Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues tries to create an original storyline in the Karate Kid universe that tries to sprinkle some interesting elements into the tried and true beat-‘em-up formula. The light RPG elements and ability to choose one of two sides to see the story through are welcome touches to an otherwise overage brawler title with a familiar name.
Things kick off with a story / campaign mode that is presented in two halves. You get an intro and then you have to select which side of the story you will represent between Miyagi-Do and titular Cobra Kai. It’s a cool way to present the content and you get a bit of extra replay value if you care about the narrative, as it is the only way to really get the whole story. More than just plot points though, this choice has the more tangible impact of deciding which pool of characters you will be controlling, though both sides are pretty evenly represented, though the Cobra Kai is naturally geared more towards offense (fire) while Miyagi-Do focuses on defense (ice). It’s a small distinction that feels true to the property.
Once you get away from the various dressings and focus on the core mechanics, you find a pretty cookie-cutter beat-‘em-up formula. You use a variety of punches and kicks as you plow through waves of opponents that generally provide minimal resistance and are mostly there to chip away at your health before the showdowns with boss opponents. However, Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues does manage to keep things a bit more interesting due to the lightweight RPG progression system that unlocks new moves along the way and help the combat to develop nuance. Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues is seldom overly difficult, and by and large you can progress through the game without really using the upgraded moves and just punching people into submission. That being said, the high damage of the parry / counter system is a nice motivation to mix things up, because as you get better with these mechanic, you can progress more quickly.
There are some special moves you can unlock as well, each one specific to the character you are using that look flashy and help to lay on the extra damage, even if these sort of ‘super power’ moves feel a bit out of alignment with the actual aesthetic of the show / movies they are based on. Still these moves combined with the unlockable skill trees help to keep the combat from getting too stale.
This is a good thing, since the combat itself feels a bit rough around the edges at times. There’s just something that fundamentally feels slightly ‘off’. Maybe it’s the occasionally dicey hit detection (there were times I was just stunned that my kick seemed to miss when I was certain it would land), or the later stages throw hordes of enemies at you in such a way that it just feels kind of cheap. These two things hurt the game’s pacing. It does not help that the character animations also have just a hint of the jitters at times, which probably what leads to the aforementioned contact issues.
I will say however, that this considerable length almost works against Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues in the end, especially when you do a second playthrough that essentially has you walking new characters through the same environments you already saw. One playthrough was fun more often than not, despite the inconsistencies in the combat, but by the time I finished the game a second time, I was ready for it to be done. Maybe if I had given the game a bit more time to breathe between playthroughs, that would have helped, but I suspect most of it just boils down to the occasional annoyances over hit detection / enemy swarms in the later stages.
In terms of the actual presentation, the music does the job, fitting the beat-‘em-up action, even if the voice acting is pretty lackluster and the sound effects tend to be rather repetitious after a time. Aside from the somewhat uneven animations, the overall graphics are just kind of average. There is an impressive number of environments (there really are a lot of levels here, making this a longer game than the brawler genre usually sees – even before you consider the almost mandatory second replay), it’s just a shame that none of them are overly interesting to look at. The character and enemy variety is a bit more varied than usual in the genre as well.