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Shadow Fight 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Nekki
Developer: Nekki
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2018


Switch Review - 'Shadow Fight 2'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 18, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Shadow Fight 2 is a nail-biting mix of RPG and classical fighting, which lets you equip your character with countless lethal weapons and rare armor sets, and features dozens of life-like animated martial arts techniques.

When games originate in the mobile space and then migrate to the PC or a dedicated gaming platform, there are a few genres that make sense. Puzzle games, platformers, racing games, and even a few RPGs have proven that they can originate on iOS and Android and end up being very good platform titles with more physical control schemes. Fighting games, however, aren't a genre you'd normally associate with the mobile space, even though the more successful ones have been re-imaginings of their console relatives. Shadow Fight 2 is an exception, as it premiered on mobile platforms to good reviews, prompting the expansion to consoles — starting with the Nintendo Switch.

In Shadow Fight 2, you play the role of a fearsome warrior whose undefeated streak caused him to become very full of himself. While seeking out opponents, his hubris led him to opening the Gate of Shadows and releasing the demons trapped there. Those demons tore him asunder, but the power of the gate caused him to survive as a shadow. To atone for his great sin, he sets off on a quest to defeat the demons that are now lording over the land.

While otherwise inconsequential to the greater scheme of the game, the story explains the title's trademark feature: using shadows in place of fully textured fighters. It's an interesting aesthetic choice, but it works out in the game's favor when it comes to the graphical presentation. The characters are large, and without other elements to worry about, the animation for each move is absolutely smooth. It achieves a level of fluidity that's rarely seen, even in fully textured polygon-based fighters or very good sprite-based animated ones. It stands out so much that you'll almost forgive the backgrounds, which use a palette of bland colors and hardly any animations. It makes the shadows stand out more, but having lusher backgrounds would certainly have been preferable.

The game is presented as a 2D fighter, and while that might instantly conjure up a gameplay style similar to Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, you're given something closer to Samurai Shodown. The fact that almost everyone uses a weapon in combat certainly makes the comparison easy to see, but the actual fighting is also reminiscent of the SNK classic. Movements are deliberate and a bit slow, so every attack you make is a commitment — so much so that players who don't adjust to the slower pacing will leave themselves open.

Every hit lands hard, so even simple elbow swipes take away a good deal of health from the opponent. Most fighting is going to be done using some simple kick and weapon combos, as they're much easier to dole out compared to other attacks. For example, magic is built up via a meter, and you can use the attack once before having to refill the meter. Your other projectile weapons are infinite, but their much slower delivery time means that the only reason to ever use them would be doing so at such a great distance that the opponent couldn't possibly cover it.

This sounds fine, since it's a departure from other fighting games on the Switch. The 32-member roster provides a healthy number of fighters to test your mettle on, especially with the variety of weapons they possess. From butterfly knives to a sickle and chain to a staff and a katana, there are plenty of fighting styles to master. With that said, the ability to customize which magic, projectiles and weapons your fighter can use ends up hurting the game, since those are the only differentiating characteristics between the fighters. No one has a unique combo or ability, so the fighters are merely skins once you change out their weapons. You'll also have to deal with the fact that some basic moves, like the jump kick, are missing, but it's replaced with the ability to bounce off of objects at the end of a stage, so the trade-off is fair.

Aside from the versus mode, which can be played against a bot or another human, the other main mode is the campaign. Things are much different in the campaign, as you only get to play as Shadow, the main character from the opening narrative. While the combat system is still in the fighting game mold, everything in the title takes on RPG properties. Instead of taking on the demons directly, you first have to kill their bodyguards. Depending on the strength of the bodyguards, you may have to enter tournaments or take on side stories in order to get XP and money. For the former, leveling up means learning moves that are immediately available in the versus mode. For the latter, that means getting the ability to buy armor and new weapons.

It is a novel approach to the standard story mode in a fighting game, since it gives you plenty to do. At the same time, it can feel like padding, since the bodyguards and tournament opponents are plentiful. The first stage alone has a tournament that has you fighting off 30 opponents. There are five bodyguards here, and there's also a side story where you're reliving some fights that your sensei experienced. By the time you go against the first named boss, you've already fought through the equivalent of four characters' arcade modes, which can be draining if your goal is to unlock the entire roster.

On a platform that already has a pretty solid fighting game lineup, Shadow Fight 2 is a pleasant surprise. The fighting system is different from most games, but if you can deal with its slower flow, you'll find some fun here. The presentation is muted in places but still interesting, and even though some parts of the campaign can feel like a slog, you'll get your money's worth. Shadow Fight 2 won't be your main squeeze, but it can be a good cooldown offering to play between some other fighting games.

Score: 7.0/10

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