9 Monkeys of Shaolin Xbox One Review

October 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Xbox One, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher: Buka Entertainment/Koch Media  Developer: Sobaka Studio  Genre: Action

Players: 1-2  Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: PS4, Switch

You take control of a fisherman in 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, although as the title suggests this is certainly no fishing simulator. The fisherman here has a lot more skills than simply reeling in fish. Wei Cheng, as he’s called, is rather handy with a staff as well as his feet, and these skills just continue to develop over the course of the game. 

Taking place in China in 1572, fisherman Wei Cheng (voiced by Ghost of Tsushima’s Daisuke Tsuji) has been taught his trade by his grandfather, who raised him and also taught him how to fight. When his village is attacked by bandits, resulting in the death of his grandfather and with Cheng being badly wounded, he is then rescued by some monks. These monks help the fisherman tune his fighting skills, setting him on his ultimate path towards a fully fledged warrior. Then begins a rather cliched tale of revenge, although it does the job just fine, and will particularly appeal to fans of martial arts films. Those who enjoy Chinese history might also appreciate the game’s historical accuracy, particularly if they are able to forget about the more far fetched ghost stuff and whatnot. 

Music is authentic, although is overly repetitive. Voice acting is, meanwhile, a lot better than a bad English film dub, although it still varies in quality from character to character.

9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a traditional brawler which has you travelling from the left to the right of the screen, beating up people along the way. It also has an impressive combat system, satisfying animations, and perhaps enough depth for those who may find some of these games a little too simple. 

At the beginning of the game, Wei Cheng is able to strike and thrust with his staff, lash out with lethal kicks as well as parry enemy attacks, and it’s always satisfying to string combos together. Soon you are also able to power up your strikes, and over time you’ll also unlock two extra stances, allowing for extra moves and even a spot of magic. When it all comes together, there’s certainly enough variation to change things up in a brawl as well as to deal with the different enemy types that are thrown your way, even if the combat does take a while to fully show itself.

Between levels, you are able to rest your fingers a bit by levelling up Cheng’s skill set, although I must admit that I found the skill trees a little more confusing than they need to be at first, as you apparently need to fully upgrade a certain area first before you are able to unlock particular skills. During these respites, you are also able to equip Wei Cheng with weapons and equipment that you have unlocked through the completion of levels. 

As pleasing as the chosen art style is and regardless of how attractive the Chinese backdrops are, certain ones do seem a little samey from time to time. You’ll be fighting your way through coastal villages, bamboo forests, temples, ships, and more, in the day, night, as well as the lashing rain. In a nice touch, throughout the five chapters you are sometimes able to choose which level you want to play, which gives a slight non-linear feeling to what is ordinarily a very linear genre. 

The action can feel somewhat floaty at times, but never anything less than satisfying.

Like many games of this type, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin can be played cooperatively, either locally or online. When played this way, the second player takes control of one of the young monks, and he or she can also upgrade their character in the way they see fit. It all adds to the fun and chaotic nature of the game. 

9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a fine and satisfying brawler, which never outstays its welcome across its 4 to 5 hour duration. It’s fun and fast paced, and the way that bodies fly across the screen is extremely satisfying, as is the variation in your move set. If you enjoy the genre, then I heartily recommend this soulful effort.