We’re ecstatic to be working on a video game based in the universe which originated from “The Karate Kid.” As a kid born in the 80s, you can imagine how many times I tried to land a perfect crane kick on pretty much any target, from empty cans to tennis balls. I remember one day when I was seven playing as a goalie in a soccer match at school when I literally saved a shot with an admittedly clumsy, but good enough crane kick just to show off to my friends.
I actually had not watched the show when the opportunity came along to pitch a Cobra Kai game concept to GameMill Entertainment (the show had not found its way to Netflix yet). I decided to watch an episode or two to get into a Karate Kid headspace and 20 hours later I had binged both seasons and was writing mechanics and ideas all over the place in a 100 page slideshow. I became a die-hard fan as soon as Johnny called MIguel “Menudo” in the first minutes of the first episode. At this point, the team and I have watched the series countless times to bring as much of it to the game as possible. That’s why we have characters that don’t appear that much on the series having more screen time in the game. To be honest, I almost feel a bit sad that I got to know what will go down in season three beforehand as a result of working with the show creators on this game.
Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues is a classic beat ‘em up, which was a decision we made early on. When we started the project a year ago, we knew Streets of Rage and Battletoads were coming up and we also saw great games like River City Girls finding a lot of love from its fanbase, so we felt it would be awesome to have a Cobra Kai beat ‘em up as part of the genre’s unofficial revival. It also helps that we just love the genre here at Flux. At age nine, I used to sneak out of my room at 5 a.m. to play Streets of Rage in the living room, just to go back to bed before 6:30 a.m. when my unsuspecting mom would wake me up. That window, of course, would not count towards my daily video game hours quota. If you’re reading this – sorry, mom.
The game features two campaigns: Cobra Kai and Miyagi Do. Each one allows you to explore the city with characters from that dojo and learn the story from that dojo’s perspective and face the other dojo’s fighters as bosses. The true ending, however, only reveals itself to those who play both campaigns.
The basic flow of each level is classic beat ‘em up: advance through the areas fighting everyone and moving forward to a new section. But how you do it is where Cobra Kai really shines. Inspired by Cobra Kai dojo’s “Strike First” motto, we have created the “Never Stop Attacking” fighting engine. That means there’s no waiting around – you can always go for your next strike on your opponents. You can hit them with punches, kicks, grabs, flaming strikes and icy attacks, hit them standing and flying, use the environment, use unorthodox weapons, and even beat them on the ground. Our approach is to empower players with a really large moveset that can be used in all sorts of creative ways, and have each player figure out their go-to characters, combos, skills, weapons, and overall combat flow. You can also upgrade all of your attacks through the course of the game.
For added depth, we brought in and adapted to the genre some great concepts from other awesome games, like ultimate attacks from Overwatch; skills with cooldown from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey; environmental attacks like those in Def Jam series; a combo meter inspired by Devil May Cry; dodge and parry systems similar to the Souls series; upgrade trees from RPGs like Final Fantasy; short and fun challenges like Bloodstained has; a power up buff system inspired by Dead Cells’ roguelike approach; and of course also some references to lovely classics of the genre, such as the screen throw from Turtles In Time and the ground attacks from Combatribes.
We also wanted the game to feel fast. We love the arcade and 16-bit era, but those games feel slow by today’s standards, so we went for a fighting game pace, like Street Fighter. That is why the game has an unforeseen amount of unique attacks and combos to explore in the beat ‘em up genre. Characters are designed as fighting game characters, meaning many cool concepts from fighting games are here, but simplified for a less daunting experience. There is buffering, chaining moves, juggling, cornering, super armor, frame advantage, parry, quick recover, frames design, and more. On top of all that, we have created a core loop inspired by the Doom franchise. You have different types of attacks and each one brings specific rewards, so you can use whatever suits best for your current situation in that very second.
We have a lot of heightened action in the gameplay, but we are working with the music composers, actors, and the creators of the show to deliver an authentic Cobra Kai story experience that takes place parallel to the events from Season two, right in the peak of the rivalry between the Cobra Kai and Miyagi Do dojos. It shows other angles, giving fans more insight into how things ended up like they did in the season two finale and also affords smaller characters a chance to shine – or get beaten up in boss battles.
We’ve recorded voice over with William Zabka (Johnny), Ralph Macchio (Daniel), Gianni DeCenzo (Demetri), and Jacob Bertrand (Hawk). I’ll never forget the moment Zabka read the first line of the script, “Those bastards… Why didn’t you tell me about the note?” and we all were so excited – we felt like Johnny was really there!
The game is available now on Xbox One and I can say, for fans of the show excited for its third season premiering on Netflix on January 8, 2021, this game does offer at least a little insight into what is coming next. There is a great new character from Season three that debuts in the game. We tell some of their backstory in one of the main missions of the game, they are actually a boss fight, but that’s all I can say.