Brawlers always have a fond place in my heart. I remember spending countless hours with my brother on the couch playing Turtles in Time, Double Dragon, and countless other brawlers. It’s like video game comfort food. It’s great to see a resurgence of the genre, because every now and then I think everyone could use a good beat ‘em up in their lives.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a beat ’em set in ancient China. You play as Wei Cheng, a mere fisherman, whose village is slaughtered by pirates. Saved and subsequently trained by Shaolin monks, Wei Cheng uncovers the truth behind the raid that destroyed his village. 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is story driven adventure across ancient China–you will guide Wei Cheng as he gets answers, and eventually stops a powerful evil force.
In 9 Monkeys of Shaolin you’re always armed with some sort of pole weapon—with over ten of them to potentially unlock. Combat is fast, and incredibly tight. Eventually you’ll have access to three fighting styles: base, acrobatic, and magic. Base consists of default attacks, but acrobatic and magic styles utilize Qi to unleash powerful magical abilities against the hordes of enemies you face. In typical brawler fashion, most enemy encounters consist of entering a screen, fighting off the waves of enemies, and then advancing to the next screen. 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is addictive, fluid combat that I couldn’t pull myself away from.
Each of the three fighting styles works in synergy with the others. One of my favorite things to do was put down a seal that helped me regenerate Qi quickly, and then pull all of my enemies into it, and bash them onto the ground until they were defeated. Sometimes the magic tree was so effective, even against bosses, that it felt a little cheesy. But that doesn’t mean that combat is unchallenging—enemies can be formidable, especially towards the end of the game.
Most enemies in 9 Monkeys of Shaolin are what you’d expect in a brawler. There are the lowly foot soldiers that are easily dispatched, and ranged enemies to pester you at a distance. You can parry projectiles back to these enemies, or use magic to deal with them even at a distance. Some enemies are armored and require special techniques to deal with, while others buff their allies or even stop you from being able to cast Qi abilities. There are no shortages of challenging enemy types as you make your way through the story.
While 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is mostly linear, you can choose which missions to take. Each mission has an amount of experience it rewards upon completion, and sometimes even items or weapons that are given as rewards. Between missions you can outfit your monk with a new weapon, footwear, or magical item. You can also access your skill trees, where you can spend experience points. Each of the three fighting styles means three skill trees to put experience points into.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin has a great art style that is very often stunning. Its graphics are unimpressive in parts, but some locations are striking, and invoke an old kung-fu movie feel. Most of the story is told through drawn cutscenes that do a great job of setting the tone.
Of course, if you want to play with a buddy, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is able to be played from start to finish in co-op mode, either online or locally. You can each mirror abilities, or level up different skill trees—one can focus on base abilities, while the other uses magical abilities to crowd control enemies. Everything is better if you bring friends, and 9 Monkeys of Shaolin is no exception.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a great beat ‘em up. It has great, addictive combat where you utilize three different fighting styles to unleash ancient magical Chinese martial arts against hordes of enemies. Bring a friend, or play Wei Cheng’s adventure solo. If you want to play a great brawler, look no further than 9 Monkeys of Shaolin.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam.
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