. Blend powerful punches, high kicks and perfectly timed blocks to pull off devastating combos, all thanks to a fluid combat system that turns brawling into an art form.” How could this be? Could such a game exist? I downloaded it as soon as possible with the excitement only an old Jackie Chan movie could produce in me. I thought it would be Soul Caliber reborn with the depth of Jade Empire and the fun of Castle Crashers. Boy, was I wrong.

The game loads up with the image of the hero whose shoes you are about to use to kick waves of enemies in the face. He’s strong, silent, and menacing. I also can’t remember his name, because it doesn’t matter. Each level of the game is proceeded by a series of pictures of the warrior yelling at whatever villain he’s about to face. No voice work here, folks. The story is delivered via text you have to speed read before the next piece of the story is flashed onto the screen. Not that it matters. You’re an exiled commander in charge of some rebel forces that has been wronged in the past and you must set things right with fighting. Only, you never do get a chance to fight. It’s more like desperately flailing your limbs, mashing buttons willy-nilly. Picture your four-year-old sister trying to keep up with Dance Central on expert.

Playing KFS feels like the team that created it, 7Sixty, was trying to take the depth of control a fighting game like Street Fighter has, mix it with the intensity of a brawler like Final Fight, underscore that with the choice to unlock new abilities like Bioshock, and deliver that with a sweeping epic, a celebration of the genre, like Red Dead Redemption. Only it fails to live up to any of those goals.

After the glorified, inspired by Chinese water color cut-scene, you are delivered to a fixed plane in space. You may be in a courtyard, walking along a rooftop, or running around the circumference of a cylindrical statue, but no matter where you are, you are always in the same place, stuck. The ground you fight upon is limited. You can’t go past the edges, you can’t push your enemies to their deaths. You have to use the ground you’re given and pray to God the camera you can’t control doesn’t change position yet again so an enemy from all the way on the other side of the courtyard does a flying dragon kick to your head you can’t see coming until you’re already laying on the ground, your health depleted.

The camera is broken. It switches positions all the time, so when the gameplay depends on the fact you are pointing your directional pad towards your enemies, and all of a sudden, they are now on your right and not on your left, you spend far too much time punching the air. I mashed buttons in frustration. I didn’t bother to invest my coins in new moves I could pull off with A,X,X,B,X. The game is cheap, the enemies attack in way’s you can’t manage except by running away. In order to finish KFS, I had to set it to easy. I don’t do that. Ever. Your character is identified as you with a ying-yang symbol rotating beneath your feet. That’s fine when there aren’t any enemies on screen with you, but when there’s even a few, you lose track of where you are until it’s too late.

There are two forms of multiplayer offered, fighting together or fighting each other. I asked my wife to play them with me so I could deliver to you, good reader, the full scoop. The first time we played, she beat me. After I had beaten the game. She beat me by mashing buttons without even looking at the screen.

I finished KFS in the course of an evening, but didn’t feel as though I had overcome a challenge. It felt more like I had survived a caning. The cut-scenes are low budget, the story is laughable, the gameplay is torturous, the enemies are copied and pasted, the camera is broken, and the graphics are forgettable. Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise has nothing to offer that countless other games haven’t done better. For ten bucks, you’re much better off picking up an older game like Soul Caliber or Jade Empire or Castle Crashers that does it all better.