Sifu arrives today on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S and, with the simultaneous arrival of the new Arena mode, it’s the perfect time to checkout this unique martial arts beat ‘em up. With high-skill action combat and a unique mechanic that sees your character age each time they’re killed, there’s nothing quite like it.
We took the opportunity to talk with Pierre Tarno, Executive Producer at Sloclap, the Parisian studio behind the game. He told us more about how Sifu came to be, its success… and its future.
How was Sifu born?
We owe the idea of the title to my partner, Jordan Layani, who practices kung fu and is a big martial arts movie enthusiast. We wanted to take inspiration from Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan movies, with this particular use of the environment, even if we can’t say that we kept this same action-comedy tone. Then, the title also tries to answer a philosophical question: is a single lifetime enough to master kung fu? This question led to the concept of the main character’s aging, which is what makes the game so original.
Did you think it was risky to lean on that genre, which is less popular nowadays than a few decades ago?
When you’re an independent studio, you can afford to take a few more risks. We didn’t do a market study to check which segment of gamers and fans of martial arts movies would be interested in our game… Instead, we started from the principle that for a game to work from a commercial standpoint, it has to be very good. And also, we were confident because in the end, this genre is not well represented in the video game landscape. Bare hands 3D beat ’em ups that also rely on the use of the environment are rare, so we knew that our game would find its audience. If we had decided to make an FPS, things would have been more complicated…
Your first title, Absolver, already featured a lot of hand-to-hand combat, is Sifu an heir to it?
With Absolver, we acquired a certain experience of action games: how the enemies clash during a fight, how to manage the distance between you and your opponents… But where Absolver focused on online multiplayer, Sifu is a purely single player game, and where Absolver shone in one-on-one, Sifu was really designed for you to be alone against everyone. So I would say that yes, we learned a lot from our first game, but there are also a lot of elements that we had to change, to reinvent.
From the very first trailers, Sifu got a lot of attention – what was your reaction?
It’s always nice to feel that a creative intention resonates with the public and it’s something very difficult, if not impossible to predict. So it was very reassuring; we felt that we were creating something that would appeal to a certain number of players, it was very motivating for the team.
And how did that play out once the game was available?
When it was released in 2022, the difficulty level of the title was perhaps too high, which could lead to some frustration. On the other hand, we also saw some people playing through the game like no one else in the studio is able to, like… players completing it without taking a single hit. That’s why in our first update we created the less difficult “Student” mode, but also added the “Master” level, a higher difficulty mode. Later, through other updates, we added gameplay modifiers that let you customize the experience, the Replay Editor that lets you make your own martial arts shorts, and now Arena Mode, which further enriches the game.
What can we expect in this new game mode?
It’s a mode independent of the storyline, which you can start after finishing the prologue, and that also serves as a tutorial. At launch, nine original arenas inspired by the campaign levels await you, in which you will have to complete challenges. Some of them are related to your performance, the age of the character. In total, five different types of challenge are available. It’s a way to rediscover the game mechanics in new environments, with new objectives and varied gameplay. If you like Sifu, I think you’ll enjoy the feeling of progression, of improving, of unlocking the next levels.
What can we expect and hope for from Sloclap in the future?
Another update is already planned for the Arena mode, with additional arenas, it will be released in a few months. At the same time, part of the team is already working on our third project and once we are done with Sifu, we will start the design phase for a fourth project.
A last word for our readers?
I just want to thank all the players who believed in Sifu, who supported us, who talked about us on social networks or with their friends and who became ambassadors of the game. We did it for you, thank you.
And it’s our turn to thank Pierre Tarno, for taking the time to answer our questions. Sifu is available now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
Sloclap, Kepler Interactive