9 Monkeys of Shaolin DEALS
Along time ago, in a faraway land, in an arcade with a taste of junk food and hypnotic neon, a genre as simple as it is fun was born: Beat ‘Em Up. The kids, contending for the title of video game grandmaster, had to compete with each other with punches, kicks, and barrels thrown in the air to get the longest combos and, consequently, the highest score in the ranking. The first great warriors competed on Kung-Fu Master, the progenitor of the genre inspired by the martial arts films of the 70s.
Almost forty years later, the arcade’s ancient monks are a vague memory, and those temples dedicated to meditation and videogame training are now history. From Russia, however, comes 9 Monkeys of Shaolin by Sobaka Studio, a game with the clear purpose of reviving the genre starting from that world that had inspired the arcade ancestors. Will it be too big a goal for the Moscow studio?
The story is set in 16th century East Asia, between China’s southern coasts and Japan. We take on the role of Wei Cheng, a young fisherman from the south, who is attacked by a mysterious group of pirate hitmen during a quiet day on the docks of his village. Unfortunately, Wei’s grandfather also appears among the victims. The last affection of a family that has now disappeared and even the young fisherman almost lost his life because of the white-mask executioner. Only the help of the Shaolin monks will allow Wei to survive and seek revenge against those who destroyed his village and everything he was fond of.
After a daring premise, but still equipped with a decent tutorial to get started on the right foot, the good Wei is invited to participate in the monks’ group to find out more about pirates’ threat. From the Shaolin temple, a gaming hub from which to access all the possible activities, you can venture out to the almost thirty missions, each different as regards the setting. Sometimes repetitive regarding the gameplay, which never seems to detach from the simple “face horde, go ahead, face horde.” Not surprisingly, often and willingly, you will find yourself having completed a level without realizing it as there is rarely a clear separation line between the last fight and the previous ones.
Even the five bosses at the end of the chapter fail to be memorable, except slightly the first two. These were quite interesting results, although unfortunately, they had a disposable treatment. The remaining bosses, especially the third one inserted without the slightest logical thread, mirror the classic villains of the moment, with the supreme leader with the desire to obtain enormous power to control the world. A redistribution of the order of appearance and a slight deepening, perhaps even during the basic missions, would certainly have done justice and given more depth to these terrible enemies. They limit themselves to making the boundary between one chapter and another.
If, as we have seen, the narrative component is not too marked and interesting, on the other hand, Sobaka Studio has managed to do a good job on the fights. Wei uses a simple stirrup, but as the story progresses, he accesses enhanced attacks and special techniques to easily take out warriors. Our hero will therefore be able to make use of three types of attack, the basic ones, the upgraded ones, and the seals, and all three categories will be respectively based on three fundamental concepts: attack in the air, to hit enemies in flight, sweep, to make their way. In case we were to be surrounded and heavy, to do much damage, especially to the most protected enemies. Enhanced attacks and seals also consume one of the Chi bars, easily refillable by hitting opponents normally. Finally, each attack can be upgraded within the base by spending the skill points obtained after each level, and you can choose from many additional skills that will enhance the damage or effects.
To customize the fighting style, we will have different types of weapons and equipment that will guarantee bonuses during the clashes, such as the stirrup that poisons opponents after a powerful blow or that allows you to increase the probability of critical hits. Depending on the shoe worn, you can also take a different shot, including the one that inflicts a small amount of damage. There is no shortage of additional cosmetic elements provided by the Japanese masks worn by the five bosses or some game characters’ skins that we can use in-game.
The Beat ‘Em Up formula works if response times to command inputs are practically immediate. Even a minimum latency level would risk compromising the experience and making it frustrating, especially in moments of maximum tension, with a dozen enemies ready to fight us. In this, Sobaka Studio gave the player a good input-screen feeling, with quite fluid fights.
Another strong point of Russian production is the settings. Those proposed in the levels lead us to discover the multiple and immense places that characterize China and Japan. It is no coincidence that we find the mountains at sunset or the ghostly beach where the abandoned whale bones are the protagonists among the graphically best-made levels. Also interesting is the use of totally dark environments to force the player to focus on the lighting effects of the weapons and on the noises to avoid enemies at the right moment.
The second Sobaka Studio test reveals a small fun title to play, with unique backgrounds and landscapes, but which is too repetitive in the Beat ‘Em Up of the past’s stale formula. Fortunately, the Russian team has emphasized the combat component, made dynamic, and is very responsive to commands. And which makes us look away from many small technical errors and the flatness of the disposable characters, which, if wisely exploited, would raise the narrative level.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin
A fun title at the right point, with different lights and many shadows that spoil the experience.
- Enough 0%