Shaolin vs Wutang 2: The Return Of The Martial Masters (2020)

Publisher: J. Bowman
Genre: Fighting
Year: 2020

Among the world of indie games, “Shaolin vs Wutang 2” deserves the utmost respect and recognition. If you’re a martial arts movies fan, it would be very difficult to fathom why this game isn’t at the very top of your gaming list!

“Shaolin vs Wutang 2” is a love letter to classic martial arts films that will resonate with vitually any martial arts action fan…

Trailer

Review

“Shaolin vs Wutang 2’s” biggest selling point is its tribute to the martial arts film genre. In fact, it is a massive upgrade to its predecessor “Shaolin vs Wutang”.

A Classic, Hong Kong Feel

Just everything about the game gives the feel of a classic, Hong Kong kung fu film, and by that, I’m talking about something from the Shaw Brothers realm or just any kung fu movie from the 70’s, 80’s or even 90’s!

From the characters, to the soundtrack, to the display, this game does a superb job in terms of ‘styles’ representation.

“Shaolin vs Wutang 2” is very beginner-friendly. Even if you’re not a martial arts movie fan, but just want to try out fighting games for the first time, “Shaolin vs Wutang 2” makes for the perfect game to start with.

There is only one button for punching, one button for kicking, and one button for weapons, and you can mash any one button to perform fun, and easy combos. But if you’re like me, and have played your fair share of fighting games over the years, you’d definitely take pleasure in mixing up the buttons to perform more diverse combos.

Special Moves for Each Character

There are special moves for each character, with input much akin to that of “Street Fighter“. However, you wouldn’t need them at all to get through the easy-to-normal levels of difficulty. To activate the super moves for each character, all you need to do is press the punch and kick buttons simultaneously.

Compared to the first “Shaolin vs Wutang”, “Shaolin vs Wutang 2” is a huge improvement. The graphics are a lot better, appearing lot more crisp. Arcade mode isn’t as tedious, as you need to fight through 11 opponents, whereas in the first game, you had to get through 13 opponents.

Plus, in the first game, you couldn’t adjust the number of rounds per fight, so you were pretty much stuck with the traditional ‘best of 3 fights’ format. Mix that up for 13 fights and it gets pretty time-consuming.

Fortunately for “Shaolin vs Wutang 2”, you can adjust the number of rounds per fight. So if you want to be done with Arcade mode ASAP, you could have 1-round fights. However, the super meter normally fills up after the first round, so good luck trying to pull off super moves in one-round fights!

Inspiring, Exciting, Golden Era HK Soundtrack!

While the first game’s soundtrack is reflective of classic martial arts films, it’s overall a bit on the bland side. As for “Shaolin vs Wutang 2”, the soundtrack still upholds the spirit of the golden era of Hong Kong martial arts films, but it’s much more adrenaline-inducing.

The only downside is the slightly smaller character roster, but to be fair, the characters that only appeared in “Shaolin vs Wutang” are kind of forgettable. Well, the only character that stood out was the Capoeira character. Too bad he didn’t make it to this sequel!

Furthermore, you’re stuck with one costume per character in the first game, and the costume designs are basic overall. On the other hand, the second game adds a lot more detail to the costumes, and even allows the player to customize the costumes and change attributes, such as costume color, and accessories.

The Martial Arts ‘Styles’ Featured

The developer does a splendid job of modeling the characters in “Shaolin vs Wutang 2” after iconic movie characters, and actors in both appearance and fighting style.

JKD, Muay Thai, Wing Chun and More are Represented

In fact, the characters are referred to by the name of the martial arts style they and their real-life/movie counterparts practice. For example we have the Jeet Kune Do character that clearly resembles Bruce Lee, Muay Thai resembling Tony Jaa, Wing Chun resembling Donnie Yen in the Ip Man movies, Lizard Style resembling the Lizard in Five Deadly Venoms, etc.

Every character’s moveset is accurately reflective of the moves their real-life/movie counterparts used in their movies. Keep in mind that since this game is a tribute to martial arts flicks, each style employs a moveset that’s based on its portrayal in movies instead of in real life.

For example, Muay Thai’s style is based on the Muay Boran influence Tony Jaa brings to his movies, instead of the Muay Thai used in real fights such as is utilized by legends Saenchai or Buakaw.

Fight like Van Damme

Likewise, Kickboxing, based on Jean-Claude Van Damme, employs the Shotokan-esque stance and kicks JCVD uses in his films, most notably “Bloodsport” and “Kickboxer“.

It’s not like kickboxing seen in real-life promotions like K-1 and Glory. Well, unless you come from a karate background like JCVD or real-life fighters/kickboxers like Raymond Daniels or Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, then sure.

The Kung Fu Movie Connection

Nonetheless, these are the kinds of details that make “Shaolin vs Wutang 2” stand out compared to any other mainstream fighting game, and this will make any fan of martial arts movies appreciate the game and what the developer’s done here even more.

Since there is a weapons button, every character is assigned a weapon that their real-life/movie counterparts use. Muay Thai, for example, uses elephant bones like how Tony Jaa did in Warrior King/Tom Yum Goong whilst Wing Chun employs butterfly swords like Donnie Yen did in his fight scene with Max Zhang in Ip Man 3.

In addition, the blocking mechanics are really impressive. While a typical fighting game would only have the character stand firm and keep his or her hand up, the blocking animations in “Shaolin vs Wutang 2” vary based on the opponent’s attack and the character’s style.

This detail makes the gameplay resemblant to that of a choreographed fight seen in a typical, classic, Hong Kong kung fu film. Even though many of the styles portrayed are kung fu styles, “Shaolin vs Wutang 2” boasts a roster in which every character is unique, especially in terms of their moveset.

Try Out each Character and Get a Feel for Each Style

I couldn’t help but try out each character and see what he or she had to offer. If there’s anything I would add, it would be more actual martial arts styles.

As someone who started out in Taekwondo (I have a black belt in it), I was personally kind of bummed out that there wasn’t a Taekwondo character, but to be fair, there’s no iconic movie character that strictly all about Taekwondo either.

The closest thing we have to that is probably Jhoon Rhee’s character in “When Taekwondo Strikes”. Even though the likes of Donnie Yen has a taekwondo black belt, his bread and butter is in other styles, chiefly wushu.

With that being said, I’m not ranting to the developer here mind, because not once did the lack of a Taekwondo character kill my enjoyment of the game and how awesome it is!

Summary

“Shaolin vs Wutang 2” is a great game. For an indie game, it has blown the roof of expectations right off!

A rundown of its features include: 3 x as many moves as Shaolin 1, Hand to hand and weapon combat, Dynamic blocking animations, Licensed Kung fu soundtrack, 20 Inspired Characters, 20 Stages, Unique moves and combos for every fighter, and Single Player & Local Co-op.

One can’t help but realize how special the game is in its own right, and the pains the developer must’ve taken when it came to paying tribute to all those classics of Hong Kong’s golden era of martial arts movies.

From the characters to the display, to the settings, the soundtrack, the whole nine yards, the game has been designed with such precision and accuracy whilst improving on its predecessor on all fronts.

Any fan of the martial arts movie genre would experience a certain awe upon playing this game and salute the developer for this hidden gem. I would definitely welcome the idea of “Shaolin vs Wutang 3” if that is on the cards, which I get the feeling already is…

Hopefully we’ll get to see more iconic martial arts movie characters/actors like Iko Uwais from The Raid, Scott Adkins from the Undisputed series, or even Jackie Chan from his Police Story series. I’ll bet fifty bucks that anyone who’s played the game would agree with me!

Game Rating: 9/10

“Shaolin vs Wutang 2: The Return Of The Martial Masters” is available to play on Xbox, and STEAM.

What are your impressions of “Shaolin vs Wutang 2”? Which character are you most keen to play? What do you love most about the golden era of 80’s Hong Kong, kung fu flicks? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation with us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter & Instagram!

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Being first influenced by Tekken video games at the age of 13, Jeffrey Hu's martial arts journey began with Taekwondo and was self-trained due to living under a strict household. Five years later, Jeffrey received tutelage under Grandmaster Bill Dewart, (a student of pioneer S. Henry Cho) and earned his black belt a year later. Jeffrey's passion for martial arts grew as he went on to learn Muay Thai and Tai Chi. He's also a big fan of martial arts movies and enjoys movies featuring Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Tony Jaa, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Iko Uwais.

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