I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m absolutely terrible at beat ‘em ups. However, this is mainly down to their greatest feature. The depth of the combat mechanics in most of these game’s systems whether it is Devil May Cry, Mortal Kombat or in this case Sifu are so rich with varying combos, attacks and defensive options that it always requires an intimate understanding and a large number of hours played for the average player to even get decent at the game, let alone master it. Despite this, I was immediately sold on the idea of Sifu when it was released and despite the numerous warnings that it was very punishing for newcomers to the genre I still purchased a copy close to its original release date. Maybe it’s the indie lover in me that convinced me to pick it up but I think the idea of being able to be a kung-fu master and delicately fight my way through large groups of enemies and bosses is what sparked this yearning for the kung-fu power fantasy in me. Did I ever achieve that power fantasy with Sifu around its original release? Absolutely not!
I experimented with Sifu on its classic difficulty for a long time but could never really crack it. This coupled with there only being so many hours in the day I get to play video games and the ever-growing list of indie games coming to market meant I had to bow out after only managing to beat the first two bosses of the game at the ripe old age of 79. Besides, continuing on at age, not even halfway through the game, would have been a death sentence for the poor protagonist and would invoke a heavy amount of frustration on my part so I thought I was doing us both a favour. However, when I saw that Sloclap was updating the game to include two new difficulties with one of them being an easier mode I knew it was the right time to jump back in.
So there I was on a late Tuesday night brushing the dust off my PlayStation 5 and awaiting the update to fully download coming back to a game I was certain a month back that I’d probably completely forget about. Upon loading up the game I quickly clicked on the new game setting and the ‘Student’ difficulty, both to avoid the embarrassment of my previous save and to not lock eyes with the game’s new hard mode, ‘Master.’ I still shudder at the mere mention of it. Upon loading in I was welcomed with the familiarity of already trodden ground that I had been through before. However, instead of the painstaking journey I took the first time around I found myself breezing through encounters as I finally achieved the power fantasy of a kung-fu master I had always wanted from Sifu. Needless to say, I think this update has brought new life to Sifu for players, like myself, who couldn’t quite click with it on the classic difficulty.
Initially, I thought Sifu would be relegated to the list of games piled up in my backlog that I’d scroll through one day and think “hey, I remember that game” and then be flooded with all the frustrations I had with it on its release and quickly move on. However, having now completed the full game on its ‘Student’ difficulty whenever I look back on Sifu I’m only reminded of the 3 and a half hours of fun I devoted to it that Tuesday night. It won’t stop there either as I imagine at some stage I’ll come back to the game to experience it all over again. More challenge centric games should really take note of this (I’m looking at you Soulsborne games) and work to implement more accessible difficulty options for players who might need them for a wide array of reasons. If more games followed in Sifu’s footsteps I imagine the plethora of players experimenting with these games would not only diversify heavily but also breathe new life into otherwise niche titles and communities.
If you’d like to keep up to date with all of our upcoming reviews, news, and features here at Gaming Sandbox, feel free to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you’d like to support us financially you can do so by following the link to our Patreon!