I haven’t played the original 1997 Shadow Warrior, and without any rose-tinted glasses, I was slightly hesitant to approach the remake. What I found is a solid game that doesn’t bother with taking itself seriously. While I cannot say if it’s faithful to the original, I can say that Shadow Warrior is a fun, if unsophisticated, ride.
You play as Lo Wang, a comic-book collector who also happens to be a master of combat. Inevitably, the katana comes out and most of East Asia is either lit on fire or covered in blood, which sets the visual atmosphere nicely. As for the main plot— does killing endless hordes of demons while searching for a magic weapon in a vague effort to bring down the antagonist sound familiar? Little jokes along the way, however, keep you entertained by the story, if not engaged.
Combat is fast-paced and satisfying— you are equipped with a katana and some ranged weapons, spun around a few times, then pointed in the general direction of some monsters. With no block option and swarms of melee enemies, it’s easy to slip into simple button-mashing, but there are more than enough unlockable combo moves to keep things interesting.
It’s a good thing the combat is solid, because it feels like all the levels have been artificially stretched in order to include more fights, like butter scraped over too much bread. After blowing up three barrels of nuclear waste, a ‘Titsubishi’, and a cart of fireworks with a single pistol bullet, I have to suspend disbelief for a bit when I am told I can’t open a door without finding three special statues guarded by groups of demons with nothing better to do. Then three more.
If Shadow Warrior was a meal, it would be a thick slice of hack ‘n slash combat marinated in Kung Fu clichés with a garnish of beautiful visuals. It may not wow the player with new mechanics or an engaging storyline all the way through, but you can always count on being able to dismember anything that moves.