Tips for beating Sifu
February 21, 2022
Sifu (PS4/PS5/PC) has already cemented itself as one of my top games of 2022. It's an action-packed, gorgeously-styled love letter to martial arts movies. It's also an extremely challenging game, taking elements of Souls-likes (shortcuts, beefy bosses) and Rogue-likes (permanent upgrades across runs), which can give players who aren't used to these types of games fits when they're expecting more of a button-mashing brawler.
I was completely absorbed in Sifu and went from barely making it past the first level to earning all the trophies on PS5 in just over two weeks. I know a lot of people are still struggling to get past the second boss, so here's some tips I learned from my time mastering Sifu.
Dealing with incoming attacks
It's tempting to go into Sifu and just start mashing buttons. It manages to look pretty badass as you pummel enemy after enemy, but it won't get you too far in the game.
The key to Sifu is understanding its four different ways of dealing with incoming attacks and then countering with your own attacks when the opportunity arises.
This is Sifu's term for blocking. Holding the left button without moving the stick will block all incoming attacks, but add to your "structure" meter. When your structure meter is full, your guard will break and you'll be vulnerable to attacks for a brief period of time.
You don't want to guard every attack, but you can selectively block high/low attacks while using other means to prevent incoming damage to prevent your structure meter from filling too fast.
A good example is the second boss, Sean, who adds a low, sweeping attack in his second phase. Sean typically opens each string of attacks with either a thrust attack or a sweep attack. Rather than trying to guess which he'll open with, you can always block the first attack and then either deflect or avoid his remaining attacks until you have an opening to counter. Once you recognize this pattern and can react to it accordingly, it makes this fight much easier.
Once you have guarding down, instead of holding the button, you can try and time it with your enemies attacks to deflect them. Deflecting attacks adds to your enemy's structure, and potentially breaks their attack, giving you an opening for a quick counter.
Building your enemy's structure is key to beating tough enemies and bosses. If you can break their structure, you can execute a finisher without needing to wear down their entire health bar. (This is especially crucial with bosses if you want to be able to spare them to get the "true" ending.)
The timing of deflects have a relatively long window, so you can sometimes just mash the guard button as your enemy attacks to deflect each one. Once you learn the cadence of enemy attacks, it gets a lot easier to deflect accurately.
However, deflecting also adds to your own structure meter, so be sure to back off and let your structure recover before enduring more attacks.
Avoiding is a great way to keep your structure meter from filling up while still preventing damage. To avoid an attack, hold the left button as you would to guard, but move the left stick up, down or to either side. This requires similar timing to deflecting, but you also have to be able to anticipate whether the incoming attack is high, medium or low.
Most low-level enemies, especially the kind that can swarm you, will only attack you with mid attacks. So you can often just spam a single direction (left/right) to avoid most attacks.
A successful avoid will briefly slow time, allowing you to counter or get a hit on another nearby enemy. Avoiding also helps build your focus faster, allowing you to unleash unblockable attacks like the eye strike.
Dodging can be used to quickly get out of the way of an attack, which is especially useful when a group of enemies is closing in around you. To dodge, hold the left button and press the right trigger while holding a direction on the left stick.
Some enemies can unleash a long string of attacks that are too strong or quick to react to. Typically their momentum will carry them straight ahead, allowing you to dodge to the side to avoid their attacks.
The opportunity window to counter after dodging is a lot smaller than other guard methods, but for some enemies, like the third boss, dodging can be vital to escaping the battle without taking a ton of damage.
Weapons are your best friend
Weapons are plentiful in Sifu. Bricks, bottles, bats, pipes, sticks, staffs, brooms, knives and machetes can be found throughout the game, giving you a huge advantage in most battles.
You can disarm most enemies with weapons using sweep attacks.
Weapons have a limited durability, which can be enhanced through skills and rewards. You can also throw weapons at enemies using the right (R1) button.
The Environmental Mastery skill allows you to throw objects like weapons and furniture directly from the ground at enemies to stun, trip or even sometimes kill them.
Even better, the Charged Backfist skill, when used with a knife in hand, can one-shot-kill any non-boss enemy, immediately destroying the knife in the process. Knives can be found starting on the third level.
Use i-frames to your advantage
I-frames, or invincibility frames, is a term that describes a temporary window of invincibility resulting from certain animations. In Sifu, you can use this to deal effectively with multiple enemies who might be surrounding you.
The following attacks give you i-frames:
- Ground attacks (hold circle/B on a downed enemy)
- Finishers (triangle + circle / Y + B, when an enemy's structure is broken)
- Focus attacks (left trigger unblockable attacks)
You can use these i-frame attacks to temporarily prevent incoming damage. Use this to your advantage if you find yourself getting overwhelmed with groups of enemies.
Spend XP wisely
As you progress through the game, you'll earn XP that you can use to unlock skills and rewards. While it's tempting to unlock as many things as possible during a run, it's really to your advantage to focus on putting XP into a single skill at a time.
Spending points on a skill the first time will unlock it for that run, while spending additional points on an unlocked skill five times (across multiple runs) will unlock it permanently. This means you'll start a run with that skill already unlocked and won't have to spend XP to unlock it.
In addition to quickly unlocking skills permanently, this method also lets you learn the new skills more deliberately and work them into your routine.
Keep in mind certain skills can only be unlocked up to a certain age. So you'll want to make sure you focus on unlocking the skills lower in the list before you're too old.
Here are some key skills you'll want to unlock:
Strong Sweep Focus is an unblockable focus attack that will knock down your enemy, allowing you to follow up with ground strikes or deal with other enemies. It can come in handy against tough enemies and bosses, giving you crucial time for your structure meter to reset.
Charged Backfist, as mentioned above, can one-shot-kill any non-boss enemy when you have a knife equipped, making it incredibly useful on later levels for getting past tough enemies without taking damage. Bare-handed, it can also be quite effective against charging enemies.
Environmental Mastery, also mentioned above, opens up a lot of options for dealing with enemies. You can throw weapons from the ground to stun enemies or kick objects to trip enemies, opening them up to ground attacks. There's even one exhibit in the museum level that is loaded with objects you can throw at the two tough enemies inside.
Slide Kick is a great running attack you can use to drop an enemy to the ground, opening them up for further attacks. Great for closing the distance on certain enemies or getting the jump on unsuspecting foes.
Weapon Mastery lets you use a weapon until it breaks completely. Any additional use you can get out of weapons is worth having.
There's also three rewards you can purchase at shrines using XP:
Focus Reserve adds 1/2 focus bar, and you can have up to three focus bars total. It can certainly be handy to have some additional focus but, aside from unlocking the trophy for using each focus attack once (Thigh Cut Focus requires three focus bars), you'll probably be fine with two bars. You can't use focus attacks at all on the final boss, so your shrine visits might be better spent elsewhere.
Weapon Proficiency improves weapon damage and impact on your opponent's structure. Combined with other weapon bonuses, this can be quite powerful, but it's also 500 XP you could spend on unlocking a skill.
Death Counter resets your death counter to zero. This can be useful if you've racked up a lot of deaths, particularly going into a boss fight. It costs 1,000 XP though, so it's best to only buy this when you're trying to make it through a level for the first time and you want to get as many reps in against the boss as possible.
The other shrine rewards can be unlocked with level score or based on your age. They are all moderately useful but you won't be able to unlock all the rewards in a run since there's a limited amount of shrines.
I'd recommend Focus Regain to help you build up focus for unblockable attacks more frequently (keeping in mind you can't use focus on the last boss) and Health Gained on Takedowns if you find yourself struggling to even get to a boss without racking up a high death counter.
How to beat the bosses
Sifu's five bosses can be extremely frustrating until you learn their moves and how to counter them. Be patient, watch their attacks and wait for an opening. After you're able to beat a boss, you'll find it easier and easier to do it again on future runs.
Getting the "true" ending requires you to spare the lives of all five bosses. To do this, you'll need to break their structure in the second phase of the fight, but do not execute the finisher. They will recover some structure, which you'll need to break again, and when you're close enough, you'll be prompted to spare them by pressing left on the D-pad instead of doing the finisher.
Here are some tips for each boss encounter:
Fajar – The Botanist
Fajar is quick, but he mostly attacks mid, allowing you to guard, deflect or avoid his attacks until an opening appears and you can counter. Try spamming avoid in one direction (left/right) to build up your focus and then counter with regular and focus attacks as you're able to.
The second phase his moves are a bit more advanced but the same technique applies. Look around the outskirts of the area for bamboo sticks you can use to gain an edge, and watch out for the trees he grows out of the ground that he can knock you against and stun you with.
Sean – The Fighter
I imagine a lot of people will get stuck on Sean and give up on Sifu, which is a shame because the game gets so much better. Sean is arguably the second toughest boss in the game, but once you learn his moves, he's a piece of cake.
In the first phase, he'll usually lunge with his staff or shoulder and then follow up with a series of three attacks. Block or deflect the first attack and then avoid the next three pushing the one direction (right or left). Counter with a few attacks and then step back and repeat. There are staffs you can pick up along the walls, but Sean is pretty aggressive so be careful not to turn your back on him.
In the second phase, Sean throws in a sweep attack, but the same strategy holds. Block or deflect the first attack and avoid the following attacks. One combo has more than three attacks but can still be avoided just the same. Avoid until you have an opening, and then counter.
Kuroki – The Artist
Keep just out of range of her three-section staff by dodging to the side. Try to time your dodges with her attacks. Look for an opening and attack a few times before backing off. Keep an eye out for pauses between her last few attacks. You'll want to stand clear and observe her combos a few times to get familiar with them. Whittling her down this way takes awhile but it's relatively safe.
In phase two, Kuroki will attack with kunai at close range. Avoid these attacks to the left or right and counter. After about five attacks, she'll leap back a bit and immediately jump back at you with both feet. Dodge again and counter. She'll then jump way back, throwing a spread of kunai one or more times. Avoid again. She may throw individual kunai, avoid again. She will then lower her stance and zig zag or come straight at you. When you see a glint on her kunai, she's about to attack. Avoid immediately and then counter. She'll keep doing this pattern. Once you have it down, you should be able to beat her.
Jinfeng – The CEO
At first this fight feels pretty daunting, but it might be the easiest in the game because of Jinfeng's low health. You should have a weapon from the mini-boss room right before this, when the fight starts it should be right behind you. Jinfeng will throw her chain weapon three times. Avoid left/right twice, and then once up to avoid her sweep, then rush in and attack. Reset your position before she recovers and repeat.
The second phase is similar but she has an attack that can pull you in close before she unleashes a series of attacks. She has a few more close-range combos in this phase, but if you keep your distance, you should be able to repeat the same process above.
Yang – The Leader
This fight feels impossible at first. Yang, a disciple of your father and Sifu, has a similar move set as you with a few unique ones. As I mentioned earlier, you can't use focus attacks on Yang, which adds another layer of difficulty. His structure heals really fast if you struggle to keep pressure on him.
In the first phase, spam deflects as he rushes in and then counter. Keep an eye out when he jumps back, he may immediately rush back in with a sweep, which you can avoid by pushing up on the left stick while guarding and then counterattack. The deflects will quickly raise his structure to a point where he doesn't recover as quickly. Keep it up and you should get to the second phase relatively quickly.
The second phase is much tougher, as Yang has a lot of attacks that Sifu didn't teach you. Here you want to deflect the first two attacks and then keep avoiding the rest until you have an opening. Deflecting the first two attacks will build his structure and also protect you whether Yang opens with a high, mid or low attack. Watch out when he jumps back and leans back with both arms up. He's about to rush in with a series of punishing punches. Spam avoid to the side and then counterattack.
Winning the game by age 25
This is by far the toughest trophy to unlock. Replay each level until you have it down cold. Take advantage of shortcuts. The third, fourth and fifth levels have pretty generous shortcuts that can save your from having to fight a ton of enemies.
You'll be able to start each level at the lowest age you reached that level at. You want to try and eventually beat the first two levels without dying. You can maybe die once on the third or fourth level. You want to leave as many opportunities as possible for the ultimate fight with Yang.
If this all sounds impossible, keep at it! The boss fights get much easier once you learn the patterns. You just have to string together a good run of the various fights leading up to the bosses.
Remember, your health refills at each shrine and between each boss phase. Use that mentally to your advantage. Just make it to the next shrine or boss phase without dying.
I'll leave you with a few miscellaneous tips:
Pushing enemies When an enemy is stunned or in a finisher state, you can press square + X/X + A to throw them against a wall or other enemies. If they are near a ledge/railing you can throw them over. Enemies tend to die from fall damage from even the shortest drops. There's also a trophy for throwing someone into the museum fountain from an upper floor, which is extremely satisfying!
Ignoring enemies There are certain sections where enemies will not attack you unless you attack them first. Use this to your advantage to make it through levels while taking as little damage as possible. This is especially true in the Club and Tower levels.
Sneak Attacks If an enemy is not aware of your presence, you can finish them after a single hit. There are several areas where you can capitalize on this, including the hangar in the first level (there's a trophy for completing it within 90 seconds after alerting an enemy). Work around the perimeter and you can take out at least three enemies before anyone knows your there, making this trophy a lot easier.
Mantling obstacles You can press X/A to vault over tables, low walls and other obstacles. Use this technique to keep some distance between yourself and large groups of enemies, allowing you to pick off stragglers and even the odds.
Don't always take shortcuts If you're trying to unlock as many skills and rewards as possible, you might want to avoid taking shortcuts in some situations. There's a path you can take in the third level after unlocking the shortcuts that allows you to access three shrines without having to fight your way through all the exhibits.
Good luck on your path to vengeance!
Hopefully you found this guide helpful! Sifu can be extremely challenging but also incredibly satisfying when you elegantly plow your way through waves of enemies.