Kung Fu

Kung Fu USA Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Irem
Publisher: Nintendo

Released: 10/1985
US Cartridge ID: NES-SX-USA

Players: 2/Alternating
Genre: Beat `em up
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 320 kilobit
Mapper: NROM-256 (32k PRG, 8k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Kung-Fu is a port of Irem’s wildly popular 1984 arcade game, Kung-Fu Master. Produced by Takashi Nishiyama (responsible for some extremely famous arcade games, including Street Fighter, Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, amongst others), Kung Fu USA 001 256x224 Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotKung-Fu has the honor of being the first NES game to star Jackie Chan (the second, of course, being Hudson’s Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu). The game was based on Chan’s 1984 movie Meals on Wheels, which was released in Japan under the name Spartan X, hence the title of the Famicom cartridge.

In Kung Fu, Sylvia is captured by Gang X, and is being held at the top of their castle hideout. Thomas, an expert in Kung Fu, gives pursuit, hoping to rescue his girlfriend before it’s too late. Using his martial arts expertise to its fullest, Thomas must battle through five floors of thugs, dragons, moths, and snakes. Each level finishes with a boss battle, challenging the hero to take on a magician, a giant, a master of staves, a master of the boomerang, and of course the leader of Gang X, Mr. X.

Thomas can kick or punch his enemies while standing, crouching, or jumping, Kung Fu USA 007 256x224 Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review Screenshotgiving his methods a fair amount of versatility. Testing his skill are men who throw knives that must be ducked or jumped over; men who won’t strike, but rather run up and hug Thomas, draining his life; and Tom Toms, who, being half Thomas’ height make for difficult targets. Unlike most side-scrolling games, Kung Fu‘s first stage scrolls from right to left, the second scrolls left to right, and the game continues to alternate directions as higher levels are reached.

Kung Fu is not a terribly difficult game on its default “Game A” mode, but “Game B” increases the number enemies and their difficulty by a significant amount. Much of the challenge comes from trying to beat previous high scores, and there are several ways to do this. In addition to point reward from defeating an opponent and the bonuses that are awarded at the end of each stage, different point amounts are given depending on the moves used to kill each enemy (for example, if Thomas punches a Tom Tom, the player receives 300 points, whereas a kick nets only 200). Upon beating Mr. X and saving Sylvia, the game informs the player that “their happiness doesn’t continue long.” Sylvia is kidnapped again, and the game restarts at a more challenging version of the first level.

Kung Fu USA 029 256x224 Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotFor a game that was released with the launch of the NES in 1985, Kung Fu holds up extremely well. The controls are as simple as can be expected, the sound features some good voice effects (like the bosses laughter, or the grunt Thomas makes when he attacks), and the graphics animate relatively smoothly. The backgrounds act as progress bars through each stage, with the Japanese kanji characters for the numbers one through eight appearing on posts in the background- the higher the number displayed, the closer Thomas is to completing the stage.

Despite its age, Kung Fu still retains all of the fun and playability that made it such a hit when it was brand new.  Fans of Kung Fu would also do well to try its excellent Japan only sequel, Irem’s Spartan X 2, released in 1991.

screenshot icon w text Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review Screenshot35 Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review Screenshot

flag us Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotKung Fu
Nintendo, 10/1985
flag jpn Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotスパルタンX  (Suparutan Ekkusu)
Spartan X
Nintendo, 6/1985
Kung Fuflag uk Kung Fu NES Nintendo Review Screenshot
Nintendo, 4/1987