Cobra Kai is a phenomenal show. Starting life in 2018, back on YouTube Red before leaving those shores to land on Netflix beach after its first two seasons, the show tells the story of what happened after The Karate Kid movies, only from a slightly different point of view.
We get to see things from the eyes of Johnny Lawrence, the villain from the original Karate Kid. It is over thirty years since the infamous All-Valley tournament in which Daniel LaRusso beat Johnny in the finals using the Crane Kick (technically an illegal move) to claim victory. Well, our “hero” Johnny hasn’t had the best of times since then. He lost the girl, he lost the trophy and he lost in life – Johnny is down and out with a bitterness for his old rival who is now a successful car salesman.
Fast forward through four successful seasons and rivalries have been put aside as old foes appear once again in the valley. John Kreese and Terry Silver show up to throw a spanner in the works for the newly founded friendship between Johnny and Daniel. Being kicked out of Cobra Kai and having to form his own dojo – Eagle Fang – Johnny teams up with Daniel and Miyagi-Do to defeat Kreese and Silver once and for all.
That’s an abbreviated version of the events which run up to the point of Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising; a sequel to 2020’s Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues. In the original we got to control Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do across the valley in various beat ’em up stages. That game was a good foundation for something more, but is Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising the improvement we were looking for?
First of all, and instead of re-visiting the 2.5d scrolling beat ‘em up formula the original game had, Dojos Rising has chosen to go a more full on 3D route. Think Fighting Force or Final Fight Streetwise and that is a good comparison to what the developers have created here. As a genre fan, I am more favourable to 2D beat ‘em ups like Streets of Rage and Turtles in Time, I just don’t feel the genre gameplay ever translates well to 3D.
However, with the Cobra Kai licence, developer Flux Games has gone to town on fan service. Starting the game you are asked to pick one of the three dojos – Cobra Kai, Miyagi-Do or Eagle Fang. Naturally any sane person at this point in the show will avoid Cobra Kai like the plague. That said, there are still some fan favourite characters fighting for that dojo such as Tory, so maybe choosing them isn’t all that bad….
Once you have chosen your dojo, you are then tasked with recruiting new students. To do this you venture around the valley, fighting enemies in these 3D environments. Sadly, the curse of the 3D beat ‘em up strikes again here, and the combat just does not feel quite right. In all honesty my hat is off to them for trying to make a 3D rendition of the Karate Kid/Cobra Kai universe, sadly the beat ‘em up genre in my opinion never works in 3D as it should.
That said, this is a pretty fun game to play, especially for Cobra Kai fans. Getting to choose your favourite fighters such as Johnny, Daniel, Miguel, Sam, Tory and even Robbie, is such a cool feeling. The team have really nailed the feel of the characters and their relationships with one another; conversations between the likes of Hawk and Miguel or even between Johnny and his students all feel very much in tone with the show.
Being set in a 3D environment, the developers have tried to spice things up a little. Instead of just smashing attack buttons till the enemy is gone, parkour is a new element to the game. Using parkour the characters can explore much more than they would be able to do in a traditional beat ‘em up game. There is even wall running and an Assassin’s Creed style back eject to reach higher ledges and walls.
Fighting in Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising is nice and simple – tap X for a weak move, hold it in for a strong move. Grab attacks are initiated by tapping RB and then combining it with the face buttons. Skills make a return from the first game as well, and in Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues you could pull off more fantasy-like moves such as fire balls and flaming uppercuts. Silly, yes, but a really cool feeling to pull off.
After mastering basic attacks and skills, Dojos Rising spices things up a bit. Each skill move causes the enemies to drop something different; one might make them drop health, while another may provide money or chi. This gives a slightly more tactical feel to later combat when you need to consider which pick up you will need to survive the next wave of enemies.
There are also weapons lying around each area and these can be picked up and used on enemies as well as on certain parts of the environment. It’s these which are interactive in the way of slamming someone into a wall or dumping them in a bin. For a 3D beat ‘em up, Dojos Rising really goes all out when it comes to combat, and most of the time it works well. Side objectives are in place too, stuff like not getting hit or using X skill moves help to spice things up when playing story mode. The valley is also a lot bigger than last time with fourteen locations to visit as you progress.
Aside from the main campaign, there is also a tournament mode where you can fight through one of the All-Valley tournaments using your favourite fighter. This is an excellent addition and even allows online play so you can take the fight worldwide. Survival mode is as it says on the tin: pick your team and see how long you last against waves of enemies. Cobra classics allows you to relive famous battles from the show and the jukebox which plays any song featured in the game rounds out the options available.
Sadly, Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising does have some slowdown in heavy areas and the graphics are very much early last gen feeling. Had this been a budget title these hiccups would be more forgiving but at the price Dojos Rising is listed for, these issues should not be happening, particularly considering the graphics and different areas are really not all that intensive for an Xbox Series X console.
Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising feels like a good foundation for the next game. Had the devs chosen to stick with the 2.5D combat, this game could have been a massive improvement on what went before, but instead we have a new 3D deplorable environment thrown in with the established move set.
A game that is going to be more enjoyable for Cobra Kai fans than unfamiliar players, the licence is used very well here, but it’s still not one that can be fully recommended to everyone. All that said, if you love some Karate Kid action, there is no better game than Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising.
Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising is on the Xbox Store