Posted on May 21st, 2009 3 comments
Release Date: 11/21/87
Price: 4500 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 16.68 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A fighting game. Each character is uniquely detailed, and the size of them gives you an impactful experience. Each enemy is drawn realistically and show off a variety of moves. An exhilarating experience, recommended to help you blow off steam.”
Aw hell yeah! Here it is! The game that defined the PC Engine’s first couple of months! The game that showed how much more powerful the PCE was than that lame-o Famicom! The game that NEC used all the time in its TurboGrafx-16 TV spots, back when they could afford TV spots! Oh god, that box art is making me want to beat some asses right the hell now!
People across the world have, sadly, very negative opinions about this game. They say it’s too hard to control, or too boring, or too much of a ripoff of every other action game of the time. Maybe they’re right. I don’t have the guts to try and deny any of that. But I am still recommending THE Kung Fu to you because it houses a soul — yes, the soul of Bruce Lee, the Dragon himself!
The instruction booklet talks about how “Wang, burning with justice, stands up to fight against the evil Dark Empire,” but that’s all just a front. Forget about it. I call the hero of this game “The Dragon.” You just have to look at the dude’s pose in the title screen to see why. I don’t care if Hudson swears otherwise or if I lose every connection to the game industry because of it, because it doesn’t matter. He is The Dragon, and since I am controlling him, that means I am The Dragon. Hwa-chaahhh!!!
I don’t care how finicky the controls are, or how boring the game is, or anything. As long as I know I’m The Dragon, it doesn’t matter. People need to stop thinking about the game and start feeling it instead. Even if most of the minions you fight don’t actually attack you at all, even if the bosses are half palette-switched “twins,” even if The Dragon is completely unable to execute a low kick for some reason, even if simply grabbing a box of oolong tea is enough to replenish his energy, even if I can’t stop thinking about that bastard who’s always just offscreen throwing all these plates and nunchucks and crap at me! It doesn’t matter anymore! All right, maybe a little! But being The Dragon lets you enjoy it all the same! Don’t think, feel!!!
THE Kung Fu is, strictly speaking, a martial-arts action game, but really, down in its core, it’s more like Dragon’s Lair than anything else. Everything in the game is scripted, every object and wimpy non-attacking attacker coming at you at the same moment, in the same order. It’s a giant memory game, and once you get a feel for how things come at you in five levels and the way each individual object moves, all that remains is to draw up a flowchart and hone your skills enough to follow it perfectly, and there you go. The boss battles are a bit more exciting, but not by very much. There’s a total of 36 levels — four worlds, three stages in each, and the game has three “quests” — and after you go through the game a third time, the message “GIVE UP!” (i.e. I give up! You must be a video whiz!) is displayed ominously onscreen.
The music is worth special mention — it’s fantastic and, as a previous commenter noted, incredibly atmospheric for a 1987 console game. I could listen to the in-game soundtrack forever and ever, and frequently do while I train topless in my living room.
Here’s a true Dragon not thinking, but feeling his way through the second half of the game’s first runthrough. Once again, bonus points for his impressive memory and for beating the game on a real machine. Check out his crazy moves against the drunken-master at the end. Are you feeling the Asian vibe yet? Do you think you could take on Chuck Norris?