The bidirectional relationship between cinema and videogames It is by no means a relatively recent phenomenon. The first playable feature film adaptations date back to roughly a decade before ‘Super Mario Bros.’ was released. by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel —considered the first translation of a game to the big screen—, including titles such as the infamous ‘ET’ from Atari, ‘Tron’, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ or ‘Raiders of the Ark’. loss’; all of them published in 1982.
During the four decades that have elapsed since then, technological evolution, interactivity aside, has progressively blurred the line that separates —or separated— both media to the point of making it almost invisible. As an example, there we have narrative gems like ‘The Last of Us’ —whose cathodic version has just been released on HBO Max— or, on the other side of the scale, HFR digital shows like James’s ‘Avatar: The Shape of Water’ Cameron.
However, the link between the seventh art and the world of videogames goes far beyond what concerns their possible formal and narrative similarities, there being works from both fields that revere the other with a good number of winks and references, and one of the most prominent recent examples is Sloclap’s extraordinary ‘Sifu’; a festival of action and martial arts that knows how to delight moviegoers with his devotion to the film subgenre.
the way of kung fu
After investing a good handful of hours in front of the screen until reaching platinum and ending up with my tendons a bit sore from the tension, I can’t help but celebrate having given an opportunity to what, without a doubt, is one of the great landmarks of the panorama indie of the last years. And it is that ‘Sifu’, without going into its playable ins and outs and the fluidity of his pristine combat system, is capable of making you fall in love solely for its interesting premise.
In the game, directed by Jordan Layani and set in modern-day China, we put ourselves in the shoes of an anonymous protagonist who, after witnessing as a child how his father is murdered, begins a path of revenge against those responsible for the crime; nothing new under the sun. Things get more interesting when it comes into play a talisman that allows our hero to resurrect every time he dies at the hands of his enemies with less life, more strength… and more age.
In this way, through its five levels —of very different themes and settings, as we will see below—, ‘Sifu’ offers us a classic experience of beat ’em up in the third person that evokes the me against the neighborhood of a lifetime enriched by a devilish gameplay that will force us to fight, die and resurrect countless times, learning to fight better and better and unlocking skills until we master our kung fu like true masters.
This mechanic gives rise to a gameplay tremendously satisfying in which frustration becomes the most addictive substance that exists while we split faces using the environment, blunt objects and the scenery that surrounds us as if it were a polygonal Jackie Chan —which, by the way, had its own great game on PSX titled Stuntmaster. But what is already fantastic in itself, gains even more integers when his enormous cinephilia comes into play.
the art of homage
To sum it up in a few words, ‘Sifu’ is a wonderful hodgepodge of references to the world of cinema in which there is room for the Hong Kong classics of the Shaw Brothers, milestones of the Japanese action of the seventies, great franchises and current films, and even for great renowned directors —without going any further, the premise and the notebook in the As the protagonist crosses out the names of the criminals he has eliminated, they shout ‘Kill Bill’ from the four winds.
But let’s not anticipate events and let’s go by parts shelling out some of the tributes that circulate on the screen while we distribute cookies left and right, starting with a first level called ‘The squatter zone’ whose buildings infested with thugs with rooms where drugs are cooked left and right seem to be taken from the first installment of ‘The Raid’; Not to mention Fajaar, the zone boss who looks like the very same Mad Dog from the Gareth Evans movie.
Beyond this, this contact with ‘Sifu’ contains a wonderful passage among its locations. After opening a door and discovering a narrow corridor to the top of enemiesthe usual perspective with the rear camera over the shoulder of the playable character changes to a side one to kick off a brief set piece reminiscent of the mythical —and massive— fight of Park Chan-wook’s ‘Old Boy’ .
This is just the tip of an iceberg that deserves to be experienced by all those martial arts movie lovers who don’t hate the control pad. To continue with the examples, the second level, called ‘The club‘ and set in a nightclub with its neon lights and electronic music seems to align with the aesthetics of the prolific ‘John Wick’ saga —especially with the second and third installments.
Later, in ‘The Museum’, we access a dark room with a powerful overhead light and water rushing from the ceiling like rain that alludes to the extraordinary ‘The Grandmaster’ of Wong Karwaiand that serves as a prelude to a final confrontation in a snowy environment that directs our memory to the ‘Lady Snowblood’ by Toshiya Fujita —in turn honored by Quentin Tarantino in ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’—.
As if this were not enough, ‘Sifu’ also makes its referents evident through the alternative costumes of the protagonistincluding skins like ‘Young Man Suit’, ‘Enforcer armor’ or ‘Master Hand’ —based on the aforementioned ‘Old boy’, ‘The Raid’ and ‘The Grandmaster’— and others like ‘Stunt Double’ in which the jeans and a white jacket with a gold pattern on the back —no, this time it’s not a scorpion— leads us to Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’.
With all this on the table, I can only say that if your tolerance for frustration is proportional to your ability to control and yours is action movies, I can’t help but strongly recommend that you warm up your fingers and wrists and indulge in this delight that will make you bring out your inner Bruce Lee and will make you smile with his love for the big screen.