Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior’s Rise review for XBLA

Platform: XBLA
Also On: PC
Publisher: 7Sixty
Developer: Qooc Soft
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Leaderboards

Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior?s Rise comes to Xbox Live Arcade courtesy of developer Qooc Soft, being ported over from its PC release just this past July. It?s an action game focused solely on combat, offering up 20 or so stages that act more as arenas to fight against numerous enemies, with every fourth stage typically culminating in some type of boss battle. There?s a few oddball stages tossed in for variety, like a stage that tasks you with exploding 120 bombs over a set period of time, but for the most part it?s gameplay concepts are fairly straight forward.

It?s also pretty fun to play, but can be frustratingly hard as well. The game isn?t too shy about its difficulty, and I certainly found myself needing to ratchet the difficulty level down a notch even while playing on the standard Normal mode. Thankfully the game doesn?t do much to punish the user if you need to change difficulty, allowing you to not only do it in the middle of the campaign, but also allowing you to switch difficulty after every stage and even in the middle of a checkpoint if you like. Even on Easy the game can provide a sizeable challenge late game, and regardless of difficulty it can really test your skill as a player.

And while the combat is challenging, it also feels pretty fair. I was generally at fault for my own screw-ups, oftentimes not blocking or deflecting blows like I should have been, or not reading an enemy?s tell well enough, or breaking their defenses with the appropriate button press. Only a couple boss fights really stood out to me as being overly punishing, but for the most part I felt like if I practiced at the game?s mechanics a bit more, and become better at timing button presses, I?d eventually become quite good at most stages.

And that?s part of the big hook here, replaying levels to increase your overall score throughout the campaign. Each stage offers up a ranking system based on how quickly you finished the stage, and what your overall end score was. Dying and restarting at checkpoints will lower your overall score, impacting the rank you receive at the end. Each stage also has a series of bonus objectives, which can then earn you extra cash upon mission completion, which can then be spent on new moves, upgrades, and equipment to slot on your character.

Besides unlocking new moves and equipment, there?s a neat mechanic here that allows you to earn minions to call into battle. These A.I. controlled teammates will help out in a fight when you collect a specific item drop from downed enemies, and for a small cost you can call in however many friends you?ve currently collected. Playing through the campaign once didn?t give me the opportunity to unlock every army character present, so I assume that the unlocks for this, skills, and equipment, are either random or tied into the difficulty. The game doesn?t really explain how the unlock process works all that well, but again, it adds incentive to play through a second or third time.

Of course there?s also the online leaderboards which allow you to compare individual stage scores and overall campaign scores too. A little disappointing is the lack of online play, and while the game does feature local co-op, and a V.S. mode, having the ability to do both online would have been more ideal. Especially considering this is a download only title to begin with, requiring those of you purchasing the game to be online in the first place.

Kung Fu Strike features a pretty hefty number of enemies to fight against, and boss fights that will really require some skill in both deflecting blows and knowing when to attack and retreat. There are basic enemy soldiers that are easy enough to pound away on, but you?ll quickly come across foes that will require you to break through their defenses, with the button prompt to do so helpfully displayed over their heads. Boss fights will not only require you to break through defenses, but will also require you to make judicial use of Chi moves, which take a bit of time to charge up but can land some devastating, critical attacks if timed correctly. Overall, Kung Fu Strike?s combat system is really fairly deep, and while it might sound like it could get a bit tired just pummeling foes over and over again throughout the campaign, the variety in the combat is enough to keep it from ever overstaying its welcome.

If you?re looking for an entertaining concept infused with old school, Shaw Bros. style kung fu aesthetics, then Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior?s Rise can certainly fit that bill. It?s a pretty fun, unique experience on XBLA, with some definite challenge to back it up. It?s not entirely flawless, packing a bit of aggravation in with its stiff difficulty, and the lack of online play is sort of disappointing, but for $10 I definitely think it?s worth picking up.

Grade: B