By: Sean Penn
A game of mastery, skill and death. Sifu is one of the most creative and difficult games I have played to date.
In Sifu, players take on the role of a Kung Fu master on a quest to take revenge on a group of martial artists who murdered his master, or in Cantonese, his Sifu. Players travel through Chinese locales beating up street thugs and ruffians with their bare hands. The gameplay delivers the adrenaline rush of a true street fight all the while crushing players with defeat.
In Sifu, every time players die they are brought back to life by a pendant. But after being revived, their age is increased. This is a double-edged sword. With age comes mastery and power, but the body becomes more frail. Think of the Glass Cannon style of characters. However, players don’t just age year by year, they age by the number of times they have died. When players die for the first time, their death counter will be one, and their age will be raised from 20 to 21. When they die a second time, their counter will be two, and their age will be raised from 21 to 23 and so on.
This game is so fresh in a market of clones and reskins, that I absolutely adore it. But some may dislike and even abhor this system.
Sifu is extraordinarily difficult and can be infuriating at times. One wrong move can lead to an early death or even having to restart a level. The biggest hurdle in the game is when level is completed, players start the next level at the age they were upon completion of the previous level. If the first level takes players until age 70 to beat, they will start level two at age 70. This mechanic makes going back and beating older levels at a younger age a necessity rather than a choice.
There are some redeeming factors about the system mechanics. As players choose abilities from the skill tree, they have the chance to buy them multiple times to unlock them forever. This is incredibly useful so players can spend their experience points on better skills in more difficult fights later on.
As a Kung Fu master, players kick and punch their way through almost endless waves of unique enemies and manipulate the environment to their advantage by throwing bottles, chairs and tables at enemies. Over the course of the game, players will pick up a variety of weapons, such as bo staffs, swords, pipes and bats and create chain combos to utterly destroy opponents. It truly begins to feel like a true ‘80s action movie hero.
Sifu is one game that can and will likely be polarizing. Its difficulty will turn many people away and make them hate it, but the fluid and intense combat will draw many different fans from various genres of games. Action, fighting, Rogue-like and Souls-like fans will all be attracted to Sifu.
If the normal or master modes are too difficult, switch to easy. On my first playthrough, I was 50% through the game when I faced a particularly difficult boss, and I could not beat it. So, I switched to easy, and I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay experience.
Whatever you do, please pick up a copy of Sifu and try it for yourself. Sifu is currently available on Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Nintendo Switch and PC. It will be released on Xbox March 28.
*writes under pseudonym