Sifu launched last February on PlayStation and PC and quickly built up a passionate core due to its hard-hitting action and interesting “aging” mechanic. Now, nine months later, Sloclap’s martial arts brawler has arrived on the Switch with a solid port that sacrifices none of what made the original version so great.
You start the game by infiltrating a rain-soaked temple, defeating the students found inside, eventually joining up with allies as you progress through the building. After reaching the top, it is revealed that you are Yang, who fights the temple sifu and kills him as his child watches from a closet. This child is later killed by one of Yang’s associates. However, a medallion in the child’s hand revives them. Hereinafter referred to as “Hero”, the child is the protagonist of the game who, after reaching the age of 20, seeks revenge.
Sifu tasks you with fighting your way through five stages to defeat those involved and ultimately find Yang. The basic mechanic involves the medallion that revived your character in childhood, which gives the hero the ability to cheat death. However, this comes at a price: each time you die, you age one year and a death meter increases by one. So you start the game at 20, you die once, your counter goes up by one, and now you’re at 21. If you die again, your death counter is at two, and you’re now at 23. That culminates with your first death. age 70 being your last. However, defeating enemies can reverse this meter to lower your age at death.
So what happens over the years? Each decade, the hero visibly ages. The older you get, the more damage you take, but you also deal more damage. The game has unlockable skills using points earned on death or after reaching a shrine. These can be unlocked for a specific race, or they can be made permanent by purchasing them five more times after an unlock (this doesn’t need to be done on a race, though). Once you reach your next decade, you lose access to a set of unlockable abilities for that race (aside from those you’ve already unlocked, of course). Don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is.
When you replay levels, you can start the level at the youngest age at which you have already reached the level. So if you reach level two at age 54, you can start the next race from that level at the same age.
The fight is the star of the show. Sifu draws inspiration from classic films such as Gareth Evans’ Lowering and Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece Old boy, paying homage to the hardcore hand-to-hand combat scenes of these films. You are equipped with light and heavy attack, dodge, and guard/parry as your basic moveset. Light and heavyweights can be chained into their own specific combos, as well as specific directional inputs combined with your buttons for certain moves. One area where this fight really shines is how it challenges you to have complete command of your surroundings. If you see a stool on the floor or a bottle on the bar, these can be kicked at your enemy at any time. You can also back enemies into walls to make these hits worse, or even throw them off a balcony or knock them down a stairwell.
What’s this batman arkham the combat would feel like it had the mechanical complexity of a game like Devil May Cry. Often, you face several enemies at the same time; wearing down their stun meters allows you to perform a takedown move much like those in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Sifu’s fight feels incredibly good. The combination of visual and audio effects gives every shot a meaty feel, which really nails that visceral experience of watching the best kind of action movie.
It’s a good thing that you can come back from death to Sifu, because you will die. A lot. Sifu is tough as nails, there’s no way out. Learning and making full use of dodges and parries is essential to your survival, as are the games that inspired it, like Capcom’s God Hand. Once you get the hang of it, there’s no such thing; the satisfaction gained from finally knocking down a boss that has been destroying you for ages is worth it.
If this difficulty doesn’t sound like you, developer Sloclap has fortunately added options since launch to help you out. Along with new Student and Master difficulties to make it easier or harder, respectively, the game also features a list of gameplay modifiers that you can unlock after completion that can make your experience easier or harder on your own. discretion.
The Switch edition runs at 30FPS compared to elsewhere, and aside from a dot at the start of the first tier, there aren’t many major frame drops that we noticed when docking. The handheld tends to fall a little more often, but this usually happens when walking, rather than during actual battles, thankfully. Visually, the game carried over to more modest hardware quite well, thanks in part to its striking art style. There’s a film grain effect that’s super noticeable in docked mode; while it’s by no means groundbreaking, it just stands out, especially against the white lights of the museum scene. Initial loads are also quite long compared to the PS5; however, they are completely manageable and only really look bad in direct comparison.
Sifu was one of the best games of the year when it launched on other platforms, and it’s no different now on Switch. Its fierce combat that pushes you to the limits of your skills, coupled with a smart aging mechanic, makes it one of the most satisfying gaming experiences in the beat ’em up genre. While the Switch port is obviously downgraded a bit from the PS5 version, it’s still a more than worthwhile option for Nintendo-only gamers and those who want to try out this kung fu brawler on the go.
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