Old School Gamer Magazine chats with “Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues” Game Director and Design Director Paulo Luis Santos, who discusses the game’s design process and how the titles of his youth influenced this new adventure.

About Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues:

Made in collaboration with series’ creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues features an original story from dueling perspectives with unique cutscenes, dialogue, and the voices of Ralph Macchio, William Zabka and more. Choose between Daniel LaRusso and his students at Miyagi-Do Karate, or their Cobra Kai rivals, led by Daniel’s old foe, Johnny Lawrence. Only completing both sides of the campaign will give you the ultimate ending.

Seamlessly swap between eight playable heroes from both dojos, each with their own movesets, combos, ultimates and more. Master dozens of unique abilities and upgrade your characters’ stats and RPG-like skill trees. Face down fierce enemies and bosses in hard-hitting brawls across 28 story missions around the Los Angeles of the Cobra Kai universe. The fight is in your hands!

Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?

Paulo Luis Santos: It was born from a vision of love for the 80s and 90s beat ’em ups blending with modern game mechanics and features – all with great passion for the Karate Kid and Cobra Kai universe to be really on brand across all game elements.

Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?

Santos: It was challenging, but very, very fun nonetheless. We had a tight schedule, and all of a sudden we had the Covid-19 outbreak, which forced us to rush everyone home right in the middle of alpha, where being together can help in making many decisions better and faster. But we adapted pretty well, and had a lot of fun creating the systems, the combat, the story, cutscenes, everything! I wish I could have been in the studio with Billy Zabka and Ralph Macchio for the voice over recordings though!

Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?

Santos: The depth of combat and varied character design creates an unique game feel within the genre, bringing many cool features from modern game design, such as a robust skills system and a “never stop attacking” approach that allows you to hit enemies in air, on the ground, standing, using environments Jackie-Chan Style and more! All packed into a fun, nostalgic overall tone inside the cool Cobra Kai universe and sense of humour, which is so awesome and fun!

Old School Gamer Magazine: How does it feel to work within the Karate Kid universe?

Santos: It is an honor! I loved the movies in the 80’s, used to practice Crane Kicks all the time – Oh I miss being that flexible hahaha! But then when I watched the Cobra Kai series, I was instantly in love with it. The showrunners simply nailed it. Great content, great acting, awesome new actors, Johnny provides many big laughs… I felt really inspired by the show to create the best game we possibly could!

Old School Gamer Magazine: What other games influenced this one the most?

Santos: TMNT IV – Turtles in Time was the inspiration for the overall combat and game pace. We of course had to add the “throw enemy at the screen” feature! Combatribes was a great Inspiration for the ground Combat. Overwatch influenced us both on Skill mechanics and Ultimate creation. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey skill system; Devil May Cry stylish combo system; Dead Cells power up approach; Def Jam and Jackie Chan Stuntmaster on environmental attacks; Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat on attack design; Streets of Rage, River City Girls and Final Fight on level pacing and enemy mechanics design; Bloodstained on challenges system; Doom 2016 on combat resource management. 

Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?

Santos: In Game Development, it is common to have the game “clicking” close to the finish line, when something changes and makes the game really better. In this one, it was the “Dodge” feature.  If you play Cobra Kai, you’ll realize you’ll be dodging, like, all the time. It’s fluid, it’s fun, you always have a resource to avoid being hit. Well, that one was added after Beta (which is quite late), after arranged some in-depth playtesting and could pinpoint that the parry system was very badly rated by testers. So we added that roguelike jump roll and it made the game feel so much better that we were all  “Wooooah now we’re talking!”

And in terms of wild moments, I think going home office with a 50+ people team overnight was pretty wild, but I learned that us, game developers, are so used to being connected and dealing with online tools that it was way smoother than I thought. What is pretty wild is that none of our Cobra Kai developers tested positive for covid during the game’s development, which was a huge personal victory for me as the company’s leader.

Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?

Santos: Lesson number one: You can never talk too much about scope. It’s always healthy to review it and adjust if necessary.

Lesson number two: Iterate fast. Some features are plug and play, others need iteration to be really included or canned. You have got to iterate fast to find the answers.

Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?

Santos: I do. It brings a sense of familiarity that eases in the learning process of the new mechanics. There are many things about older mechanics that are great, and you are always threading on thin ice when attempting to change something people are used to. But sometimes it is needed – afterall, games and gamers have evolved – so it is a very challenging and exciting task to make decisions on what to keep and what to change.

Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?

Santos: Tough one! Can I name with more than one? Beating Kangaroo level 3 on Atari Nailing Sub-Zero’s Spinal Chord fatality on Mortal Kombat in the arcade when I was waaaay below age ratings  for that.

Waking up at 5 AM to play Streets of Rage hidden from mom, just to go back to bed and pretend to wake up later and not have that time deducted from my daily game budget

Beating Emerald Weapon in Final Fantasy VII

Deciding “to kill or not to kill” the Rachni Queen in Mass Effect 1 (the controller turned off because I took so long to make up my mind)

My first Annex multiplayer match in Gears of War 1

Beating Dead Cells with 2 Cells

Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in the industry helped this game?

Santos: Experience is king when talking about game development. Every single game I’ve put my hands into paved the way for Cobra Kai. And Cobra Kai does the same for the next one. Developing games is very complex and challenging, and the landscape changes so often, you have to keep your hands busy to keep up with the trends and the evolution of the medium. And that is one of the reasons it is so captivating.

Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?

Santos: A true homage to Cobra Kai in a great, unique and fun gameplay experience.

Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?

Santos: We are finishing up two smaller games called Get Over Here and Trenga Unlimited to release in Q1 2021 while we work on our next still secret big project!

Patrick Hickey Jr. Patrick Hickey Jr. (330 Posts)

Patrick Hickey, Jr., is the founder and editor-in-chief of ReviewFix.com and a lecturer of English and journalism at Kingsborough Community College, in Brooklyn, New York. Over the past decade, his video game coverage has been featured in national ad campaigns by top publishers the likes of Nintendo, Deep Silver, Disney and EA Sports. His book series, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Game Developers," from McFarland and Company, has earned praise from Forbes, Huffington Post, The New York Daily News and MSG Networks. He is also a former editor at NBC and National Video Games Writer at the late-Examiner.com