Kings of Kung Fu is a fighting game that tries to take the combo-heavy gameplay of games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and simplify it to be more accessible. Sadly, its execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Many fighting games have combat systems that can be overwhelming to new players, predominantly due to a reliance on complex combos. I tend to avoid fighting games with excessive learning curves because they often attract competitive players, while I prefer to play casually. Usually, a game like Kings of Kung Fu would be right up my alley, but instead, I struggled to enjoy it. Combat is so simplistic that it ceases to be engaging. You can get locked in chains of standard punches or kicks fairly quickly. Combos are traditionally treated as a high risk, high reward aspect of fighting games, but Kings of Kung Fu simplifies it without lowering the reward. The result is winning a game by repeatedly punching or kicking your opponent as you back them into a corner. This mechanic single-handedly cripples the game; something only made more disappointing by the relatively high quality of the game’s other aspects.
Kings of Kung Fu has a distinct visual style modeled after classic martial arts films. A handful of graphical settings can be tweaked to make the game look even more like a movie, such as adding a film grain effect or removing the HUD. When combined with the character designs pulled directly from vintage films, it’s the perfect look for a game like this.
The only issue ruining the visuals is the animation quality. Attacks look clunky, movement feels awkward, and every animation has a jerky, twitchy quality. It’s true across all characters, even though each one has largely unique animations and fighting styles. It’s a shame because the character diversity in Kings of Kung Fu is on par with many big-budget fighting games. The animation style doesn’t fit the game’s aesthetic.
There’s a good game buried inside Kings of Kung Fu, but it needs more work to get there. There is a good amount of character variety, which is crucial in the fighting genre. Yet, it ultimately means nothing when the core gameplay is deeply flawed, especially in this type of game, where story and graphics are relatively unimportant to the average fan. Unfortunately for Kings of Kung Fu, even as a niche indie fighting game, it’s surpassed by Shaolin vs Wutang, a more polished game by the same developer.