Kung Fu is the highly entertaining NES port of the arcade classic, Kung Fu Master. In it, you are Thomas, a handsome young man whose girlfriend, Sylvia, has been captured by Mr. X and taken to a place known as the Devil Castle. The entire game takes place on 5 floors of increasing difficulty, battling a new boss at the end of each floor, until you meet up with Mr. X at the end. Then it all starts over again, with the same enemies, just more of them. After every 50,000 points you get a 1up. The only way to die is if your energy meter goes down, or if the timer goes all the way to zero. When starting the game, you have a choice between one or two players, and game A or B, the difference being difficulty.
As you’re walking through this place, on the way to save your girlfriend, you have these oafs that come after you in droves, and you can punch or kick them, or my favorite, jump kick them. Some of them are worth extra points if you do that, and if you jump kick the first 12 enemies on level 1, you get a 1up. Then there are the guys with the knives, the very short guys that do somersaults on your head, fire breathing dragons, snakes in falling clay pots, wall-eating moths and giant Crunch Berries that linger in the air before spontaneously exploding. What is up with this place?
And what are all these people doing here? This Devil Castle, as it were, is very sparse. There are no furnishings, in fact there is nothing but hardwood floors, lovely crown molding and modern looking stairs. They should really do something about the terrible pestilence problem on the 4th floor- moths eating holes in the walls and flying everywhere. The place could really be something if they kicked out all the knife-wielding squatters, called an exterminator, and pulled together some money for restoration. They could turn the whole place into condos and sell them for a mint. Anyway, the only decor here, if you could even call it that, are banners printed with the kanji characters for 1-8 as you walk through the level. Once you get to 8, heads-up, the boss is there waiting for you.
The bosses are very unique and get tougher as you go upstairs. The key to defeating them all is to look for their tell before you go charging in to defeat them. A little bit of patience and distance and turn-taking and you will find that none of these guys are really that hard. The first floor brings you the stick fighter, who I always thought of as the angry landlord, looking for his rent among all these people looking for a free ride. You happen to be walking down the hall, so he clubs you. The second floor has the boomerang guy, who doesn’t really appear that angry, but instead has been forced to defend himself against all the dragons who live on his floor, so he probably has some issues. The 3rd floor resident is a very large bald man wearing a wife beater that will knock you down with one kick and not bat an eye. He’s probably mad because his neighbor upstairs on the 4th floor is an eccentric, hunchback magician who doesn’t clean up after himself, doesn’t seem to care that his floor is completely infested with moths, and has the most obnoxious high pitch laugh as he conjures up dragons with his black magic skills. After this comes the 5th floor and Mr. X himself, who bears an 8-bit resemblance to Chuck Norris (I guess Thomas is supposed to look like Jackie Chan). Jump kicks are the way to go to defeat him, but he’s pretty good at dodging blows.
Get past him and you are reunited with Sylvia, who is undoubtedly impressed with your heroic martial arts skills, and gives you a long, loving embrace. She probably wants to go home after having been tied up in a chair among all these weirdos, or at least go for a drink, or to Pinkberry or something, but before you guys get out of there, you are told that your happiness does not last long, and there you are back on the first floor again. Only the game is tougher this time around, and you have to get all the way back upstairs to rescue her again.
This game is lots of fun and is a mainstay in my collection. Sure, the levels are lacking some background art and the music, although good, gets a little repetitive, but if you understand that going into it then you will still enjoy it. The gameplay itself is smooth and quick, with occasional timing issues with the controls, but not too often. The sound effects are good, the evil laughter is fun to imitate. It’s not that tough, it’s not a game you have to think about, it’s just a fun, classic, action-packed game. If you have a hankering to spend a few minutes being entertained by a weird building, and punching and kicking your way through the madness, then I highly recommend you check this one out.