Kings of King Fu
Developer: Jae Lee Productions
Publisher: Digital Tribe Games
The whole aim of this game is to play on the nostalgia of the kung fu films of old. You can see the influence of films like “Enter the Dragon” and “Drunken Master”. Most games have a rendition of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, (Lei Wulong and Forest Lee from the ‘Tekken’ series just off the top of my head,) but this game aims to out do the few references with each fighter being a rendition of a kung fu star. There are a few I remember but can’t remember the name off the star. One is either Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (from “Game of Death”), Jim Kelly (from “Enter the Dragon”) or just Afro Samurai. I go with Kareem as it’s a tall bloke and his match start animation mimics his appearance in “Game of Death”. There are a few more wavy characters like one that is either a clean shaven Chuck Norris or (as I think) a young John Saxon (from “Enter the Dragon”). That is one thought I can’t shake. Many of the characters are references to characters/actors who where in “Enter the Dragon”. There are other characters that aren’t from Bruce Lee films. There’s a Jackie Chan character, who had a special appearance in “Fist of Fury” and “Enter the Dragon” (DAMN IT!)
Considering the age of the references, for example the Jackie Chan character is in his “Drunken Master” get-up and fighting style, some of the characters are rather contemporary. Like the Donnie Yen rendition, who was in “Blade II” and had high success with his wing chun style in the two “Ip Man” films all the way back in 2008. One set of references goes back to the 70’s while others are ones that even the millennials could of seen. Anyway, it’s not worth going through all the characters in detail here. Let’s just say that each character has some reference of pedigree behind it. All of them are based on a famous star, but (as usual) not called them by name as there would be some rights and likeness issues for lawyers to rub their hands with.
The problem is, that is all the game really has. The game is presented in an almost sepia, vignetted, old film style. A whole list of after effects are placed on-top of each other to create the style and it looks great. The only effect that I really don’t like is the motion blur. It’s not called motion blur but it’s there. You really notice when you start jumping around the arena and the characters become a focused down blur in the air until they come down and touch the floor. As I was recording some gameplay to go for the video review and the added effects caused some lost frames and lag. (It’s ok regularly so it’s not the engine before you jump at me. It was the recorder and I have said in the video.) I turned off all the effects to get some better performance but without the effects the game just looks bad. Not abysmal. Just not good. Kind of basic. The characters look like who they are meant to be like and everything is comprehensible but the after effects have a big impact on how the game looks, once you get rid of them the game just looks bland and sort of aged in a way.
This ends up compounded by the controls which are just bad. It has Tekken style controls with each face button being a limb (right punch, right kick, etc.) that works well. One good thing is that the controls, for both controllers and keyboard, can be adjusted accommodating for most play styles. There is a limited combo and special move system. It’s very limited compared to other games that have come out recently like “Mortal Kombat X” and the soon released “Street Fighter V” but what you get fits to the games full price so it doesn’t become a negative for the game. The negative part in regards to the controls comes from the hit detection and the stickiness of the controls. The hit detection seems to change from handing your enemy to you on a sliver plater at times to hitting you with the silver plater at others. It’s mostly down to the size of the characters. The ‘Monkey King’ styled character has his standing animation slightly crouched, making him around a foot shorter than most, which means that some leaping attacks miss him easer than if you were a fulling standing or bigger character. Other taller characters end up swinging from a distance and still hit. It feels like the hit-boxes for the characters aren’t refined.
The stickiness of the controls ends up being the biggest problem of the game. The input feels delayed. The button inputs are stodgy making combos hard to pull off. It just feels unrefined.
The unrefined feel of the controls and the (purposefully) dated style of graphics end up making the game feel dated. I referenced Tekken a few times because this game feels like a less polygonal “Tekken 3”. It feels like it was on the PS1. At least it controls like it was. The nostalgia that the game has is good and it has it in spades. But an unrefined feel and stickiness in the controls lets down the game. Thankfully, these things can be fixed in patches and as the game was once in Early Access patches are not out of the question. I have some hope that these issues are fixed at some point in the future but it would makes the game only quite average. But, on top it’s averageness, it is a heartfelt love letter to the kung fu films of old where many will look past its limitations and love it all the same.