Okinawa Rush Switch Review: Fists Of Perfection

Oh, what a rush: a Okinawa Rush Switch review, that is. With PC gamers getting an early start, should Switch folk don the obi? %$£@ yeah!

Okinawa Rush is a love letter to all the fighting games of my youth. I’m not delusional in thinking this game was made for me, but I’d wager that the developers may have lived off the same diet of games as us 16-bit veterans used to play back in the day.

With two main modes to choose from – Arcade or Story – you select one of three martial arts masters as they attempt to avenge the death of their loved ones and return a stolen scroll taken by the deadly Black Mantis Clan. If you think the ninja are good guys, think again. They’re absolute bastards (said in the best dubbed Golden Harvest voice).

Okinawa Rush is a side-scrolling arcade game with platforming elements that resemble some of the best games that graced the Amiga: IK+First ContactStreet Fighter IIFirst Samurai… they’re not all exclusive to the platform, but there’s a definite undertone on quality here.

Okinawa Rush Switch Review

In the demo back on Steam, you played Hiro – a karate master with his roots in traditions. If you’re a fellow martial art nerd, you’ll know of the influence of Chinese styles in Okinawa – notably kung fu – and this is evident in the moves. As a Shotokan fan, I could see hints of the style infused with Hiro, but with elements of the spectacle that wouldn’t be out of place in Mortal Kombat.

Okinawa Rush Switch Review - The way of the monk
The way of the monk. Source: PR

Anyway, story. The Black Mantis Clan arrive at your door and intent on delivering a typical tale of revenge, murder and bad facial hair. Okinawa Rush is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that’s paying respect to classic kung fu movies and similar. All hero’s journeys start with a quest for revenge against a formidable foe, right? And what’s more formidable than a demon?

Unless you’re a bloody idiot, or just harder than Bruce Lee, you’ll want to go for the Story option first, as this allows you to cut your teeth in the dojo before setting out. Mind you; you don’t need to know any moves to get stuck in as attacking enemies is ferocious and satisfying from the outset. However, if you’re to learn a martial art, you have to know when to use it. Baloney. This is all about kickass kung fu and karate moves.

Float Like A Mantis

The versatility of moves and fluidity in this game is impressive. It’s like a side-scrolling SFII as you shoot projectiles out of your palms or perform a Final Fight-like face planting piledrivers on any chump stupid enough to get close to you. Forget Neo and bullet dodging: can he block shurikens with his forearms?

Good luck with the latter. As easy as it is to block (walk into the attack), combat is frantic, and I’ll admit that despite my stylish moves learned in the dojo before departing, I was soon button-mashing in fear of losing my continues.

Okinawa Rush Switch Review - Brothers in arms
Brothers in arms. Source: PR

Unfortunately for me, Okinawa Rush is brutally hard. Emphasis on the rush in the title as ninjas will appear out of thin air, in the air, and despatch a flurry of ninja stars towards your direction, all the while you’re fending off one of six tengus. It’s absolutely mental but enormously satisfying as they either explode, get cut down by one of the many weapons you can yield, or doing a kiai stomp that wipes them all out.

Enter Stage Left

Okinawa Rush features classic arcade stages with the odd mini-boss until you fight the end of level one. Naturally, these boss battles are hard-going and incredibly frustrating. At several points, I lowered my difficulty down to the white belt mode and still struggled.

Whomever you choose in your adventure – Hiro, his brother Shin, or Meilin – you’ll be able to unleash massive amounts of damage but not take so much yourself. Health and extra lives are reasonable, and there’s an abundance of secrets all over the place to locate, but the real issue for me was the cheap booby traps.

Usually, there will be a ‘danger’ warning – often too late – but sometimes, there will be no warning at all. After fending off about 10-20 enemies without taking a single hit, then inadvertently walking on a spike and losing a life instantly, it can be a little… disappointing. This element of Okinawa Rush takes me back to the days of old where I wish there were a trainer/God mode. Yeah, I don’t shy away from admitting it. I love this game.

Okinawa Rush Switch Review - Slash with a friend
Slash with a friend. Source: PR

Leave Your Shoes Outside

Besides the onslaught of ninjas, samurai and demons, you’ll be grabbing as much treasure as you can. The significance of this is initially to rank on the leaderboards, but in terms of your inner development, you can invest in your dojo and improve your character’s stats.

There’s a shop where you can buy ornaments that add a buff to your stats when on display in your dojo, change your appearance, unlock avatars, as well as mini-games such as a hidden gem game and a QTE that depicts some kata to learn your moves and in return get a boost to your stats.

Once you’ve exhausted this area, you can then attempt the arcade mode, which features timed sections. In all honesty, there’s an urgency throughout Okinawa Rush, so this timer is in no way disabling – just the harsh realities that this mode is very challenging. 

Calloused Knuckles

We all have our preferred fighting types, and I’d ultimately say the knuckleheads are my favourite. In this case, Shin is the brute of the pack with the most health, and while he is a bit of a powerhouse, he’s pretty fast. That said, Meilin is my favourite. Her speed is relentless, and her moves are super cool – more in line with Wing Shun.

Okinawa Rush Switch Review - Dragon ninja. Ish
Dragon ninja. Ish. Source: PR

Presentation-wise, Sokaikan were onto a winner immediately with the scanlines, but the visuals as a whole are excellent. They aren’t ground-breaking nevertheless, they suit the style of play perfectly. Even the cutscenes have a throwback 16-bit feel with a scent of 60s action cinema.

Okinawa Rush, in my opinion, is brutally hard, but the gameplay is so visceral, it’s a highlight of 2021. It was like jumping back into a time machine playing all those beloved games in one, only with highly responsive controls and a move set that packs a punch. Highly recommended and perhaps even a GOTY contender?

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