Kung Fu for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – Classic Video Games
This game is based on the Kung Fu Master arcade game, and was one of the first “Black Box” games for the NES in 1985. This game just oozes early NES magic, and it’s still pretty fun. Believe it or not, this primitive game was very popular in the arcades. It’s a lot more technically complex than the crap that was on the Atari 2600, that’s for sure.
The plot of Kung Fu is pretty simple. Some dude called Mr. X has kidnapped your totally hawt girlfriend and you have to go beat a bunch of ass in order to get her back. Simple and easy to understand. I like that.
The Box Art
Just as an aside, Nintendo sure had some underinspired box art during the first year of the NES' existence. All of the black boxes just feature a pixalated shot from the game. It's a good thing their video games actually kicked a lot of ass (no pun intended), because these boxes wouldn't have sold diddly squat.
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The Atari 2600 Was Laughably Far Behind the NES
Theres a reason why these early NES titles underperform, and that's because it just didn't take much at all to outdo the Atari 2600. If all you had seen before on home consoles was the game at the right, then of course a game like Kung Fu would have blown your mind. Like most game consoles until the Xbox 360 and Wii era, consoles offered slightly dated arcade quality games. The NES was basically equivilent to what you saw in arcades circa 1979-1982 or so. In the mid to late 1980s, you basically saw Super Nintendo quality games in arcades. This trend continued until home consoles started maxing out their capabilities in the modern era. Now arcades aren't as popular, and there is no mystery to me about that.
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Nice Controls in This Early Effort
The controls are very responsive in this game. It was programmed fairly well, despite its simplicity. I mean this game really does make fighting games seem easy to code, but they weren’t necessarily. Have you ever played Karate Champ? You could stand next to someone and punch all day long and not get a hit sometimes in Karate Champ. So yeah, for an early release, NES Kung Fu had superb controls.
The game is a lot harder than it looks. It’s meant to be fast and challenging, but not really visually appealing. Anyone can beat it with enough practice, but most players are gonna get hung up somewhere. The game sends legions of enemies at you and it’s pretty easy to make a mistake until you learn the patterns. I hate those knife throwers. Sooner or later you’ll master the game and breeze through it, but I always forget how to get past some of the bosses and situations. Beating the game has more to do with memorization than skill, which is definitely a sour point.
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Do I Yearn to Play This?
Does this game have replayability? Not really. It’s great for nostalgia, and it has that magical NES feel – but Kung Fu is just an appetizer of a video game. It still leaves you feeling kind of empty even after you play it for 45 minutes and finally get through the whole game in one pass. You don’t feel like popping it in anymore after that, and you probably won’t for years to come. I recommend playing it if you haven’t though, since this game is so uniquely tied to the early NES era. It’s definitely one of the better early titles, but it isn’t much more than a unique curiosity these days.
I will say this, though. I heard about the guy that programmed it from an internet source. He was just an old man with a dog. Basically wasn't much more than that that created this game. Well, a little more - but - it's not a great game. It's just a classic. For a first effort... not bad I guess. Still has too much Atari feel to it these days.
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