Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars
When the Nintendo Entertainment System was released to an American audience in 1985, it arrived on the scene with 18 launch titles. These cartridges actually provided a remarkable variety of gameplay options; however, they also provided a notable variance in quality, with some being outright clunkers and others becoming instant classics.One of the in-between cartridges was Kung Fu, which was actually an arcade port now made for the small screen on the NES. Starring a hero named Thomas out to save his girlfriend Sylvia from the clutches of the nefarious Mr. X., it featured relatively fast-paced martial arts action throughout the plotline. But the simple question remained: Was it a good game?
The game progressed through five levels, each featuring the simple goal of walking from one end to the other, where the boss would be met. In between, there were enemies that ranged from mindless dozens of running foes to midgets, pot-birthed fire-breathing dragons, killer moths, and other oddities. The bosses each required more than one hit to kill, unlike most of the other enemies, with the exception of knife throwers that requires two.
The moves available were a punch with the A button, a kick with the B button, and the capacity to use either while in a midair jump (up button), though only the jumping kick was useful. The scoring system awarded a different amount of points for different moves, apparently based on their difficulty: While a person can overuse a simple standing kick, it does not garner as many points as the punch with shorter range, nor the jumping kick.
The appearances are basic and pixelated, which was both intentional yet also indicative of the software limits that NES cartridges had at the time, with more limited memories than later Nintendo games. Even with the blocky looks, characters and elements are recognizable, and the consistency adds to the unique, cheesy, quirky Asian kung fu melodrama.
A low point for the game, with overly repetitive sound effects each time Thomas performs a move, in addition to background music that refuses to change. The only highlight that the effects provide is the humorously stilted laugh of the antagonist, Mr. X., taunting Thomas after certain levels.
Creativity and Innovation
Really, since it was one of the first titles for the NES at all, Kung Fu paved the path for several ideas: The beat-’em-up genre as a whole, and the idea of porting arcade games to a home console. These two concepts would form a solid backbone of dependable, quality games for dozens of titles yet to come. Granted, each trend probably would have happened regardless of Kung Fu’s existence, but it was the first example.
While Kung Fu is a quasi-classic and large recognizable among retro gamers, its actual replay value is disappointing. First-time players find it difficult to master defeating new types of enemies encountered, but once experience builds, this becomes an easy-to-beat game with very little to offer in the “rich, rewarding experience” department. However, for those first few play-throughs, it certainly offers a sequential, challenging, beat-’em-up experience. But for its utter lack of depth (did I forget to mention it only has five levels?), it earns just two stars out of five.