Kung Fu – Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Release Date: October 18, 1985
Genre: Beat’em up
Nerd Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Reviewed by: bbpower
Do you want to jump-kick bad guys in the face? How about nail them in the junk with a lightning fast punch? If you answered yes, which I know you did, then look no further!
Kung Fu is a title that is included in the “black box” collection. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “black box,” it represents the first licensed games produced for the Nintendo Entertainment System. There are thirty titles in all and they all had a “black box” background depicting the graphics from the games. This was Nintendo’s idea of making sure the customers were not disappointed by the graphics. All of the games are collectible, not because they are high-value, but they were part of Nintendo’s beginnings as well as representing Nintendo’s standards. These games helped re-launch the home console, which was a flopped-industry for a half decade prior.
Kung Fu may be one of the least challenging games for the NES… ever. However, the simplicity is what makes this title fun to play. If I remember correctly, I got this game for Christmas back in 1990-91 and have been playing it ever since. I would consider this game one of those where the challenge lies in beating it without dying, which is not an easy task for the unfamiliar. It is a 2-player, non-co-op game in which the first player goes until they die and then the second player gets a turn, similar to Double Dragon. When players die, they start back at the beginning of the level and not the point at which the protagonist, Thomas, falls off the screen and dies. When you die, there will be a loud gong sound that signifies you have been iced. There are modes A and B. A is for beginners and B is experts. In no way is this game hard on either setting.
Thomas is our martial artist hero in this short, side-scrolling, butt-kicking game. His girlfriend Sylvia was kidnapped by the evil-doer, Mr. X. Thomas must work his way through five levels of the Devil’s Temple to rescue her from the clutches of evil. Each of the five levels has a boss at the end, each with a different technique to defeat. Some are easy, others will rock your world. The game did get creative in the tactics needed to defeat certain bosses. I praise the developers’ efforts for adding this variety to the game. When you are fighting most bosses, enemies will not come from behind in the earlier levels, but be prepared for the few that do. I am assuming this was the developers’ adding some difficulty to such an easy title.
The levels are all the exact same; straight runs with enemies running toward you. The enemies are different on each, with enemies ranging from guys who will run up and grab you to drain your health, to knife throwers ready to gut you, to short fighters called Tom Toms who will jump and nail you in the face. Also, flying bugs occupy a level and are very annoying. The enemies can come from the front and the back to throw off players. Another worthy note to remember, the enemies are endless. They will keep coming, so if you want to stay alive, you must always move forward!
In your efforts to have forward progress, Thomas can punch, kick, and jump-kick to defeat the endless barrage of fighters. More points are earned from punching than kicking. The controls come as simple as they come; punch with A and kick with B. Press up to jump and B to jump-kick. Down to duck from knives flying towards you. There is no block button, so you must always be attacking or evading!
If you reach the end of the fifth level, which should take you about ten to fifteen minutes if you don’t die, you will come face-to-face with Mr. X for the final showdown. Now, Mr. X is much tougher than the other bosses. He can block and counter, which can give Thomas a dirt nap in a few slugs if players aren’t prepared.
Thomas has a “Player” health bar at the top of the screen and a square display showing players’ level progress. Points are tracked based on how many enemies you kill, and extra lives are rewarded for gaining certain point totals. Also, each level has a time limit in which players must beat the level. The game allows for a certain amount of continues to defeat the game, but I highly doubt you will need them; it’s just too easy. You may die a few times until you get the hang of this game, but once you do, it’s a walk in the park, day at the office, stroll on the beach… however you want to phrase it.
Kung Fu may be as simple as games come for the NES, but it is a fun game to play. When the game is beaten, it starts over back at level one and the difficulty is kicked up a notch. I have played for an hour, or so, seeing how hard the game will get. I found it entertaining to go for as long as possible until I die. After I die, I usually turned it off, whether that was beating it two or three times beforehand. Still after 25 years, I play this game here and there.
Simplicity is nice every now and then. It makes for easy programming, which makes for no bugs in the game. This is a predictable game and will not have anything screw you over due to bad controls, or questionable places that take away from gameplay. However, this game did not leave me wanting more after I beat it. The scenery of the levels are boring and it is too easy to conquer, so therefore Kung Fu earned itself a Nerd Rating of 5.5 out of 10.
Many may say I am crazy to give this classic a lower score for one of the considered top 100 NES games of all time (going by some old rankings), but the “black box” factor can only bring the score up so high. Still, this is a definite piece of gaming history and any collector should score a copy for the sub ten dollar price tag, even better to find it in box, or get a box later on. Keep collecting and game on!
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