We have seen a variety of fighting games in the past. From multiplayer to RPGs to full-blown single-player action. But we didn’t have a roguelike Kung fu fighting game with its own learning curve. Sifu is one such game.
It Begins With A Fight
The game wastes no time and takes you straight to the fight. Fighting in this game is a lot of fun. Especially when you are fighting with good music in the background, it makes you pumped to fight the best way. You have your light and heavy attacks that you can mix together in some kind of combos. The game already has a few combos set for you that you can utilize. Some are a mix of light and heavy attacks while some are different.
Sloclap’s previous game Absolver is similar to this game in many ways. For someone like me who never played Absolver, this was a completely fresh new experience. But anyone who has experienced Absolver will be able to dive right into it.
Along with the combos you can also use focus which basically slows down time and shows you weakness for you to well ‘FOCUS’ on. In order to use focus, you need to build it up; which can be done by block/parry or dodge which I will talk about a bit later. Usually, you would see only 1 weakness in enemies when you use the focus mode but you can unlock more.
You can also utilize handheld weapons such as a bat, knives, sticks and more. You can either use them to attack or just throw them into someone’s face stunning them. Other weapons such as bottles are throwables. But you also need to make sure that you don’t throw them all the time because like your enemies can dodge stuff too.
The fights in this game are never one on one. It’s usually around a group of people, so you need to keep on moving to try to take them down one by one. If you are cornered, then everyone will start attacking and you will become defenseless.
And speaking of defense, you have the ability to either block/parry or dodge. It’s quite self-explanatory on how these work but the biggest thing is timing. I prefer dodging a lot more because I cannot time parry in the right way. Dodging gives you enough of an opening to strike back and these enemies will not wait, they will strike whenever they find an opening. So be ready to be defensive.
The enemies are not limited to only one type either. There is a variety of them for which you need to change your strategy. There are gangs who you fight most of the time and can be taken down quickly. Then comes some tougher fighters who are more aggressive, so now you need to be more defensive, let them attack as you dodge their moves and find an opening. The toughness keeps on increasing as more new types of fighters emerge. There are also big men who will crush you if they catch you as they will try to grab you and take you down and give you massive damage. They are scarier if you miss that dodge. So you need to make sure to time it right to create that opening. In the end, comes the boss and for them, you always need to be defensive. For bosses, I mostly used dodge because they gave me the best opening to strike back and it’s very hard to block/parry.
With all of this being said, this game is much better when played with a controller. It will be much easier for you to try out combos and dodge and parry and fight against enemies. So I would highly recommend a controller if you have one.
The Cycle of Life & Death
Obviously, the biggest thing here is if you die, your death counter increases by 1 and you age up and you also get revived at the same exact spot. So if you have died 5 times, you will age up by 5 after you revive. Every time you die, your ability to give damage increases but your health meter also decreases.
If you age up to 70 & above and you die, that would be your last chance and now you will have to start the mission all over again. So you could die near a boss at the age of 74 and you would need to start the entire mission again.
As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t played games like these. So yes I died at the hands of normal enemies too which increased my death counter. But that’s the best part of the game, replayability. You try again and again to understand how these enemies fight and hopefully not die too much or not die at all.
Speaking of replayability, in each mission you collect a few items that help you understand what’s happening around this particular group. You maintain a board that gives information about the boss that you want to defeat. But some items that you collect are very important. Things like key cards or keys to doors are such items that once you collect, stay with you forever. These are used on certain doors which were locked then but now you can open it and reach the boss quicker. So even if you died in the boss fight, you can still use the key card once you start the mission again which I thought was very cool. It’s more forgiving to players to utilize items like these instead of taking a long route. Sometimes these would let you reach the boss directly without even fighting anyone.
You can also choose to replay a chapter on your current run to improve your age without hurting the progress of that run. This was such an awesome feature to have. You can replay your previous missions in the hopes to complete them by not ageing too much and continuing your journey ahead. You would’ve played enough of those missions that you would know the kind of enemies that will be coming ahead and you will be much faster and quicker. It’s funny because the amount of time I took to complete the first 2 missions in my first run was much much longer than the time I took to complete it again.
But A Fighter Needs His Upgrades
As you keep on fighting, you have the chance to upgrade your character. There are one time upgrades in each mission that you can unlock. These one-time upgrades contain 9 upgrades but you can only unlock one. These 9 upgrades are categorized into 3. One can be unlocked with age, second with points earned as you fight and 3rd with the XP you gain as you take the enemies down. All these upgrades are very beneficial with one of them being resetting your death counter to 0 by utilizing 1000 XP.
But this XP is also used in the skill tree. The skill tree is quite self-explanatory. You get to unlock new skills. These new skills could be new combos, new focus moves, new defensive techniques and more. You can unlock this either before you start the mission when you are in your house or unlock it after you are dead. But the skill tree will always reset once you finish a mission which means for every mission, you need to unlock those skills again.
That to me wasn’t the best because skills such as kicking an object to the enemy so that they fall should’ve been with me from the start. But also all the skills that I unlocked should also stay with me throughout the game. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. So you need to really farm the XP to unlock more skills.
The biggest difficulty of this game is not only managing to not get crowded by enemies and time the fights but also to understand how the boss fights. Each boss fight has 2 stages. I categorize them as a regular self and a special self. This 2nd stage that I call “special self” represents the boss and what they believe in and the type of fighter they are. Fighting that stage can be harder than the first stage.
As you progress further, bosses become difficult which is quite obvious. I for one had a hard time figuring out how to dodge and when to dodge. I would die a lot in those boss fights which was frustrating. But after taking a few breaks and trying again, I was able to figure it out.
One Of A Kind Sifu
Sifu is visually very aesthetic. The colours in the game are different, pleasing and very attractive. While the storyline of the game is very bare-bones and is used to just set the tone of the game, it’s enough for you as a player to go on a quest for revenge.
The way each mission is presented is completely different and unique. You would also get new camera angles that make you feel like Jackie Chan going through a hallway or enemies. The lighting and colour palette in this game is also so unique in each and every mission especially when it comes to bosses. I have to give props to the team that worked on such amazing locations and environment designs.
With each boss, the colour palette would be different with a completely different environment that will tell you about the personality of these bosses. It’s quite a sight to see the environment around them change when you go to the 2nd stage. It’s like you are in this supernatural world and anything is possible.
Music is also a big part of the game. It will always turn your fighting mode on. Some music also follows the visual cues. An example of that was in the 2nd mission where I was going through this hallway filled with RGB Tube Lights and they were lighting up with the audio cues and there was also a light music beat following it. It was such a wonderful thing to see.
The Story Of Revenge
With a very simple goal in mind, your character is set on taking revenge against the group that infiltrated your house when you were a kid. To take down the group, you need to take its leader down. But in order to take down the leader, you first have to take down everyone else before him. There are 4 other enemies or bosses that you need to take down first to get to the leader. They are The Botanist, The Fighter, The Artist, The CEO. After you take them all down, it’s down to The Leader. These 5 bosses are basically game levels that you will go through.
The characters in this game are not something like you would see in any adventure or story-based game. The biggest characters are you and the bosses you fight. You are on this path of revenge and are ready to take on anyone. The first few bosses are your general kind of “Let’s finish this” but progressing forward, I did see a change in personality where some are done with their path of vengeance and just want peace and advise you to go on that path as well but since you are driven by revenge, you obviously don’t listen.
But on the other hand, once you go to that second stage of a boss fight. All those advice are thrown down the gutter and now they just want to kill you.
In a world of fighting games where most of them are either online or have a massive storey around them that you can enjoy for hours, Sifu takes a different approach. It does end up being a roguelike but the game catches your attention with the way you fight. It’s always fun to go through these locations and take all of the enemies down one by one. Smash a few bottles on their face, take them down with a finisher and test your skills with a boss who apparently starts following social distancing. Anyone who has watched martial arts movies or Kung fu movies would really enjoy this game.
Sifu can easily be one of The Best Indie Games of 2022.
FINAL RATING: RECOMMENDED
ABOUT ABHI JHA
Hi, I am Abhi from Press Start 2 Play. By being inspired by Kojima’s skills of video editing and production with the Death Stranding trailer, I edit the videos and make this podcast look flashy and fun. I also keep everyone in check so that the discussions doesn’t spiral into infinity and beyond. And also enjoy as a fan boi of video games.
Official review coming soon.