Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Though that’s not to say that it’s good.
Based on the hit martials arts comedy series, which itself is based on the The Karate Kid film series, Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues is yet another side-scrolling beat ’em up released in a year which has been abundant with them. What’s surprising is that it might just be the most innovative and feature-packed of them all. But unfortunately it struggles with the basics.
Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues‘ campaign mode is effectively split into two. After a short introductory scene, you’re asked to choose between the Cobra Kai and the Miyagi Do, each with their own storyline and playable characters. Whichever you choose, you’ll want to jump into the other straight after on the same save game file if you want to view the game’s true ending.
Of course, while each of the two sides have their own characters and dialogue, the stages you have to play through pretty much remain the same. And there are a lot of them. You’ll journey across Los Angeles on your martial arts-filled adventure, making your way through a multitude of colourful environments. The stages themselves, though, could do with a bit more uniformity in terms of size; some feel bite-sized compared to others, and some simply drag on for too long.
Combat obviously takes centre stage, and it’s actually got a surprising amount of depth to it. You have a button to perform punches and another for kicks; tapping them will perform a combo, and they can even be mixed. Used in conjunction with certain directional inputs, they can trigger special attacks, too. On top of that there are other staples, like a button that allows you to dodge and parry attacks, and another to jump. But then Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues continues to pile on the mechanics.
Unlike in games such as Streets of Rage, where once enemies are down on the floor they’re safe from your attacks, here you can carry on your assault with the left shoulder button. Meanwhile, the right shoulder button can be used to trigger attacks that make use of the environment, leading to many comical takedowns. Add in personal skills that are accessed by holding the right trigger, Dojo skills with the left, and an ultimate attack that’s triggered by pressing both together, and you have a side-scrolling beat ’em up with so many attack options that you’re spoilt for choice.
Not all of a character’s Personal Skills are available from the outset though, and neither are the majority of the Dojo Skills. To unlock them you need to obtain coins via playing the game and completing challenges. Then you can head into the Dojo and spend those coins to unlock new skills and upgrade them. And with some of your choices locking out other upgrades, there’s an element of strategy as to how you develop your characters.
Believe it or not, we’re still not done with Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues’ complexities. It has a combo system that rewards skilful play with fire and freeze effects that do damage over time. Developing an impressive combo is also how you revive your fellow teammates that have been downed in battle, because you never fight alone. Ultimately you’ll have four characters to choose from, and can switch between them instantly with the d-pad. And rounding things off is a Gi and Belt equipment system, providing a range of triggerable effects depending on what you have equipped.
It’s actually impressive just how much depth there is to Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues. For a genre that’s repetitive in nature, there are so many options at your disposal and variables in play that it keeps your attention better than most. It’s just a shame that it’s put together so shoddily. While it’s a nice, colourful game with decent character models, they’re animated rather poorly. There’s no physicality to them either; you’ll often find yourself moving through enemies as you attack them, coming out the other side while hitting thin air.
More problematic is that Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues just feels clunky. Environmental attacks don’t always work like they should, and lining up for a standard attack often feels hit and miss; it simply doesn’t feel fine-tuned. With a bit more spit and polish you get the impression that it could have been an unexpected gem in a genre that’s seemingly becoming more popular again. As it is, there are glimpses of a great game, but it’s ruined by a general smattering of shoddiness.
Still, if you’re a massive Cobra Kai fan, you’ll find enough good here for it to provide you with some hours of entertainment. It’s just not quite the game that it could have been. Thanks to Streets of Rage 4, the side-scrolling beat ’em up bar has been raised this year, and while Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues is a fuller, more feature-packed entry in the genre, its core gameplay isn’t quite up to scratch. Maybe it’ll get patched and fulfil its potential? Until then, it’s an experience that most will find annoyingly mediocre.