The legendary temple of South Shaolin first appeared here hundreds of years ago. It's inhabitants perfected their ancient techniques for centuries, training the body, mind and soul every day.
Fearless monks defended the temple from both ruthless bandits and the forces of darkness.
But the greatest challenge was the invasion of the Wukou, pirates from the East, who landed on the country's Southern shores.
...for the young fisherman Wei Cheng, and his village, trouble followed trouble, seemingly without end.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a wuxia-themed Beat 'em Up action game developed by Sobaka Studio (who had previously developed Redeemer), published by Buka Entertainment, and released in 2020. It is a loving homage to old-timey martial arts movies made popular by Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest back in the 1970s.
Set in 16th century China, in the twilight of the Ming Dynasty - legions and legions of raiders from the East have invaded the Chinese coast, terrorizing ports and slaughtering entire villages of fishermen to raid the civilains of their goods. Dubbed the "Wukou" (Chinese: 倭寇 Wōkòu; Japanese: Wakō) by locals, civilians lived in fear while hoping for the Emperor to take actions. But the royal court is hopelessly corrupt, and the news of the Wukou's raids could hardly reach the Capital City.
One day, a Wukou raiding party assaulted the hometown of the Player Character, Wei Cheng (魏程), killing Wei Cheng's grandfather (who raised him after the deaths of Wei Cheng's parents as a child) besides slaughtering the entire village. An enraged Wei Cheng valiantly fought against the Wukou, but was defeated by their leader, a powerful Wukou Commander clad in red, the same villain who killed Wei Cheng's grandfather.
Wei Cheng was saved by a group of Shaolin monks who witnessed the carnage in the village, and regains consciousness in the Shaolin Temple. Desiring revenge, Wei Cheng started a long training regiment with the monks to defeat the Wukou, hoping to avenge his loved ones, but later on discovers a far greater conspiracy ahead.
And thus, Wei Cheng embarks on his lengthy quest for vengeance against the Wukou...
- Action Bomb: There are dynamite-holding ninja enemies in the waterfront stage who will blow up themselves to hurt or kill Wei Cheng. Their attacks can be cancelled by hitting them and knocking their dynamites out of their hands.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Hannya, despite being the villain who murdered Wei Cheng's grandfather and nearly killed Wei Cheng, turns out to be fighting for her father and her clan's honor after they're forced to serve Fudou, the true main villain. She actually expresses regret for her actions and apologized to Wei Cheng for what she had done after her defeat, with her death portrayed as the only sympathic one among all the bosses.
- All Monks Know Kung-Fu: The Shaolin Monks who rescues Wei Cheng in the backstory teaches him their skills once he had recovered enough, which makes Wei Cheng stronger and a better fighter for his revenge quest.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Upon returning from the Okinawa mission, Wei Cheng and his comrades found out the Shaolin Temple was attacked by Fudo and his army, seeking the He Shi Bi Jade shard, with numerous monks left as Dead Guy on Display and the senior monk, Guangli, having having his eyes burnt off by White Fire. Cue the final stage.
- Asians Love Tea: You play as a fisherman-turned-Shaolin monk, and the first rule imposed by the monks is that you "will not engage in vice like wine and women", so you give up drinking liquor and start drinking tea instead. During gameplay you can actually drink tea to restore health, with the rare red tea capable of curing poison and stopping bleeding.
- Battle Amongst the Flames: Multiple stages, from the very first one where Wei Cheng is defending his burning village, and the waterfront set alight, as well as the burning forge...
- Battle in the Rain: At least two stages, one early in the game in the hills, and near the end in the streets of Okinawa, have Wei Cheng fighting enemies in heavy rain. Both scenarios takes place at night, so expect enemies to pop up from the shadows constantly.
- Bittersweet Ending: Wei Cheng had avenged his village, defeated the Wukou, and restored peace to the land, but the Shaolin Temple has been destroyed and Wei Cheng lose most, if not all of his friends. Nevertheless, Wei Cheng and his fellow surviving monks then rebuilds the place, train the surviving civilians, and bring Shaolin back to it's days of glory.
- The Blacksmith: Liu Haibo, a former-soldier-turned-merchant who works as the Shaolin Temple's blacksmith. He's taking refuge in the temple after losing his family in the past, much like Wei Cheng, but unlike the hero Haibo prefers staying out of combat, creating weapons for Wei Cheng at the start of each level instead.
- Blade on a Stick: The awesome Shaolin Monk Spade is the first power-up Wei Cheng can get, and can deal far better damage than his default staff. As he progress, he can obtain a guandao called the Singed Dragon, a three-pronged trident called the Three Steel Widows, and a powerful silver-tipped spear called Icy Ruin, each of them doing varying degrees of damage to Wukou mooks.
- Blood Knight: Shikami, the first boss, seems to enjoy himself a little too much when it comes to killing, gloating away at the ruins of a village next to a pile of dead bodies. And actively taunts Wei Cheng when the hero confronts him - cue boss battle.Shikami: What's this? Another bothersome peasant coming to get revenge for his dishonored sister? Hahahaha! You haven't even pissed yourself in fear like the others!
- Blow Gun: In the game's earlier stages, the Wukou will have blowpipe mooks shooting at Wei Cheng from a distance. They get gradually replaced by archers and riflemen later on.
- Carry a Big Stick: The Abbot's Staff and the Jade Cliff, two heavy maces on long steel poles, which Wei Cheng can use to smash his enemies to a pulp.
- Charged Attack: By holding down the attack button, Wei Cheng can execute a deadly thrush that deals greater damage to enemies. It even works with the oak staff.
- Death Equals Redemption: Hannya, the Red Wukou leader, when her reason for slaughtering Wei Cheng's village is to restore her clan's honor. She actually apologized for her atrocities and commits seppuku before the hero, and is the only boss villain whose demise is played for sympathy.
- Degraded Boss: The haunted temple concludes with a boss battle against it's guardian, a powerful ghost sentinel who can only be damaged by chi attacks. Later on the game will throw downgraded copies of the ghost sentinel as Elite Mooks - they're immune to blade and hammers, but can likewise be damaged by chi, and aren't as strong or durable as the original.
- Derelict Graveyard: One of the last stages is set near a secluded, haunted beach whose shallow waters are filled with wrecked ships. Ghost mooks will periodically rise from the ruins in the water to attack Wei Cheng during this level until he reaches the inner coastline.
- Disc-One Final Boss: Hannya, the leader of the Red Wukou clan who killed Wei Cheng’s grandfather in the backstory serves as the second boss, and was defeated barely one-third the way into the game. She's only one of the minions serving under Fudou, the game's true villain.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: The shard of the He Shi Bi Jade recovered by Wei Cheng after defeating Kasshiki, a Shimazu samurai clan sorceror, turns out to be one of two pieces Fudou, the true villain, is seeking for his ritual, the other piece currently in Fudou's possession.
- Doomed Hometown: The fishing village Wei Cheng calls home, where he lives with his grandfather, only for Wukou raiders to raid, attack and burn it to the ground.
- Early Game Hell: Act 1 will kick your ass if you're not careful (and sometimes even if you are); once you level up a bit, get some gear, and unlock some Qi powers the game eases up a little (but it can still kick your ass if you take your eyes off the ball).
- Elite Mook:
- Samurai enemies tend to be the most resilient and dangerous mooks to show up, capable of dealing massive damage and slashing with greater speed than lesser enemies.
- Ghost enemies may be degraded versions of the ghost boss from the temple, but they're still a lot more powerful than human mooks.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Wei Cheng, for the first few stages, had a head full of long hair, a thick beard and a fine 'stache. All those are shaved off after he fully embraced the way of life as a Shaolin monk and a warrior.
- Flunky Boss: All of the bosses will surround themselves with legions and legions of mooks for Wei Cheng to battle.
- Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: For most of the part, the game has Wei Cheng battling human enemies like pirates and marauders, with ZERO hints of supernatural activities. And then comes the abandoned temple stage, used as a front for the Wukou… and suddenly Wei Cheng is fighting a powerful ghost sentinel. The game will throw lesser ghosts afterwards, in areas where they're at least expected to be (e.g. a haunted shipyard full of destroyed ships).
- The Goomba: Green-clad Wukou mooks in the first stages. They're a breeze to defeat even when Wei Cheng is armed with his blunt oak staff, they're slow and their attacks don't deal as much damage as later enemies. Perfect for combat practice.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Fudo, the leader of the Enryaku-ji who commands the Wukou, who is seeking to unite the He Shi Bi Jade in order to attain ultimate power to rule over the Eastern lands.
- Guns Are Useless: Enemy riflemen will appear in later stages, replacing blowdart mooks or archers. While they have advantage in range, their bullets does less damage than spears or swords, and can still be deflected back to the shooters.
- Hyperactive Metabolism: Wei Cheng can restore health by drinking tea.
- Malevolent Masked Men:
- Shikami, the first boss, wears a tengu mask, and is the leader of the green Wukou clan who's in the middle of ransacking a village he massacred.
- Hannya, the Red Wukou leader, wears a horned Oni mask, to the point that the game refers to Hannya as "the White Masked Warrior". It serves to hide the Samus Is a Girl reveal later on.
- Wei Cheng can collect demonic-looking masks later in the game, when the levels shift to Okinawa, allowing him to disguise himself as fearsome demons while fighting enemies. When masked his defense will increase, depending on the types of enemies he's facing.
- Man on Fire: The second stage have Wei Cheng fighting near a forge, with pipes and steel dragon heads blowing fire constantly. Both Wei Cheng and Wukou mooks can be set on fire if they happen to get too close, so be careful!
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Master Monk Zonglei, and most of the senior monks who trained Wei Cheng after saving him in the backstory, would fall afoul to Fudou and his minions when they invade the temple, with all of them except Guangli dying.
- Never Trust a Title: Despite the title, there are no monkeys anywhere in the game, and the Shaolin martial arts Wei Cheng uses are based on the Tiger and Crane styles. The title does not have any sort of relevance towards gameplay or story, save for the Title Drop at the end of the game.
- One-Man Army: Wei Cheng goes on missions solo, and racks up an impressive kill-tally by the end of the game. So much for Shaolin pacifism.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Despite being part of a team of Shaolin monks, for the entirety of the game Wei Cheng will be sent on solo missions, with the monks accompanying him either waiting in the sidelines or acting as his transport after he completed each mission.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The battle in the haunted temple ends with Wei Cheng fighting a powerful ghost sentinel boss, who cannot be harmed by ordinary weapons. Instead, he must use his qi to generate a spiritual blow capable of harming said spirit.
- Raised by Grandparents: Wei Cheng the hero is raised by his grandfather, who seems to be his only surviving relative.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Wukou does this to every coastal village they plundered, including Wei Cheng's hometown. There are numerous levels set in burning, destroyed villages with Wei Cheng battling Wukou mooks in the middle of ransacking the houses.
- Rewarding Vandalism: Everything in the foreground can be smashed and destroyed, including crates and barrels, vases, trees, furniture, as long as it can be interacted it can be smashed for points.
- Samus Is a Girl: Hannya, the Red Wukou captain who killed Wei Cheng's grandfather, is a woman. Wei Cheng actually responds in surprise at the revelation.Wei Cheng: Wait, you're a woman?
- Shockwave Stomp: Late into the game with Wei Cheng having completed his training as a Shaolin elite, and his qi at maximum level, he can tap his weapon on the ground and knock enemies within a wide radius around him off their feet. A very useful skill especially in the later levels when enemies start surrounding him in large numbers.
- Sinister Scythe: Wukou mooks armed with scythes are a recurring threat. They either Dual Wield two at a time, or use one in tandem with a flail. These enemies have short range in attacks, but are faster than the sword or spear-wielding enemies.
- Sole Survivor: In the backstory, Wei Cheng is the only surviving member of his village, who valiantly defended his home from Wukou raiders after seeing his grandfather getting killed, before he gets mortally injured and nursed back to health by some passing Shaolin monks. He awakens only to be informed his entire hometown has been destroyed and he is the only one left alive.
- Spin Attack: Wei Cheng can execute a spinning move that hits enemies around him by pressing attack and jump simultaneously. Some of the bosses can do this too.
- Spin to Deflect Stuff: Wei Cheng can deflect projectiles by spinning his weapons, using it to send darts, arrows, flung blades and other weapons launched at him back to the faces of their throwers.
- Starter Equipment: Wei Cheng's oak fishing pole the first weapon he can use on mooks. It does decently against the low-level Wukou but is quickly replaced by the Monk Spear after the first two levels.
- Stock Wushu Weapons: Wei Cheng starts off with a gun (staff), and later gets a guandao (crescent blade), shuo (lance), qiang (spear), cha (trident), chui (hammer), and other equipment in his arsenal.
- Symbolic Blood: Befitting the “Shaolin” nature of the game, enemies hit by bladed weapons do not shed blood, spewing black smoke instead. Representing the “negative chi” being purged from their bodies.
- Take It to the Bridge: Bridges are common obstacles in multiple levels, with Wei Cheng fending off enemies coming from both sides, from the rock bridge in the mountains to the bridge connecting the piers. He will lose a life if he falls off, but he can also toss enemy mooks over the bridge's edge so they fall to their deaths.
- Teleport Spam: There are teleporting enemy ninjas who will repeatedly port around trying to ambush Wei Cheng. They are among the most annoying enemies in the game, to say the least. Also Fudo in the first phase of the final battle will keep appearing and reappearing around the area to attack with his projectiles, until Wei Cheng destroy the He Shi Bi altar.
- Title Drop: The final line:But you and I know that it was all thanks to the Nine Skilled and Brave Warriors… the Nine Monkeys of the Shaolin.
- Tragic Villain: Hannya, the Red Wukou leader who killed Wei Cheng's grandfather, nearly killed Wei Cheng, and had her men slaughter his hometown... turns out to be a mere servant of Fudou, whose clan was conquered by Fudou and the Enryaku-ji, and is fighting to restore her clan's honor and the memory of her father.Hannya: Forgive me father, I have failed. [commits seppuku]
- Vengeance Feels Empty: Wei Cheng finally defeats Hannya in the second level and avenged his village, only to discover she's just like him, a warrior battling to restore her family's honor and trying to keep her father's legacy alive. The cutscene in the temple at the end of the stage says it all:Master Monk Zonglei: You have finally gotten revenge on the person who killed your grandfather and burned down your village. How do you feel now?Wei Cheng: For me, she was evil incarnate. Everyday, I imagine how I would take her life with my own hands. I wanted her nearest and dearest, people I'd never met, to die a painful death. You probably expect me to say that her murder didn't change anything, that I don't feel any better and other such banalities. However, I do feel better, although not because I got my revenge. She was only human. She committed all these murders because she was unable to accept her father's death. I feel better because I was able to discard my hate towards her, and feel sorry that she is dead.
- Weapons That Suck: After Wei Cheng completed his Shaolin training and reached the level of Senior Monk, he can use his chi to create a seal that causes all enemies within a certain radius around him to be sucked into a cluster, allowing him to slash or smash them to bits with his weapon. Another useful trick for fighting large numbers of enemies onscreen.
- Wuxia: The game is inspired by old-timey films from the genre, made popular by Shaw Brothers back in the 70s.
- You Can't Thwart Stage One: The first stage (which can be completed in around two minutes) has Wei Cheng fighting low-level Wukou enforcers before battling Hannya, and he will lose said battle since his equipment is just his puny oak staff which can barely do Scratch Damage on Hannya's armour. He then gets rescued by the Shaolin monks and taken to the Shaolin temple, thereby leading to the rest of the game's story.
- You Killed My Father: Hannya, the leader of the Red Wukou clan who massacred Wei Cheng's hometown, killed the hero's grandfather who raised him as well. Wei Cheng managed to catch up only to see her killing his grandfather, with Wei Cheng letting out a You Bastard! on Hannya before attacking.