For a game that
involves no more than walking in a straight line and punching midgets in the
balls, Irem's Kung Fu for the NES seems pretty popular among the internet
gaming audience, at least from my observations. Of course, I guess it's pretty
obvious - the plot is simple as hell (your woman's been kidnapped! ARE YOU A BAD
ENOUGH DUDE TO yadda yadda you know the drill), the gameplay is remarkably crude
and is basically all about going Bruce Lee on your enemies, and after five
minutes you know what to expect from the rest of the game, so those with short
attention spans are able to take part without missing out on anything. But did
you know there was a sequel? Two, in fact! One was also on the NES but never
left Japanese shores, while another was for the Game Boy and released in English
as Kung-Fu Master.
Unlike Kung Fu, where after a while you were actually told a plot of some kind,
Kung-Fu Master has no such luxury, and since there's no scans of the box or
manual online I sincerely have no idea what actually prompts the series of
events to kick off, but I'll craft a little bit of prose just to give us
all some context.
Of course, that suggests that Thomas is still the protagonist and Mr. X is still
in the villain business, but whatever, if the game isn't going to supply info, I
may as well make up my own story.
Thomas remains all his abilities from the first game, and the most notable
change is that now he has a third frame of animation for walking, which makes
him look like a gimp. He also has a new move wherein he pulls a rather awesome backflip, achieved by mucking about with the Up and Kick buttons, though I can
hardly tell the precise details of it. He can also still die by being hugged to
death. Really, that's all we need to know.
The game begins in a rather generic wasteland full of crumbling walls and
promotional signs for Irem, but the first thing you'll see is the familiar sight
of the Hug Ninja. Still up to their old antics, these guys will swarm at you
from both directions with the sole intent of grasping onto you and not letting
go until poor Thomas is overwhelmed by the transferred body heat and dies.
Despite their excellent displays of leaping ten feet into the air from behind
brick walls, they still die in one hit and can be killed simply be walking away
from them. I am dead serious.
However! Our second foe is the ever dreaded Whipmeister. For you see, he has a
whip, and he is not afraid to use it for legitimate violent purposes and not
just for the motivation of manual labour. He will whip you right in the face.
And it will hurt. However, this otherwise lethal foe is no match for simply
walking up to him without pause and kicking him in the gut a few times. You'd
think he'd be more prepared.
The first boss is a big fella with a hockey mask, a chainsaw and some rather
grubby jeans, which gives the impression he didn't dress out for this occasion
to attempt to murder Thomas, unlike the Hug Ninja who all rather thoughtfully
dressed up in the same outfit. He also seems to have no idea how to actually use
a chainsaw; while you would normally hold such a tool horizontally so the saw
can cut through what is to its left and right sides, this guy seems to think
holding it vertically is the way to go, and rather than doing the obvious thing
and sawing Thomas' body from his waist, he prefers to hold it in the air and
waggle it about, bopping him on the head with the saw. He will try and ram it
into his gut, though, but he seems very adamant about actually sawing anything
with it and preferring to just use it as a blunt object. Unfortunately for him,
once you're up close you can very easily kick him to death without him getting a
The adventure continues in a construction site! Here we face such dangers as
barrels being thrown from off-screen! There are also boxes to jump on, which act
like right-angled hills! Except they're boxes! I'm sure there's a "start to
crate" joke in there somewhere.
... look, even by the second stage it's hard to make these levels sound
interesting. It's a step above the first game which consisted of nothing but
flat paths on the same background, but it's hard to write about them excitedly
without eventually having to the stoop to the level of the Super Castlevania
IV advertiser - "fight through a room!"
The boss of this site is a chubby fellow in an undershirt and a face like a
busted mattress. He doesn't immediately appear to be armed, and aside from being
a fat git, it doesn't appear like he could cause much physical harm to Thomas.
Appearances are deceiving, however! Get close to him and he will pluck a barrel
off the stack behind him and hurl it at you, which hurts like a bitch. Unlike
the Whipmeister who seems incapable of causing much harm when you get all up in
his face, ol' barrel belly here will totally bludgeon you in the noggin with a
barrel if you're close enough. Without a barrel he's fairly harmless, though,
only capable of kicking you with his stubby, stubby legs. Given the fact he's
got legs the length of pancakes and Thomas is capable of jumping, the poor guy
is rather out of his league.
You've got to admire Mr. X for hiring a guy with such a freaky-ass face, though.
I mean, what the hell's happening there?
The third stage is set on the roof of a moving train, where the Hug Ninja
continue to prance around without the slightest care in the world. Surprisingly,
the game doesn't add any artificial difficulty by throwing strong winds into the
equasion or having the train pass under bridges that splat your character on
impact, it's just an easy excuse for some interesting scenery.
This level introduces a new enemy to the roster - the Manhole Asshole! Yep,
having gotten some new duds and jumping ship from Jail Break, this guy appears
out of holes on the roof of the train and takes pot shots at Thomas with a
machine gun. On the bright side, he isn't nearly as ruthless as his prisoner
incarnation, and since he delays so much in firing, it's very easy to just punch
him in the gob before he can react. You've got to admire the effort, though.
Also, sometimes they drop a bomb pick-up when they're clobbered, which you can
then hurl at other enemies. Neato!
The boss of the train is none other than Cobra Commander! Apparently usurped by Destro or Serpentor once more, he's armed himself with a grenade launcher and is
all too happy to set you ablaze with it. However, as is to be expected from the
sneaky snake, he ain't playing on fair ground; his grenade launcher is friggin'
brutal, as touching the grenades in mid-air will sap your health like nobody's
business, and they burst into flames upon hitting the ground, which drains your
life even further. Not only that, there's a pipe on the battlefield which
periodically sprays up steam that also damages Thomas. On the bright side, if
you have the good fortune to have held onto a bomb for this fight, you can drain
half of his health with a well placed throw, though otherwise it's still a
pretty tough scrap.
Halfway through our trek now, and we enter the favourite location of any quest
for revenge - an abandoned warehouse! Abandoned meaning "it's not used for its
intended purpose", of course, as it's filled to the brim with brand new enemies,
and even new music for the occasion. In addition, it also treats us to some
typical features of a side-scrolling video, namely conveyor belts, moving
platforms, and spikes of death. Also, more steam. Fun times.
The Hug Ninja have been replaced with the Munchkin Militia, which function in
the exact same manner, except they're shorter so punches won't hit them unless
you crouch. Meanwhile, the Whipmeisters have been ditched and replaced with
generic ninja, who walk around and jump around and throw shuriken while doing
so. Although they're a little more effective, they're also remarkably boring. I
mean, you have enemies that hug you to death and people that think bringing a
whip to a kung Fu fight is a good idea, along with people who think having no
clue how to use a gun is a good idea if they attempt to use the element of
surprise, and now you're going to bring in generic ninja with shuriken and no
other gimmicks? Yawn city, man. Yawn city.
The boss is barely anything more than a ninja without a mask, as he hops around,
throws shuriken, can swing a sword around, and doesn't do much more. Easily the
most boring boss in the game, and boringly, the easiest boss in the game. It's
quite possible to murder him in mid-air without him even landing. That is the
very definition of sad.
The next level is still inside the warehouse, but now on the second floor. This
stage is less about clobbering the bejeezus out of everyone in sight, and more
around platforming, as pits are abundant and moving platforms are frequent, and
most pits even have blocks of spikes levitating out of them. I don't know when
the game changed from being about everybody kung Fu fighting (though definitely
not being as fast as lightning) to being Mega Man 2: Electric Boogaloo, but
whatever, it adds some variety, I guess.
However, the stage design seems to be the developers making up for the loss of
diversity in other fields, as this boss is exactly the same as the last one.
Seriously. Same jumping, same throwing, same swording. A funny hat and a
conveyor belt don't change anything, this is the exact same boss, and you'd
think if they were to copy one of them they'd choose an opponent that wasn't a
pathetic sack of shit. He doesn't even deserve a third screenshot.
The final level! Apparently the roof of the warehouse is convenient enough to
have a long flat stretch with a scenic view of the ocean, and is a good hangout
spot for the Munchkin Militia. However, it's just filler to weaken you for the
And man, is he totally and completely ridiculous. His moveset is limited and his
behaviour is remarkably simple, but Mr. X is a force to be reckoned with solely
for one technique - the flying backwards kick. It may not look like much, but
that thing takes two blocks of your health bar. And since it connects multiple
times in one sweep, you can be dead in an instant. That, my friends, is the very
definition of not cool. On the plus side, one of the enemies from earlier
usually drops a bomb, so if you catch him not moving it's pretty easy to drop it
at his feet and burn him alive for a while. Likewise, walking away and kicking
him when he lands from the jump kick is a pretty simple way of beating his face
in. Sock it to him enough and he'll eventually expire, just like the rest of his goons.
However, it only proves that Thomas' quest for revenge was entirely for naught -
on this expedition there was no damsel to daringly rescue, no oppressed city to
heroically liberate, nor a delicious cake to consume. Thomas set out simply to
knock the block off someone he is barely acquainted with over a minor dispute,
and what he got to show for it? Some bruised knuckles and a superficial sense of
If anything, dramatically posing on a scenic view like this is a good
opportunity to snap a new photo for his MySpace account. All's well that ends