The last time I tried pulling a move remotely resembling Kung Fu, I ended up with a pulled muscle and a bruised ego. A hefty doctor’s bill and an all-observing wife have kept me away from trying to repeat the stunt. But when a code for XBLA title Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise landed in my inbox, I figured the worst I could end up with is a sore thumb. So a quick meal of instant noodles later, I was back in the world of Kung Fu!
The game starts off with your character embarking on a journey to avenge something…or someone, but you’re not playing this arcade beat ‘em up for the story, are you? If you do insist on one, there is a story of sorts tacked on and told with the help of some decent water colour comic book-like panels. But a couple of minutes into the game and you’ll be hard pressed to recall what just happened in those comic book panels.
Thankfully, the visuals do not suffer the same fate as the story. The cel-shaded graphical look goes really well with the whole Oriental setting, cherry blossoms and all. The look of the game is reminiscent of the visual style of Street Fighter 4, which is high praise for a downloadable game. A smooth animation system further complements the look, especially when you are busy showcasing exquisitely choreographed Kung Fu moves.
Getting your head around the controls is pretty straight forward – one button to attack, one to block, and a combo to activate Chi mode, which initiates a flurry of kicks and punches. Mastering these moves, however, is a completely different story. An attack that works on one enemy will not work on another, necessitating the need to learn different combinations. The game just loves to throw a mix of enemies at you as you progress through the levels.
The levels here consist of a succession of arenas, woven together with a barely there story. Most of the arenas consist of a simple approach – beat the minions before taking on the boss. All of this happens in a 3D world, which is a departure for the usual 2D-based brawlers. Some of the levels do put you back in the 2D plane, but for the most part, you will be playing the game in a 3D arena, free to move any way you want.
Gameplay can be fun in bursts as long as you aren’t turned off by the occasional difficulty spikes. Some of the boss battles can feel frustrating, more so when the game resorts to cheap tricks like regenerating health bars for bosses. At other times, the enemies could swarm you and prevent you from getting back up for a fair fight.
Kung Fu Strike also features a local co-op mode just in case you wish to bring over a friend to help you get past that annoying boss. If you would rather beat each other to a pulp, you will have to beat the game to unlock versus mode. Maybe that would be incentive enough to beat the game.
Back on my comfy couch, I admit I did enjoy the game for a while, but at 800 MS Points a pop, I would be hard pressed to recommend buying it. There are better XBLA titles out there that could use those points.