released on Feb 08, 2022

A third person action game featuring intense hand-to-hand combat, it puts you in control of a young Kung-Fu student on his path of revenge throughout the city.

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(Played before 2023)
Excellent combat. Like, really, really excellent. I absolutely love it. But that is pretty much the game. It is a kung-fu scene, not a kung-fu movie. The levels look beautiful, but you are doing the same gameplay loop in every single one with a different background. But it is still great even with that, and really rewards you for getting good at the game.

I wish I was better at this game :(

Sifu is an unrelenting challenge that demands a lot of learning from the player in order to complete and later master the game. Its a daunting experience if you are unfamiliar with Sloclap's combat loop, but if you give the game and yourself enough time you will come to love it. This is a game that will inherently turn some players away by its difficulty. Similar to Sekiro its a game where there are no shortcuts to success: you have to learn the skills necessary to win. Combat is fast and flashy, and there is an incredible sense of empowerment when you dominate an enemy. I'd be cautious to recommend to friends who might not want to commit the time or effort, but for anybody who is looking for an incredibly fun and visually stunning challenge, look no further than Sifu.

Sifu is the purest translation of the arcade format into a 3D action game I’ve ever seen. I’m in complete awe of this game’s structure, the age mechanic isn’t just a simple analogue to older continue systems, it has its own nuances that turns the act of credit feeding into a complex process with wide-ranging consequences. Part of me wishes there were more benefits to growing older on purpose, like say specific moves that you could only use in your old age. That would introduce more trade-offs to the system and also make sense contextually, but would probably be too unwieldy and undermine the game’s 1CC ethos to an extent. Still, the age mechanic is nothing short of genius, serving as a set of training wheels for newcomers while also providing arcade veterans with a meaty challenge to wrap their heads around.
This is to say nothing of the game’s level design. Not only is there a great sense of flow to the encounters, but the game includes loads of unlockable shortcuts to take advantage of. This is great for several reasons: firstly, it doesn’t water down the experience of players going for 1CCs since shortcuts can only be taken on subsequent playthroughs. Secondly, it allows newcomers to retry tricky areas faster (it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the only level with a shortcut directly to the boss is also the level with the most intimidating boss). And lastly, it just seems wise from a marketing perspective to capitalize on the current infatuation with Souls-style looping level design. But Sifu isn’t just invoking the Souls series for clout, the ideas it pilfers are all smartly applied to strengthen the game’s arcade ambitions and ease modern audiences into that 1CC mindset.
And this leads me to the combat. It’s immediately apparent that Sifu is copying Sekiro’s posture system more or less verbatim, and I’ll admit that this was initially a huge red flag for me. Sekiro is one of the least interesting games I’ve ever played, and it’s all thanks to that posture system which turns combat into an endless parry fest. Parry systems in single player games generally bore me to death as they provide a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking Sifu would play out in a similar way, especially in regards to the game’s bosses which initially appear as basic call and response fare where you and the boss take turns abusing the same two attack strings over and over.
But I think Sifu ultimately avoids Sekiro’s pitfalls simply by having a massive breadth of defensive options. There’s the parry of course, but you also have a dodge, high and low weave maneuvers, and a multitude of attacks which alter your hurtbox and can be used to avoid damage. Each option comes with their own strengths and weaknesses and can lead to their own distinct follow up moves. So while the parry is strong, it’s not a centralizing mechanic like it is in many other action games. Effective use of every defensive option leads to play that is not only more expressive, but more efficient than simply spamming the parry button.
Bosses aside, the general combat is strong as hell, translating the crowd control appeal of 2D beat-em-ups nearly perfectly. The noticeable amount of move assist on your character’s attacks can give the impression that the game is devaluing its own spacing game somewhat, but there’s still a strong emphasis on positional awareness in the forms of environmental weapons, wallhits, and throws. There’s also just a tremendous feeling of consistency to its combat, with all attacks being governed by a high-mid-low ruleset that allows for an endless number of challenges to be derived from an extremely simple set of building blocks. It’s a system full of minor details that flow in an extremely logical way, enemies can even kill each other if you bait their attacks properly. There’s a lot more to Sifu than people give it credit for, but I’m no expert at the game so I’ll just defer to my buddy Ziad who put together an extremely comprehensive video guide to the game’s combat system, give it a watch if you’re struggling or feel like you’re missing something.
I’m not head-over-heels in love with Sifu just yet – I have a hard time connecting with its flat graphical style and sterile writing – but it’s a game I plan on digging into for quite some time. Even if I feel there are stronger combat systems out there, I can’t think of a 3D action game as thoughtfully constructed on a macro-design level. And more than anything, I just find it extremely heartening that a small project as openly inspired by arcade games and motherfucking God Hand as this has been able to find mainstream success. Video games aren’t dead just yet!