I think it’s safe to say at this point in gaming history that players have successfully role-played as a nameless soldier enough times. A nameless samurai, on the other hand, is not nearly as done to death as the shooter-porn games of today. And that’s where Shadow Fight 2 sneaks in.
Taking its cues from traditional 2D fighters and packing the same minimalistic art style as studio Nekki’s previous outing Vector, SF2 tosses a pair of nunchuks into the player’s hands and forces them to fight for their lives against an onslaught of enemies. Simply put, Shadow Fight 2 offers brutal one vs. one fighting gameplay with a buttery-smooth physics engine to back up each blow.
The game handles like a standard 2D fighter, with a virtual joystick controlling movement and initiating combos, and a dual-button setup that controls your wannabe black-belt’s fists and feet. The learning curve is easy, though some of the combos were hard to pull off due to the lack of physical controls. A physical controller would help the game greatly; I never felt as though I could successfully pull off a nice combination without the virtual joystick slipping away from my thumbs. This can lead to moments of unnecessary frustration when beating your opponent becomes a game of precise movement.
What really sets the game apart from its peers is the aforementioned physics. The realistic animations give each impact a hefty, satisfying weight. And there’s no beating that brutal impact when your fist cracks against your opponent’s skull. SF2 shines in not trying to do anything more complex than allow you and the AI to try to beat the crap out of each other.
The game only offers a single-player mode, but the tight combat is so polished that it’s hard to be upset about the lack of multiplayer. However, the addition of some sort of multiplayer mode would not be a small update, Nekki (hint, hint).
The game outside of the arena takes on an RPG feel, with your goal being to buy better gear for your ninja. And better attire becomes a must-have if you want to fight even more difficult opponents. In actuality, the whole game is basically glorified level grinding, but the fighting is so much face-punching fun, who am I to complain?
But I can complain.
As you progress and your opponents get tougher, the first of several micro-transaction irritations hits you like a curve-ball. Instead of making the upgrades for your fighter optional, the game makes beating your opponents literally impossible if you don’t have the right equipment. Thus, the game offers a quick real-cash for fake money system that lets you buy your way ahead.
The game was so fun though, that I could easily ignore the in-app-purchases and sometimes slippery controls. But I could not ignore the fact that the game has a timer that locks you out behind a paywall after a handful of fights. This is no timer you can pay to permanently shut off, either. You are forced to repeatedly scrounge for gems or wait it out. I’ll admit the inclusion of small IAPs is a debatable topic. But the sun will implode before I stop firmly believing that inescapable timer-based paywalls are a CARDINAL SIN.
Shadow Fight 2 could have easily snagged a five-star review from me, IAPs aside. The fighting is so well done that even playing against AI time and time again was still exhilarating. But I will stand behind that sinful paywall timer as a fatal flaw: it’s worse than a roundhouse kick to the throat.