It was the fall of 1985, and I dragged every friend I could to our local Hart’s Department Store after the middle school day was done. The big attraction? There was a Yie Ar Kung Fu arcade game there. I had never seen anything like this game. It was a fighting game of the kind that would become popular years later with the Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter Two craze. It may even have been the first such fighting game. If not, it was at least the first fighting game I saw. And what a beautiful game it was. You controlled a kung fu martial artist named Oolong. Dressed in a sleeveless Chinese gi top and blue parachute pants, Oolong lept across the screen delivering all kinds of kung fu punches and kicks. Behind him was a gorgeous waterfall background that looked like a Japanese water painting, and facing him were strange enemies of all kinds: fat men, a horde of midgets, Chinese star-throwing women. I was in love with this game. I couldn’t correctly pronounce it’s name, but I was in love with it nonetheless. Totally, head-over-heels in love.
I never knew there was a NES port of Yie Ar Kung Fu. Somehow I missed that port in the NES era. And I’m not at all sorry I did, because it was horrible. Released by Konami in 1985, this port was nothing like the arcade version. Instead of controlling Oolong, you controlled Lee (more than likely a reference to Bruce Lee). Lee was a shirtless man in pink trousers who looked more like Opie Taylor than his namesake. Seriously. Look at that face. Does that look like a guy who could rip out your heart and show it to you before you die?
Besides the character change, there was also an enemy change. The 10 intimidating enemies of the arcade version were replaced with 5 far less-intimidating enemies. There was a background change. The Japanese water painting was gone, and in its place was a sparse Oriental temple. The moves were gone. Lee couldn’t unleash half the strikes Oolong could. Most egregiously of all, he couldn’t do the leg-split groin strike we all found so amusing.
As far as gameplay goes, the NES version does play similarly to the arcade version. Not exactly, but similarly. There is that slight same feel of bouncing around and striking. Overall, though, it is a very disappointing port, especially since it comes from Konami, and I’m glad I didn’t know about it. I’ll stick with my memories of all those wonderful afternoons at Hart’s.