Kung-Fu Master


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 hit in.



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 final boss.

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 self-satisfaction.

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 well.