Okinawa Rush (Xbox One) Review with Stream

Okinawa Rush is easily the most insane game I have played in a long time. The old school pixel art caught my eye when I watched the initial trailer but I had no clue how visceral, frantic, and absolutely mental this game is. Even during my first stream, embedded below, I was super confused by the odd design choices, like having the main mode called “arcade” whereas “story” mode is an extensive training ground.  This unexpected experience is beyond memorable for both the right and wrong reasons.

There are three playable characters but the main character has trained himself to become a ninja master with incredible power. He then authors his skills on a scroll, a scroll that bad guy ninjas of course want to steal. The journey then becomes a tale of revenge and knowledge but always puts action at the forefront. There are also multiple endings if you have the patience and skill to actually complete this game.

The highlight of Okinawa Rush is easily the ridiculous, over-the-top, totally bonkers combat system.  When the fighting system is so outlandish, it actually is hard to describe. Make no mistake, this is not to be confused with low quality, just super unexpectedly awesome. Using fighting game techniques found in games like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, players can eviscerate throngs of opponents in seconds from button mashing or pro players can really make the screen sing through sheer brutality that never stops being boring.  This is a 2D platformer, like Shovel Knight-ish, but with the combat of One Finger Death Punch mixed with a Dynasty Warriors game. Sure, there are secrets to find and gold to collect, but punching ninjas in the face in hysterical combat is more satisfying than a smoker enjoying a cigarette after a Vegas buffet. 

From screenshots or even watching gameplay footage, you might assume this is a basic side-scroller with a combo system in place. I need you to understand, this is no mere combo system. This is the John Wick of 2D combo systems.  Ten ninjas just spawned behind you? Punch your way through with a three-hit combo, sending them flying back in a blood splatter as they connect with the wall.  Ninja stars coming toward you? Smack them back to your opponent with your fists of fury. That sword guy look intimidating? Grab a weapon of your own and strike him down with a single blow. If that isn’t enough, how about throwing ha-do-kens, or jump kicking with a stupid amount of speed, or jumping super high to grab that ledge to free that maiden in despair, or what about grabbing opponents with each hand then crushing their skulls together and throwing their carcasses to clear a path like an unreasonable extreme wrestling move. This is just scratching the surface when it comes to the pure insanity of the combat system. It is glorious beyond words and had a hard time believing what I was seeing. 

If there are two things you need to know about this brawler it is that the combat system is one of the craziest things you’ve ever seen and played, and that this game is balls hard.  To put things in perspective, I made it up to the final boss of Stage 1 but was never able to beat him.  Even reaching the boss is a feat unto itself.  With the fighting system as quality as this, it is shame that I cannot see more of the game due to high difficulty factor but this game’s inspiration, retro beat’em ups from the 80s and 90s, is loud and clear. There is also a constant sense of urgency as the player is faced against a timer that ticks down until the next checkpoint is cleared. This also adds to the game’s difficulty and wish it wasn’t there because it doesn’t make the game any more fun. In fact, the timer puts a rush on the player so they cannot stop to enjoy the pretty visuals. 

There are other odd design choices that are truly baffling.  For example, it is cool that the player can remap the buttons but then it changes the Confirm/Cancel actions of the main menu, making simple navigation confusing. There is also an awkward pause between training sessions, forcing the player to wait between bouts for no reason. The “story” mode, which is actually training, is composed of mini games to increase attack, defense, speed and Kata. If successful during these brief training bouts, the player needs to buy new training dummies to potentially advance to the next upgrade. However, these stat increases do not seem like they carry over into the main game, the “arcade” mode so it is a bit of a wonder why so much effort was put into this system when it doesn’t mean much.  The Kata training, which is basically DDR, always graded me highly even when I messed up button taps and the Siu-Lim-Tao mode uses a color wheel that is very difficult to see. Even navigating the menus is a tricky due to each tap of the d-pad or analog stick being too touchy, often moving two spots instead of one.

Personally, I adore these types of highly animated pixelated sprites and they really shine through here. The story cutscenes, which are viewable if you don’t press any buttons when on the menu, are gorgeous and exceedingly well done. At the same time, there are weird problems like a vertical row of pixels that don’t refresh during a screen transition.  The soundtrack is composed of flute-heavy Japanese sounds that fit the mood of the game.

I am torn when it comes to Okinawa Rush. On one hand, it has one of the most enjoyable and highly entertaining combat systems I’ve seen in a 2D game (even if the 45 degree angled jumps are very Karate Kid-ish from NES). I mean, the fighting is so freaking good it should be placed in a museum somehow. At the same time, the fighting system cannot be truly enjoyed due to the ridiculously high difficulty factor.  You feel like a true badass when you take out 30 black ninjas, some with weapons, without a scratch, but then instantly lose one life when you walk into that batch of spikes that suddenly protruded from the ground after a blind jump. The training segment is also weird, wanting players to decorate their dojo for no reason, and participate in redundant mini games that are difficult to complete when they don’t yield any worthwhile rewards.  Even if the experience is one step forward, one step back, I still recommend this game for the fighting system alone.  Watching a stream or a trailer doesn’t do it justice either.  You need to feel this one for yourself to fully understand it.

Not As Streamlined As: One Finger Death Punch 2

Also Try: Golden Force  

Don’t Forget About: Tanuki Justice  

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

Please consider supporting me on Patreon.


Our Rating - 7


Total Score

Okinawa Rush has one of the best fighting engines in a 2D game but cannot be fully enjoyed when the difficulty factor is placed so high.

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