Sifu analysis, a magnificent tribute to the harshness of martial arts

It seemed impossible to make evolve a genre as veteran and defined as beat ’em up, but as with martial arts, the limits are only in our minds. Sifu is one of the first surprises of 2022, if we have the perseverance to appreciate it.

Behind this game is the Sloclap group, which has already proven its experience with martial arts in the highly recommended Absolver. Now, we plunge completely into the essence of kung-fu and Asian action cinema, within a journey of revenge and self-discovery.

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Sifu tells us the story of a young martial arts apprentice, who can be a boy or a girl as we choose (it does not affect his movements), who sees how his father dies while trying to defend his home from fearsome but familiar invaders. We don’t know exactly what they were looking for or what their relationship is, but we do want revenge.

8 years later, as adults and with all the basics of kung-fu learned, we embark on an adventure that lasts a entire night, in which we have to find the 5 leaders who orchestrated that massacre and finish them off.

We start playing when we are 20 years old and we have to overcome five large areas. At the end of each of them, the corresponding final boss awaits us, hard as cracking open walnuts with the edge of the hand.

On his surface, Sifu is a beat ’em up in the style of classics like Streets of Rage or Final Fight, but three-dimensional. With just a couple of buttons, we can throw all kinds of punches at the thugs that come our way, but soon we realize that there is much, much more to discover.

The first thing that calls The attention is that the game has a very high difficulty from the beginning. And it is here that we cannot pound buttons to see what comes out. This is a very technical fighting game, in which we must be totally focused to know when to block, feint or move away. We can’t go Rambo.

To understand it better, you have to know the button layout. We have a light attack and a strong attack, which we can logically combine to give rise to all kinds of combos. Another button is used to pick up weapons or to attack a fallen enemy.

The key is in the triggers: one of them is used to move away (in case we are surrounded by enemies, for example), but the fundamental thing is in what we use to protect ourselves. If we leave it pressed and press a direction at the right time, we can dodge a blow in extremis, which is essential.

These dodges are crucial in the duels against the final bosses and tough enemies on foot and require fighting our instinct to hit them out of sheer nerve.

As in real martial arts, we have to take a deep breath, face the opponent, dodge his attacks with precision and wait for the right moment when he lowers his guard to counterattack.

By combining dodges, coverage and escape we manage to break the opponent’s defense, which can leave him defenseless for a few moments. If you’re low on health, you’ll be prompted to use a devastating final attack, pressing two buttons at once.

These attacks are not only spectacular, but they also cause us to recover a small portion of health. In fact, except a few small exceptions, this is the only way to heal ourselves that the game gives us, so h Oh, you know how to take advantage of it. If we chain more than one fallen enemy, the hero will be “on fire” and will eliminate the following with fewer hits.

In addition to our health bar, we have a concentration bar that fills up as we hit and, once full, allows you to execute unstoppable special attacks at key moments, such as a sweep that knocks the enemy down or an “eye poke”, which stuns them for a moment.

Finally, we have a balance beam, which fills up as we take hits. If this becomes saturated, our character will stagger and be at the mercy of the bad guys, so it’s wise to get away from time to time so that the balance restores itself.

Although our fists and kicks are crucial, we will also find weapons that give rise to unique movements and cause more damage, such as batons, white weapons or single-use objects such as bottles. We can use them in melee or throw them to hit by surprise.

All this already makes the fights very crumbly, but we have not yet entered the most original aspect of Sifu: aging If we get hit too much, our character dies, but we can make him re rise up in the same place thanks to a mysterious power.

The price to pay is that the hero ages every time he rises. The first time, we only age one year, so we go from 20 to 21. But if we get killed again, we will age 2 more years. If they kill us again, we will age 3 years…

Every time we start a new ten, not only does our appearance change, but we start doing more damage with each hit, but we will have less Health. If we reach 70 years old, the next death will be the last and we will have to restart the level.

There are certain “tricks” to prevent our aging. On the one hand, if after dying we manage to kill key enemies, we will reduce the death counter. So, if the next death was “intended” to age us two years but we got a key victory, the next death will age us only one year. Something is something.

Every time we start a new scenario, we start with the age at which we finished the previous one So, if we get through the first phase at 60 years old, we’ll have to start the second phase as some grown-ups…

But cla ro, if we die of old age or directly drop out, when we re-enter that level we would start with those 60 years, not with more. We always start with the youngest age at which we reached the level.

What does this imply? That, even if we manage to reach, for example, level 2, if we do it when we are too old it would surely be convenient for us to repeat level 1, to improve our performance and reach level 2 younger. Thus, the ” replay value” (that is, the times we will replay) is gigantic.

There is an extra factor that gives even more play: our hint board. The hero wants to find out what really happened 8 years ago, so he collects clues such as letters or brochures in the levels, which are automatically reflected on the board. Whatever is on the board always remains, even if we die.

This is important, because on that board we can add some keys or cards that give us access to routes alternatives of the level, which are usually faster.Thus, it may be that we advance a lot in the level to Even if we end up being very old, because maybe we will unlock a more comfortable route that we can follow later, being younger.

The Sifu levels also hide some dragon statuettes. We can use each one only once and, by doing so, we gain the right to unlock improvements that apply until we die permanently: more damage with weapons, more concentration capacity…

In order to unlock them, we need a number of experience points, points in general or even have a certain age. If we are too old, we will not be able to unlock some advantages… You see, this fighting game is very fine even in the advantages it gives us.

In those same figurines or every time we get killed, we can invest our experience points in learning new moves: a charged attack, new punch and kick combos… Some of them are extremely useful, but if they kill us, we will lose them. The only solution is tospend their price multiplied by 6, which will unlock them permanently.

At this point, it will be clear to you that Sifu is not your typical fighting game. strict, which once well understood can make your life a lot easier.

But most likely, at first You may find the game extremely frustrating at the start. It has very, very hard fights (especially at level 2, the one in The Club) and you will surely be amazed more than once to see how you age without stopping, without giving you time to land more than a couple of hits.

So much so, that in Sloclap they have taken note of the comments of those who have been able to try the game before launch and have lowered the difficulty of the very tough final bosses a bit. Still, we assure you that the game’s final combat is downright insane…

But don’t be intimidated by our cowardly comments: Sifu is a game that’s totally worth it. Just like in the old Asian martial arts movies or in your favorite anime, you may at first think that the challenges are impossible, but by observing, persevering and knowing when to do what, you will improve almost without realizing it. .

So much so that when you’ve beaten a few levels and come back to the first one, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to It seems to you something that seemed unfathomable before, a bit like when Neo discovers that he is the Chosen One in the Matrix…

That is The feeling of improving and breaking the system is addictive and exciting at times. It’s been a long time since a game kept us awake as much as this one, even though it has frustrated us (a lot) on occasions.

To all this we must add its particular audiovisual section. Logically, Sloclap is not a gigantic studio that can conceive technical blockbusters, so they have made a virtue of necessity and have conceived a simple, simple, but elegant graphic section.

The characters have a style close to anime, simple as well as expressive when it has to be. The same thing happens with the scenarios, which sometimes reveal their seams with some pixelated texture, but they are well designed to get us into the setting. By the way, Sifu has a photo mode so you can play with your most “crazy” poses.

And it is that it drinks from the topics of these martial arts stories , from a marginal neighborhood full of criminals to a luxurious business tower. s, which give a very creative side and are reminiscent of movies like Kill Bill.

It is, in short, a surprising visual pleasure at many times, thanks largely to the games of cameras and some overwhelming fighting movements, which make us believe ourselves Bruce Lee himself.

The music has another Lee, named Howard, who mixes the melodies traditional Chinese with techno compositions and dynamic changes depending on whether we are hitting, running away or being hit.

By the way, if you play with PS5, the DualSense provides an extra layer of immersion, with vibration very detailed depending on whether there are neon lights nearby, rain…

The sound of your speaker gives a lot of entertainment and helps to orient us (with sounds of breaking glass, for example) in key moments of the fight.

All this crystallizes in an experience that, yes, is mega strict at times, but But it turns out to be exciting when we start chaining combos, knocking down baddies and “dancing” among them while we distribute tow. Surely we can consider it “the Dark Souls of beat ’em ups”, but like him, it has irresistible facets.