Nintendo Entertainment System
“You’ll need lightning-fast reactions to knock out the Knife Thrower, stop the Stick Fighter, and trip up the evil Tom Tom Brothers in this action-packed martial arts contest! Are you sure you’re tough enough?”.
Today, I’d like to take a look at the very first martial arts video game I ever played – Kung-Fu for the NES. When I say I played it, I mean I played it A LOT. This was one of the first games my uncle purchased when he bought his NES. I’d have to wait another year or so before I got my own console but, in the meantime, I was constantly over at his house playing his. He and I logged many hours into this simple, yet fun game that still holds up today.
This game originally started it’s life as an arcade beat ’em up produced by Irem in 1984 called, “Kung-Fu Master”. It was also originally based on Bruce Lee’s 1972 movie “Game Of Death”. I must admit, I’m not familiar with the arcade version at all. Never played it. The version I’m familiar with is Nintendo’s classic port they produced for their NES, simply called “Kung Fu”.
Kung-Fu’s plot is pretty simple. You play as Thomas (a very “kung-fu” like name, if there ever was one) whose girlfriend, Sylvia, has been kidnapped by the evil and dreaded, “Mr.X”. Why was your girlfriend kidnapped? Why was anyone’s girlfriend kidnapped in these old video games? We don’t ask such questions. You just better go get her back!
This game is split up into 5 stages. We begin Stage 1 and encounter our first enemy, “The Grippers”. These pastel-clad, “karate fighters” simply walk up to you and hug you, slowly draining your energy. They sort of dry hump you to death. You know, like Jon Fitch would do. The next enemies we encounter are the knife throwers who are a little more difficult to defeat. If you’re skilled enough (Okay, you don’t have to be that skilled. This game is fairly easy, to be honest.) to make it to the end of the level, you face the Stick Fighter, as he’s referred to in the game’s manual. If you can best the “master of sticks”, you advance up the staircase to Stage-2.
The stages continue to add more diverse enemies like snakes, poisonous moths, and the TomTom Brothers, who appear to be a clan of “little people” whose two main fighting techniques are hugging your shins or flipping over your head while simultaneously punching you in the face. They’re pretty annoying to go up against, actually. The end-stage bosses also gradually get more difficult to defeat. They range from a “boomerang guy” (possibly some sort of Aussie ninja), a “super-tall fat guy” (a kung-fu movie villain staple), some sort of magician (actually a pretty cool enemy), and “Mr. X”, himself. If you defeat Mr. X in hand to hand combat, then you get to hug Sylvia (wait, that’s all we get?) and she immediately gets “re-kidnapped” and you start from Stage 1 all over again, this time, everything being more difficult.
Yeah, so… this game is pretty short. Back in the day, I used to only play it long enough to go through all the stages once and then consider it “beaten” and move on to another game. Still, it was fun to play and I ended up doing that a lot. I’m sure I’ve “beaten” this game more than any other game that I’ve ever played. I never got tired of playing through it and it was always a fun 20-30 minute time waster trying to best Mr. X and his cohorts. No regrets at all. Truly a classic!
*Adam Zimmerman (a/k/a The Grappling Gamer) is also a staff writer and contributor to Canadian Bulldog’s World (www.canadianbulldogsworld.com)*