HomeVideo GamesGAME REVIEW | "SIFU" a True Master of Kung Fu

GAME REVIEW | "SIFU" a True Master of Kung Fu

GAME REVIEW | "SIFU" a True Master of Kung Fu

When I think of games with amazing beat ‘em up mechanics, my mind automatically shifts to Rocksteady’s Batman games. Sure, they weren’t perfect (save for Arkham City), but that feeling of being the Dark Knight was right in your fingertips. Not only did it make you feel like a powerful superhero, but every punch and kick thrown felt earth-shattering. I bring these games up because SIFU gave me this feeling once again!

No, you do not play as a superhero in Sloclap’s latest game. SIFU has you playing as a young martial artist, who is seeking revenge for their fallen sifu (“skilled teacher”) and father. The warrior sets out to eliminate the five people responsible for his death, including Yang, a former student. However, because of a magical talisman that revived him years ago, a curse falls upon them that takes a toll on the martial artist every time they die.

Every time you lose a battle, you age. After the first fall, and one year is taken off. Two times, and an additional two years is removed. The more you are defeated, the more you age, up until you reach your seventies and you’re given a “Game Over”! While players can knock off the penalty points down a notch or two, doing so will be easier said than done. But as you experience loss after loss, you’ll gain experience and some new moves…that you’ll lose the ability to use if you lose the game.

It’s easy to find yourself frustrated with the game mechanics of SIFU, and for good reason. Most games will have you earn new abilities as you play, with the means of keeping them even if you need to restart a mission. Sloclap apparently doesn’t want to play that kind of game, instead going for something more brutal and requiring patience and practice. And that, dear readers, is one way to get the players to better their skills behind a controller.

Learning to play SIFU is a lot like learning martial arts itself. You have to read your opponents, practice hitting your target, attempt to evade any attacks, and pay attention to the other threats around you. To be blunt: it’s pretty freaking hard! But the more you play, the more you start to find your groove. And when that groove is mastered, the kinds of moves you’ll be able to pull off will take any master by surprise.

When on the path of vengeance, you’ll learn various ways to kick, punch, and take down any threat. By earning skill points, players will acquire these maneuvers that might make the boss battle at the end a lot more tolerable to experience. However, these moves won’t be unlocked forever, as having to restart a mission after a game over will have all these moves wiped clean. (With enough coin, one can permanently unlock a move, but it takes a very, very long time!)

Thankfully, the more you play SIFU, the more things you’ll discover that’ll help make your quest a little easier. Despite losing all of your techniques every time, what you don’t ever lose are the hints and pinpoints that serve as clues for the main honcho’s whereabouts. Sometimes you’ll get a picture or a written note, but then other times you’ll find some keys that’ll unlock areas that aren’t accessible until much later. These shortcuts will help with the frustration one feels when they have to repeat certain levels countless times, not to mention aid in keeping your age a lower level for the next area to visit.

As for the fighting itself, it’s very surprising to see how fluid the controls are for a game this complex. While there are some elements that take time to master, the ability to attack, evade, block, and even grab weapons are incredibly simple to master. Using the tutorial mode is great for learning those harder-to-pull attacks, not to mention a great way to blow off some dust if you haven’t played in awhile.

One of the things that makes SIFU a true kung fu legend-in-the-making is the ability to read opponents’ weak points. Once you’ve filled your gauge, you can press a button to find where to attack them with the best chance of a quick fight. The ability drains quickly though, so even with this little mechanic, you don’t have much thinking time to enact on a proper attack. Nevertheless, it’s a fun little mechanic that adds something of a superpower to your martial arts master.

SIFU also is one gorgeous game to experience! From the run-down Asian towns to the tallest business tower, the realms you fight in are filled with amazing detail and personality. Even more fun is when you’re able to use your environments to your advantage, be it a lone bottle for weaponry or a nice long drop to kick your enemies down.

Despite its six-hour long campaign, there are many reasons to return to SIFU. For one thing, there are the many collectibles you can find to complete the evidence board. And then, there’s how the game ends depending on your past actions. Let’s just say I won’t be surprised if most people get the bad ending…

PROS:

  • Impressive fighting mechanics
  • Beautiful visuals
  • Engrossing story

CONS:

  • Can be frustratingly hard in places

FINAL THOUGHTS:

SIFU is one tough cookie to master, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. The battles fought here are some of the best you'll have experienced in the last few years. You may rage quit many times, but the zen of SIFU will always welcome you back to its beautiful, unforgiving world.

FINAL GRADE:

Promotional consideration provided by Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliams of Tinsley PR. Reviewed on the PS4.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@electricsistahood.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)