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When we all get our first video game system, chances are we get some pretty shitty games to go along with it. Call in inexperience, or call it your Aunt Betty's stupid idea for a birthday present. Either way, the game might be shitty, but you're gonna play it because after all...you've got no other games.
When I got my first Nintendo, I also got a few games. Super Mario Bros., Slalom, and the game we're going to talk about tonight: Kung-Fu!
Kung-Fu is positively mindless. If there ever was a platform action version of Tetris, this is it. It's punch/kick/jump/punch, but still, somehow, it was a pretty good game. Mainly because of the ridiculous enemies and bosses you were set to face...
There were 5 stages, each a little different from the rest. You played as Thomas, the ninja master, and your goal was to rescue your girlfriend Sylvia from the evil clutches of Mr. X. Why every damsel in distress in an old Nintendo game had lame names like Sylvia or Bertha or Missy, I'll never know. But more importantly - why did Mr. X even want her? Thomas doesn't look rich...he's got no ransom money to offer up. And it's not like Mr. X was trying to woo the girl...all he did was tie her to a chair. Essentially, what we have here is classic Nintendo: in these days, we were so floored with the graphics and the idea that we're controlling what's on the screen that nobody ever thought to think about how inane the plotlines actually were. Don't believe me? Here's some more examples:
* In Donkey Kong, your goal is to save a girl from a barrel-throwing monkey. When you do, somehow, the monkey has her back by the beginning of the next stage. You've gotta think that this gives the Mario lookalike somewhat of a defeatist attitute.
* In Ghosts'N'Goblins, Satan steals your girlfriend. Fine. But when you get touched by an enemy, your armor dissapears and you have to fight everyone wearing fashionable red underwear. Huh?
* In Duck Hunt, your goal is to simply shoot and kill as many ducks as possible. If you don't, the dog will laugh at you. They say we're driven by the consequences of defeat. Well, I can deal with a dog laughing at me. Especially since it's really cute when he does it. Plus, why would I want to kill some innocent ducks? I used to lose this game on purpose!
Anyway, back to Kung-Fu. First, let's establish some of the enemies you'll see throughout the game...
Shitheads: The guys in the blue in purple are either really poorly trained, or just complete and total idiots. There's hundreds of 'em in the game - but don't worry. They can't kick, punch, or shoot you. All they can go is grab you. What's even better -- if you shake 'em off you, a lengthy process entailing simply turning the other way...they fall through the floor!
Knife-Throwers: They may not kick or punch, but they know how to throw a knife! Luckily for you, they'll usually just stand there inanimately while you kick them to death. It's almost as if they have to count to Ten Mississipi before throwing a knife.
Midget Fuckers: These guys may be little, but they can grab just as well as the Shitheads! What's more - if they see you kneeling, they'll jump on your head! With such offense, does Thomas really stand a chance?
Exploding Confetti Ball: Don't misjudge what's going on in the pic. Thomas isn't at a disco, and you'll find that out the hard way if you start dancing under one of these balls, since they'll explode on you. When Thomas gets hit, he makes a vowel sound to indicate that he doesn't particular enjoy what's going on.
Wild Dragon Guy: Balls fall from the ceiling, revealing dragons that shoot fire! This is one of the many mystical creatures Thomas will encounter, including snakes and wasps.
If you can get through these enemies, you'll meet the bosses. Now believe me, it's going to be tough. Walking and tapping the 'B' button every now and again is a tedious procedure with almost guaranteed failure. But if you're a true video game wizard, you might just make it. And when you do, you meet...the big guys...
Stick Man: Stick Man carries a stick, and if you're not careful, he just might use it! Essentially, he'll swing the stick at you once every 20 minutes. So if you're able to kick him 5 times or so in the interim, you'll overcome the insurmountable odds and move on to level two.
Hmmm....I just realized that every frigging character in this game is wearing a vest. There has to be some deep-rooted meaning to all of this.
Boomerang Bastard: Here's another winner for you. This guy apparently has no idea that you're even there. He just throws his boomerang as if it's a practice session, and if it hits you...so be it. Again, defeating him won't be easy. You might have to duck once or twice. But those of you who can learn how to hit the down arrow do stand a fighting chance.
Giant Brutha: Now things were getting serious. In keeping with the 80s video game tradition of racial stereotypes...all Japanese people were ninjas, and all black people were tank-top wearing 500 pounders. Giant Brutha may move slower in battle than this game did on the shelves...but if he hits you, it's gonna hurt! Luckily, he moves so slow that you can literally walk up to him and kick him till he dies before he throws a single punch. If Thomas can avoid getting mesmorized by Giant Brutha's hot pants, he should succeed.
The Malevolent Magician: The magician was interesting. You could kick his head off and he wouldn't die. He's just reappear and throw another ball at you. The trick is to punch him in the stomach, because as everyone knows, that's a magician's weak spot. But be careful - the Magician's mad at the world for his grossly exaggerated nose, and he's out for revenge!
Mr. X: The Big Cheese. I could say that the 'X' in X-Entertainment was a homage to this guy, but I'd be totally lying. Mr. X was the only villain in the game who learned the supreme technique of blocking Thomas' critical offense of punching and kicking. He's really not all that easy to beat. After all, he's wearing a cool red and black outfit, so he must be tough. But the prize if you can defeat him is well worth it. You'll be able to free Sylvia from her evil chair of doom!!!
It's a heartwarming reunion. Not until David Lee Roth would foolishly feel accepted back by his Van Halen comrades at the MTV Awards years later would we get such a feelgood moment. Now that Sylvia can stand up again, there's no telling what lies in her's and Thomas' future. Or is there?
Yes, in keeping with another old video game tradition, shitty endings, Thomas would get to rub his crotch onto Sylvia's knee for no more than five seconds before you've gotta play the whole game over again. Satisfying? Probably not. But still, it's kinda fun to just punch and kick stupid ninjas while you're half asleep sometimes. As long as it's not up against a game that has a remote bit of challenge or intrigue, I give Kung-Fu a thumbs up.
Emulator users, you can download the Kung-Fu rom by right-clicking and saving this file to your emulator directory.
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