Release Date: October 1985
Genre: Beat ‘em Up
Here’s another arcade style game in the form of a beat ‘em up. Kung Fu is a very simple game to learn, very difficult to master. That’s a phrase that’s starting to sound really familiar, isn’t it? The developers were still in the arcade frame of mind. Let’s make a game easy to get into and then kill them over and over again so they keep pumping in quarters. Unfortunately, it took a couple more cycles in developing NES games before they realized they could do more than try to emulate an arcade experience.
Controls are simple. Walk in the direction opposite of where you started. The A button punches. The B button kicks. Holding down causes you to crouch. Pressing up causes you to jump. You can kick or punch while jumping, as long as you press the button at the correct time. You have to use all of the different standing, crouching, and jumping punches and kicks to be successful.
Kung Fu is the story of Thomas, who is on a quest to save Sylvia from the evil Mr. X and his gang of ruffians. He starts on the first floor of X’s complex and has to work his way up to the top to face off against Mr. X himself. Along the way, you fight an army of Grippers, who try to hug you to death (sounds like my old buddy House Jones), and mini Tom Toms who will hug you or do a flipping senton on your head. Interspersed with them are knife throwers that can take off a huge chunk of your life.
Each level has a mini boss. The stick fighter on floor one is easy to get up next to and punch away. The boomerang fighter on floor two will be recycled as an enemy in Zelda 2. Bob Sapp is the boss of floor three and he’ll drop you with one punch. The black magician is the boss of floor four and he kept killing me after I kicked his head off. He probably needs sweeps to kill. Mr. X is supposedly the boss of floor five, but I was unable to reach him. Sorry Sylvia.
Kung Fu is one of those games that are just right. You can sit down for 10 or 15 minutes and get a few attempts in. You’ll likely walk away a little better than you were when you sat down.
I like the big sprites, but they aren’t very detailed. The background is plain blue. I do like that on floor 2 and above there are roof tiles at the bottom of the screen.
I like the sound, too. The background beat is memorable. The thuds and cracks are satisfying.
If the jump kick had more forgiving timing, the gameplay would be even better. As it is, everything is just simple enough to work without too much of an issue.
You’re not going to pick this up and immediately waltz up to the top floor. You’re going to get stabbed in the face by a knife when you realize he takes two hits to kill. You’re going to get hit by snakes and bugs until you learn the right patterns. Bob Sapp is going to punch your head off. The magician is going to drive you mad. But you’ll understand what makes them tick over time and be able to beat them as you get better.
Fun Factor: 3.5
I kind of want to go back and try to beat the magician so I can try my hand at Mr. X. I had fun and it’s calling me back, so that’s saying something.
Overall Grade: 3.0
Kung Fu earns a solid B. This is probably about the cap for the launch titles. Kung Fu is a very good game to this day. I recommend giving it a play.