Sifu has grown both in popularity and improvements in polishing the game mechanics and balances as the players can see and experience it now. It was first launched in February 2022, and almost two years later, the game has shifted from purely just a one-time playthrough to a massive replay value with the introduction of Arena mode, where players can put their might and skills to good use.
Sifu itself is generally a short game, with 5 levels for the story mode. Each level would lead the players to a boss fight in the end with varying move sets and weapons for the players to study and take advantage of. After finishing all five levels, the players would be taken back to the main menu for them to replay to unlock a ‘true’ ending. But with the Arena modes, as well as optional goals for the players to clear in the story mode to unlock outfits for the character in the game, the game has expanded massively for the players to get lost in it for hours in a single session.
Sifu is easy to pick up. Really, it is. The players are given a number of move sets to experiment and use against enemies in the game. Given how there are just two buttons for the players to remember (light and heavy attacks), the three-to-four combination of the two buttons would lead to a different combo, which can be fun to use. Not to mention the unlockable move sets, too, which players can attain as they progress.
As easy as it is to pick up, it is time-consuming to master. With different enemy types, and their ability to parry and block some of the players’ attacks, spamming is not an option, especially on higher difficulty. I remember playing the game when it was first launched two years ago with just the story campaign being the only mode we could play.
It was brutal.
There was no difficulty setting in the early launch. Enemy attacks mostly can’t be punished until they finish the strings, so I had to be on the lookout for mix-ups at the end of the attack strings instead of interrupting them midway through. But the very pain that I had to endure through the brutal A.I. in the early launch, though ‘cheeseable’, has conditioned me to be a veteran Sifu player that most of the O.G. players are now.
So, let’s talk a bit about the unspoken combat tips in the game. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are either a veteran Sifu player, just starting out, or interested in buying/cracking and playing the game. There are things that aren’t mentioned in the game, but those who have played the game for quite some time will subconsciously know some of these tips that will help you gauge your enemies better.
Tip #1: Enemies always deflect and parry your attacks after being knocked down once.
Every enemy acts exactly like the goon shown here. Once you’ve knocked them down with a flurry of attacks, they block everything afterwards immediately after getting up: slides, push, jabs — nothing will break their guard. So, my suggestion is to let them parry your attack, then watch. In this case, the goon takes a step back for space and a bit of breather while the other takes turn to attack.
You won’t notice this behavioural pattern when you first play the game. You’d just think, “Oh you’re blocking now? Okay let me just keep attacking.” It’s not a problem if you keep attacking though; just use it to your advantage to counter or parry theirs. But I’d say just give them some space first, and deal with the surrounding enemy instead.
Otherwise, the counterattack from the enemy that parries your punches would just stagger you and leave you vulnerable for other attacks from surrounding enemies.
Tip #2: You can cancel your attacks if need be.
Yes, even Sifu has attack cancels. Games like Tekken, Street Fighters, or Guilty Gears may have specific mechanics to cancel some of the attacks, but Sifu has a neat trick to do this: the evade button (holding left shoulder button by default and flicking the thumb stick up or down). It can be used to cancel any attacks.
Whoever’s familiar with attack cancels will find this useful. Usually some of the combos have big windups, leaving you open for enemy attacks — this is when the attack cancel comes in handy. You can also use cancels to initiate a new combo string right after the first one ends, so there’s no downtime between the combos.
There’s no penalty for misusing the cancels, too, so use it as much as needed.
Tip #3: Counter attacks are possible. Don’t wait.
Counter their attacks if you can. It drains their guard bar faster than regular attacks, so you can perform a takedown on them faster.
I often see that new players tend to hold down the guard button to wait until the enemy finishes their combo string before attempting to land return hits. Light attacks exist for a reason; because of their short windup, they land faster than heavy attacks, so you can use them to counter enemy attacks that have longer windups.
Or, you can use laying items within reach in the area to throw at your enemies before they can even think of landing a hit on you. It also counts towards counter attacks. Counter attacks often leave the enemies stunned (which will be explained below), so it’s useful to give yourself some breather to create a gap between enemies if you’re surrounded.
Tip #4: Enemies Have Three Different Stuns.
As you play the game and encounter (and take down) enemies, you’ll notice that some enemies will remain stagger for a longer period than others once you’ve landed an attack on them. There are three levels of stuns for enemies: short, long, and guard-break stuns.
Short stun happens every time you evade an attack and land a hit almost immediately after. Or, if you successfully counter an attack before they even land one, it’ll cause a short stun on their end, too. It opens up for a short combo (provided that they don’t recover first), or for you to throw them. Useful if you want to create spacing between enemies.
Long stun occurs when an enemy receives counter hit numerous times in a row (usually two for normal goons). It’s particularly useful for dealing long and damaging combos. Since they take quite some time to recover, you can go up to them and deal heavy attacks to quickly drain their health or guard bar.
It’s also great for throwing and dealing follow-up attacks on enemies, too.
The ultimate stun of them all — the guard-break stun. It happens once the enemy guard is broken through any of these means: landing a flurry of attacks, deflecting and parrying their hits, throwing things at them, or throwing them towards the wall/counters/tables/chairs/etc.
The guard-break stun is just as long as the long stun before they recover, but you can land a finishing blow to these enemies. If you want to throw them around the room, or land more combos before landing a finishing blow for higher scores, feel free to do so.
What Do You Think?
The game mechanics in Sifu can get overwhelming for first-timers, but now the developers have overhauled the training mode in the game with lessons explaining the mechanics through segments. So, you’ll have no problems picking up the game and understanding how to play it. But of course, like the ones I listed above, not everything is explained in the game; just the standard mechanics needed for you to utilise.
If you’ve played Sifu during the early launch, feel free to share your experience with the game, and how much it has changed throughout the years. If you’re new, let me know how much this can help you to pick up the pace in the game. Who knows — these tips might be the stepping stone for you to play on a higher difficulty.
Anyway, if you’re interested in reading about Stray reviews, feel free to read them here.