9 Monkeys of Shaolin
Developed By: Sobaka Studio
Published By: Koch Media
Category: Action, Fighting
Release Date: 10.16.20
One of the first genres I ever became hooked on is the beat-em-up genre. With games like Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, and Golden Axe all readily available to me at either my local arcade or on my Genesis or NES as a kid, I sank a considerable amount of time and quarters into this love, as well! After a while though, the mindless button-mashing fun tends to get a bit dull; Enter 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, a beat-em-up at heart, with a special move and combo system that infuses a stimulatingly strategic element to the mix, along with an RPG-esque skill-leveling system.
In 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, you play the role of Wei Cheng, a fisherman living in a peaceful, feudal-era fishing village. Your story begins in the midst of a brutal pirate attack on your village, where, after a valiant fight, you find yourself wounded and helpless. A group of Shaolin monks find you and carry you to the safety of their home to heal, where you awake to discover that the entire village and all of your loved ones are gone, destroyed by a dangerous group of bandits called the Wokou. Determined to avenge your grandfather and your village, you begin training with the monks in martial arts so that you can help them to defeat the Wokou once and for all.
The story is well-written, and the dialogue is clever, but the real star here is the action. The controls are intuitive and user-friendly for your average button masher but are also designed to be even cooler for someone actually applying strategy and tactics to the game. Each new skill is learned by completing missions and receiving skill points, which are then used to purchase new moves and/or enhancements on the skill tree back at your home base. Each new skill adds stats on to previously learned skills, such as increased range or damage, or unlocks completely new moves. Some moves are learned automatically outside of the skill tree as part of the progression of the game, and these moves can be practiced and mastered in the training room where they are first introduced.
You will also pick up new weapons and armor along the way, and you can equip these items between missions back at base as well. When you enter multiplayer mode, any unlocked weapons and armor are also available to the 2nd player (playing the role of a younger monk apprentice, Daoshan), and any skill points earned up until that point in single player mode will be available for the 2nd player to spend on his or her character to bring them up to speed.
Graphically, this is a very well-done game. The details are stunning, and the overall flow and smoothness of the gameplay is nearly flawless—aside from a few times where lining up your character on the correct horizontal line to break the crates felt off. The game looks like what we remember the old arcade beat ‘em ups looking like before actually loading one up and seeing what it actually looked like! The soundtrack is also well-done, and beautifully crafted to immerse you in the landscape of the feudal villages.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a gorgeous beat ‘em up with equal parts nostalgia and modern-day gameplay. If you enjoy beat ‘em ups even a little bit, then this is definitely a winner. The best part is that it has a great local and online co-op mode available that is really even more fun than going it alone, and with the way you can switch back and forth from single to multiplayer without having to stop the progression of the story, it’s even better! I thoroughly enjoyed my time with 9 Monkeys, from the beautiful scenery and soundtrack, to the crude jokes and clever dialogue, and especially the special moves and gameplay. I would highly recommend picking this title up today!
9 Monkeys of Shaolin
Digital – $29.99
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The Switch Effect was graciously supplied a code for review purposes.