|Our hero, Thomas, battling through purple and blue enemies.|
Release Date: 1985
Genre: Beat 'em up (side scroller)
Ah Kung Fu...who could forget this staple NES game? A classic side scrolling beat 'em up on Nintendo. I recall playing this game over and over, usually when we had grown tired of playing Castlevania or Mario Brothers. This game served as a fun and challenging distraction from the regular games in our Nintendo diet.
The premise of this game is simple enough. You are a Kung-Fu warrior (Thomas) trying to rescue your girlfriend (Sylvia) from some evil jerk (dubbed Mr. X in the game). Most of the games I recall playing (i.e. Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers) always seemed to involve this simple plot. There is just something about beating the crap out of strings of henchmen and mini-bosses in the name of love and glory that never seems to get old.
There is a simplistic satisfaction found with this game. The game is designed in a basic side scrolling fashion, that provides ample amounts of enemies to kick and punch in to oblivion. Most of the enemies are defeated with 1 or 2 hits, and the manner in witch they fall off the screen is just delightfully fun. When you
add the simple yet harmonic music and sound effects to this mix, it only sweetens the deal. Yes, the sound effects of kicking and punching are cheesy, but without them this game would lose some of it's humble charm.
Even though my overall opinion of this game is good, there is an element of difficulty that boarderlines on frustrating. I guess that's kind of the point of video games though right? To be challenging, and provide a certain level of frustration? After all thats what keeps us coming back to them time and time again. So I guess what I am saying is that this is the type of game that provides a challenge that increases with each level you conquer.
First off, lets talk about the controls. Due to the limits of the controller design, they had to use up on the d-pad to get the character to perform a jump. The A and B buttons were reserved for executing punching and kicking moves. Most games of the era used the A and B buttons, one for attacking, and the other for jumping. Even though this is a deviation from what was normally used, it was a necessity. And this necessity is a minor flaw in an over all decent game. It takes some getting used to, and the controller is responsive, but sometimes when you have enemies coming at you from both sides, and are using d-pad left and right to switch back and forth, the jumping maneuver can get missed, and you end up being gang raped from both
And speaking of enemies....let's now discuss them. As you would expect, the enemies get progressively harder as you advance through the levels. Level 1 consists of basic soldiers in this kidnappers kung-fu army. They are dressed in glowing bright purple vests, and baby blue pants. The two difficult enemies on level 1 are
the knife throwers, and the end boss.
The knife throwers appear in other levels, and are notorious for being able to throw both high and low knives at our hero. Sadly there does not seem to be a pattern, so you will inevitably jump when you should have ducked, and vice versa. The other ball buster, is when you have 2-3 of the regular enemies coming at you from behind, when the knife thrower appears. You can only hope to reach him before he throws his knife, and sweep kick him in time to still have room to turn around and dispatch the ones coming at you from the other direction.
The level 1 end boss is just a guy in a green suit who tries to bash your skull in using a stick. The biggest gripes are that even while ducking, you get hit, and take damage, and that the reach of this guys weapon is just as long as the space you require to sweep kick him. Sometimes you have to just go in, duck, sweep kick
about 900 times, and hope he runs out of energy before you do. There is a strategy to sweep kick him be fore he uses his weapon, and then move out of the way, but it still seems to work about 50% of the time.
Level 2 is where the surprises begin to come out of the woodwork. Level 2 is a simple game of duck or die. Random items drop from the ceiling, and will contain one of 3 things; a snake that can only be killed from a ducking position, a dragon that shoots fire from his mouth, or a ball that hovers, then explodes, hurling
projectiles towards you. All 3 of these dropping items can be killed by executing a well-timed jump kick however.
If you manage to make it through this gauntlet, and defeat the boomerang wielding level 2 boss, you can then proceed to level 3 to take on bands of roving midgets. Thats right I said midgets. Actually, I am not sure what they are supposed to be, maybe kids? Although I don't know what is worse, beating up midgets, or
beating up kids. Either way, these mini enemies will come at you, and sometimes do a jump flip, and strike you on the head, causing damage, and aggravation. Once you manage to work your way through level 3 and the giant honey bear at the end, it's on to level 4, filled with killer swarms of bees or moths, or whatever the hell those things are that come flying out of the walls.
Ok I have made enough about the different enemies on each level. I think you get the idea. This game gets progressively harder with each level, as expected.
This game only consists of 5 levels. But with each level getting progressivley more difficult, it's not an easy journey. Yes, I have seen some speed runs online, and can see how it can be beaten quickly. However, my experience with this game was during a time where there was no YouTube or the internet. I had to rely on my own skills, and previous experiences to guide me.
Overall, Kung Fu is fun enough to keep you going, challenging enough to not seem simple and easy, and frustrating enough to make you throw things in a fit of rage. Add the music and sound effects in, and this makes for a truely classic console experience.