Publisher: Warner Bros’
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Epic Game Store
Release Date: February 8, 2022 (original), November 8 (Switch)
Just released today is perhaps one of the more memorable fighting games released in recent memory. Sifu performed extremely well on both Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, selling more than a million copies in total. And they may very well add to that total after today. And Sifu being on the Nintendo Switch seems like the perfect move for a game that I wanted to just keep playing after the first fight.
From Parisian developer Sloclap, this isn’t their first attempt at making a roguelike fighter. Their first game, Absolver was well-received, and was praised for some of its innovation in the genre, and they decided to take that a step further here.
An important thing to note for me reviewing this game is that I do not particularly seek out fighting games. In fact, it can often be quite the opposite. I’m a serial button masher, often deking out wins in Super Smash Bros’ Ultimate or Mortal Kombat out of pure luck and button mashing combos rather than out of pure skill. That strategy has served me well against my friends, it did not against Sifu’s increasingly difficult AI enemies. Maybe I’m just bad at fighting games.
That’s not a bad thing. Granted, if I weren’t granted the review I may have well counted my losses and moved on, probably to go back to playing Call of Duty, or doing a new play through of The Witcher 2. Instead, I refused to admit that I’m a terrible fighter and decided that I was going to continue, and boy I’m glad I did.
Revenge, revenge, revenge
Everything about Sifu is centered on revenge. Your character’s sole purpose in the game and his life is centered around getting that very tasty revenge. The game opens with you controlling the main antagonist, Yang, fighting the students of a martial arts school. Yang then kills the school master, and has one of his goons (later called “The Botanist”) to cut your throat. You survive because of the talisman in your hand at the time, which is meant to explain why when you die you revive, just a handful of years older. The story is a rewarding experience, if you can resist the urge to throw your hands up in the air and simply give up.
I found myself increasingly frustrated with the challenge that Sifu offered, and perhaps that’s on me for perhaps going too easy on myself in my gaming choices. I’m fresh off of playing LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, and that’s no Dark Souls.. I buy games to feel rewarded for the things I do, and for that, Sifu delivers. That unprompted fist thrown in the air when I finally beat a boss at a respectable age was an excitement I haven’t felt from a game in a long time.
The challenge provided is rewarding
Sifu can be rewarding, if you’re willing to put in the work. You’re not going to speed run this game, and more importantly, you’re not going to be successful in your first attempt. You won’t even be successful in your third, fourth, or fifth. If you’re successful in your sixth, I will give you a cookie. No for real, I will send you a box of cookies.
The problem with Sifu, and games like Sifu is that they run the risk of being too hard for their own good. There’s an amazing story here, but if you’re getting frustrated by even the second boss, then you’re on the edge of giving up playing the game in its entirety. We don’t want that.
Sifu, for its credit, has plenty of ways for you to mitigate this challenge and improve upon every attempt. Think of it as a rogue like. You’re definitely going to die, but at least you’ll walk away with at least one new power up. How you go about getting those is up to you. A power-up I targeted for myself was making sure I would heal as much as possible during takedowns. It was the first thing I maxed out, and it benefitted me when facing multiple enemies. If I could isolate them as much as possible, the damage I took would be bearable as I could regain most of that back with well-timed takedowns. I also poured some experience into being able to use the environment. It’s an incredibly effective crowd control tactic, though it won’t do you much good against bosses.
A benefit, too, is with a swift and clean takedown of an enemy, you can get a year taken off your death sentence. Say my next death carries a toll of seven years, I can get that down to six if I do a clean perfect takedown on one of those harder enemies. Granted, the benefit means little, as they’ll likely kill me once or twice before I do it.
I will say, the difficulty of the game is made even harder when playing on the Switch with the joy-con controllers. You feel more in control when using the Pro Controller. I found myself getting frustrated when playing the game on my lunch break and the joy-con just was not adhering to my “up-up-X” input. I’m simply trying to do a forward kick, bro, why make this harder for me than it already is?
The Switch has its flaws
I haven’t been shy of this when I review games on the Switch, and I won’t be shy here. The Switch is old, and is showing its age. But this could also potentially be an optimization problem. Technically speaking, the game is sound. But there were some moments where a frame rate drop could interrupt a fight. Load times were embarrassingly long, and I’ve already mentioned some of the issues I had simply using the joy-con controllers.
Sifu (Nintendo Switch) Score: 9/10
One of the best fighting titles in years is now on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s one that if willing to take a beating, you should pick it up. Just be sure to use that Pro Controller, or you’re in for a world of hurt that even Slocap didn’t wish upon you.