✔️Surprisingly entertaining. Video Game, junk food. ✔️A casual beat ’em up with an established franchise attached. ✔️Original voice cast reprise their roles. Billy Zabka steals the show.
❌Technical issues weigh it down. Some hitbox problems that could be patched. ❌Bland environment does no favours for its aesthetic. ❌Monotony sets in fast. Levels are way too long.
I had never viewed The Karate Kid films prior to playing the original 1987 NES video game adaptation from the studio that bought us the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona franchise, ATLUS. Yes, I was just as shocked to see that. None-the-less, after falling in love with the title (I was just a kid, I know the game isn’t the best) the sequel to the first film was premiering on network television here in Australia. So I did what any kid with a spare video cassette would do, recorded over whatever was on it. I’m sure what existed on the tape wasn’t as important as The Karate Kid: Part II. The movie became a weekend ritual where I’d sit in the lounge with cocktail hotdogs Mum had just boiled for lunch, and watch it on repeat. It’s odd, I never had any personal ambition to take up any martial arts, however the film itself was simply awe inspiring.
The enigmatic character that Comedian Pat Morita revolutionised as an idol to millions, Mr. Miyagi, had become an 80’s icon. Daniel LaRusso was the aspiring understudy that had much to learn, not just about Karate but a new way of life. It was after viewing the sequel that I had gone back to its prequel, the 1984 classic, The Karate Kid. Boy was I not expecting this to overtake its sequel as my favourite of the series, but the entire plot connected with me on levels that were completely surprising. We know the legacy the series had built throughout the 80’s, forgetting that awful third chapter with an overweight, 35 Year-old Ralph Macchio pretending to be 18, the echelon of the first two films were a masterclass of incredible screenwriting. There’s so much to the franchise’s foundation that had spawned not only a Will Smith produced reboot, but now the Netflix Original Series, Cobra Kai.
Pain does not exist in this Dojo...
So before I get into the details of this game, I want to preface by saying that I knew exactly what I was getting into by taking on this review. I had seen the trailers of the title, and while they may be nothing extraordinary, the game itself is not half bad for a quick, button-mashing slugfest. Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues deviates from the television series, and delivers a non-canonical chapter that sits somewhere between the first and second season. While The Karate Kid on the NES was simply a rushed-to-market gaming adaptation with simple kick and punch mechanics, Cobra Kai borrows inspiration from the notorious beat ’em-up prototype seen in a multitude of titles within the category. While it may not be up to par with games of similar nature seen this year, such as Streets of Rage and the imminent Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, it will certainly remind fans of the golden era of gaming with facets implemented from fighters such as Double Dragon and River City Ransom.
The side-scrolling scrum has you portray characters from either Cobra Kai or the Miyagi Karate-Do. Personally, I chose the titular dojo as it was set as the default choice. The story behind the campaign is highlighted with comic-book style illustrations with voice over provided by the Cobra Kai cast themselves, reprising their respective characters. A neat addition, but you could certainly tell that most were reading directly off a script, while both Billy Zabka and Ralph Macchio were the more experienced actors in contrast. While the narrative itself doesn’t really need to exist here, it does add a touch of flair to its casual nature helping the player progress through the monotony of its repetitive gameplay. For what Cobra Kai lacks in, it makes up for in unequivocal, nonsensical, unadulterated fun.
That doesn’t excuse the game’s underlying issues. Its presentation is bland; almost surprising that it isn’t a mobile game with its vapid environment. Characters entail a generic repertoire with minor changes between teammates, hitboxes are awfully placed in animations with certain punches and kicks clipping right through enemies, and levels are way too long. The good that’s come out of Cobra Kai has been its geometrical tendency to allow your character to move freely across the map while in heavy combat. Dynamic use of items surrounding each area allow for some cool quick-time moments that had me howling. Tossing an enemy into a basketball hoop, throwing them into the hood of a car, or through the glass of a display cabinet was ridiculous, but not out of the realm for the Karate Kid universe. Remember Kreese bloodying his fists through those car windows?
Yes it’s quite confusing to admonish then applaud, but Cobra Kai does tend to rely on its quirky elements. I have to hand it to Flux Game Studio, while it may not be a spectacular game it bear’s qualities that make it accessible to variety of players. A cheesy exterior that shows promise in an unorthodox manner. Each confrontation initiates with the familiar beat ’em up, side-scroller halting its progression for an encounter with a swarm of baddies. Heavy and light attacks are stock standard, with special manoeuvres that are unlocked as you complete the first few levels. Overwhelming scenarios with hordes of oncoming foes can be easily cleared by tapping both triggers to activate Miguel’s Shoryuken, an obvious call-back to Street Fighter or Johnny’s Double Lariat, a tribute to Mike Haggar from the Final Fight franchise.
Items such as foldout chairs can be kicked right into an enemy’s fat face, or rubber baseball bats can hit that home run sending your foes flying across the screen. All these mechanics mesh into a unanimous all-out frenzy that washes away any issues had with Cobra Kai’s polarising presentation. Boss battles at the end of each area will put your skills to the test with each overgrown, heavy-handed brute attempting to take down members of your respective team. While tactics may need to change slightly, your fighting style will remain exactly the same in these isolated battle sequences. Some short dialogue to prepare, the confrontation begins, you defeat your enemy and continue the campaign. Quite simple. Enemy drops come in the form of Cobra Coins that can be used for upgrades, but nothing that’s actually going to make a difference.
With all that said, Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues is not your ordinary cash-grab adaptation. Sure, I may be wearing rose-tinted goggles while reviewing this. My undying love for this franchise, and the fanboy in me that adores its comeback has me elated to relive this series all over again. The title itself may bear some problematic concerns, but it does deliver value for those looking for a quick and easy, beat ’em-up to simply slug through. A mindless button-masher that takes little-to-no effort in completing, and one thats pacing is actually not half bad. Yes, a baffling surprise that will have fans confused on how entertaining this game is. It’s no Mortal Kombat, nor is it a River City Girls, but Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues does demonstrate heart in its barefaced approach. Remember, “You trust the quality of what you know, not quantity.”
Cobra Kai - Flux Game Studio
Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues is a side-scrolling beat ’em-up video game based on the American web television series Cobra Kai (in turn based on the film franchise The Karate Kid), developed by Flux Game Studio.