2018 saw the resurgence of the Karate Kid franchise headlined by characters Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence which focused more on the narrative of Johnny, the rekindling of his rivalry with Daniel and the resurrection of the Cobra Kai dojo. Five seasons on, Cobra Kai has become one of the hottest TV series around and in 2020 launched Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues, a side scrolling beat’em-up that was met with mixed reviews. It did have some strong aspects, such as the solid combat, story lines from both Cobra Kai and Daniel’s Miyagi-Do dojo and voice acting from many of the shows cast. Now entering the tournament is Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising, swapping the camera perspective to third person, and at times an isometric view, while keeping the action as a beat’em-up which makes for a better experience. Although, does Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising end up taking home the All Valley Karate Tournament trophy?
Warning, before continuing, even though Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising is a brand-new storyline, there are some character spoilers below if you are new to the Cobra Kia series and not up to at least Season 4.
Beginning Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising campaign, the player chooses which dojo that want to represent, Johnny’s Eagle Fang, Daniel’s Miyagi-Do, or original Karate Kid’s villain John Kreese’s Cobra Kai. Choosing a different dojo does mix up the story and ending somewhat, but the gameplay loop and journey is fundamentally the same. Though it does boost replayability and fans will love to see the story from different perspectives.
The Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising campaign has the player recruiting members for their chosen dojo, levelling them up and entering the All Valley Karate Tournament. Players recruit by selecting familiar locations from the TV series on the hub world map and brawling through the location to recruit available characters. Recruiting the character is usually done by defeating the recruit in combat but can also be done by taking the recruit’s quizzes or reaching an objective, such as having the dojo a certain level. Recruits can also be hidden in locations including behind breakable walls, similar to in-game collectables that give the player experience (EXP). The player’s dojo can only recruit up to twelve fighters (when the dojo is fully levelled up). The player can also recruit dojo staff who each add buffs such as cheaper accessories and more experience.
Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising has 28 playable characters, and with under half being able to be in the player’s dojo, the player will need to choose areas of the hub map to find their favourites from the series. Different characters also come in different classes, such as an All-Rounder, Heavy Hitter, Combo Freak and more, allowing the player freedom on how they mix up their team. During recruiting missions, the player selects which 4 characters to take and can swap them in and out via the D-pad, giving the player four lives to complete each location. I had fun recruiting my favourite characters into a dojo which they would never join in the TV series. Each dojo campaign does follow lead characters such as Miguel for Eagle Fang, Tory for Cobra Kai and Sam for Miyagi-Do who will have to be used in certain story aspects, so make sure they are levelled up.
The beat’em-up action is the core gameplay of Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising and is a step up from the side scrolling game that came before. The combat is swift, with the player switching between enemies, picking up and using melee weapons or using environmental attacks. The player uses the X button to create simple but effective combos, tapping X for quick attacks and holding for stronger but slower attacks. The player can chain these attacks together with a jump, dodge, parry, and grapple. What adds the extra depth is the Chi skill moves. These moves are performed with holding the RT and using the Xbox’s face buttons, A, B, X and Y. These attacks come in several categories such as ranged, tactical, area, high damage and more. The more the player plays and levels up the dojo the more Chi skills moves become available, allowing the player to individualise each recruit to their preferred playstyle and recruit’s class.
Chi skill moves can also be boosted through coins found and dropped by enemies and completing tasks like getting so many kills doing a certain skill. These moves are very stylised and fantasied, such as creating a devastating ice wall, a flaming phoenix kick or using a flaming uppercut just like Street Fighter legend, Ken Masters. Chi is measured on the Chi meter under the player and refilled by defeating enemies and picking up the Chi tokens enemies drop, or by finding statues to meditate at. I found these statues redundant as there were always tokens around from downed enemies. Using Chi also brings extra effects when damaging enemies as each button mapped with a Chi skill grants different effects when using the skill. Players will get an extra damage token, allowing the player strike harder for limited time, a health drop, an extra EXP drop, or extra coins drop. I found that I used the extra EXP a bit to help level up my recruits quicker, and then the health drop which comes in handy, especially in boss type encounters. Chi is also used in environmental attacks, knocking out enemies in one hit.
Through each encounter with a wave of enemies, the player has targets that they can meet that will raise the encounter’s rankings. Higher rankings provide more EXP and coins. Targets include defeating enemies in a certain time limit, not using Chi skills, using a number of required grapples and much more. In encounters, players will raise a Badass meter that can be used at any time and when being used the player deals extra damage and has extra health. It is a neat concept but as the game is that easy, I forgot about using it a lot of the time.
Enemies come in different classes and can also use Chi skill attacks. There are larger hard-hitting enemies, ones that will spam ranged attacks, have armour or shields, and ones that are very quick. Nothing out of the ordinary, but a nice range that changes up the player’s attacking styles. There are also many boss fights, while some are just a slug fest, there are a few that mix it up with environmental dangers or those who send in more goons while they recharge. Unfortunately, I never feel the game offered much of a difficulty until the final boss, which I had to redo a few times. There is also no option to change the difficulty and most gamers will stroll through it.
Through Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising combat, each recruit used in a location will receive EXP, EXP is used back at the dojo to level up to level sixteen. Levelling up gives the player extra perks, such as an extra health bar or an increased amount of Chi. It is also required for recruiting and levelling up so that the player can enter the All Valley Karate Tournament and become champion. Go into the tournament under levelled and players will have a hard time. Players can also kit out their player with three non-cosmetic accessories brought in All Valley’s shop that give extra boosts, such as 20% more EXP, receive extra coins on collection and lots more. This with also choosing each recruits skills and what weapon they can start with allows a good depth of customisation.
Mixing up the gameplay loop of combat and recruiting is the All Valley Karate Tournament which transforms the gameplay somewhat. The camera is zoomed in much like a traditional 3D Fighter and brings with it a gamified take on karate tournament rules. Knock the opponent out of the ring to gain one point or knock down the opponent three time for two points with the aim to score enough points to win. The player can also win by a TKO by draining all the opponent’s health. The tournament mode can be played single player or against a friend from the main the menu, it can also be played online, but I was unable to find a game. Compared to great fighting games out there, this mode has little depth to compete.
Once the campaign is completed, players can either start again or choose New Game + that keeps the player’s recruits and levels. Using other dojos unlocked Chi moves for that specific dojo, allowing players to change their recruits Chi moves.
Also from the main menu is Cobra Classics that allows the player to relive epic moments from the series, such as the high school battle. This is a nice touch and fans will get a kick out of it but once completed, there is no need to return. Survival is another option which is basically choose characters and survival as many waves as possible.
The graphics are nothing to gloat about and look like they would run fine on the Xbox 360 with models looking outdated, especially close up. Though the art design and locations are bright and flashy, and Chi moves always look nice. At times Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising has many enemies on screen, the action is hectic and I had no issues of slowdown in these moments. The voice acting is welcomed but it is far from a great performance, some main actors have returned but not all give their best performance. It’s still a nice touch having the actors and fans will dig it.
Sadly, Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising has some glaring issues. The first being no two-player cooperative mode in the story campaign or Cobra Classics. This is a major miss for developers Flux Game, as it feels as though it was made for cooperative play and would have easily extended its replayability. The camera can have a mind of its own at times, flipping behind walls and floors requiring adjustment right in the middle of brawls.
The review was held back for a couple of days after launch as I had several issues with bugs and glitches. There was a day one patch announced, which I am glad to confirm did fix the majority if the issues I was having, but not all. During New Game +, I had an upgrade menu issue where the LB and RB buttons would not work too swap upgrade options and had to quit the game and restart to get it working again. When I had to do this a second time, I lost a little progress and replay a couple of sections. Hopefully this is patched up soon too.
Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising is mostly child friendly with no blood or foul language, though it is a martial arts game, and it does portray a lot of high school aged students fighting.
Adam Potts, for Adam’s full profile click here.