Kung Fu Master

Atari 2600

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 6

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 5

I'm a "Kung Fu" master. Oh, sorry. Not in real life. No, I'd probably get killed by a street bum named Melvin if the situation ever occurred. I'm talking about the NES port of this arcade classic. It's one of those games I can beat without dying. Shame I can't say that for this almost excellent version on the 2600.

Seems this guy named Thomas made the critical video game hero mistake and let his girlfriend Sylvia get kidnapped. Maybe if he cared enough to spend more time with her this wouldn't have happened. Selfish idiot. Anyway, another male in this story named Mr. X is the culprit and it's all up to our buddy Thomas to ascend five floors and free his neglected girlfriend.

The arcade game is handled surprisingly well here on the weak 2600. The sprites look about as close as they can to the arcade game (as do the backgrounds) and the variety of enemies is strong. Thomas still has a wide range of moves to take down the street gang (or are they not really a gang but some sort of cult?) and all the boss patterns are present. Minor deletions include defeated opponents disappearing instead of falling off the screen and the end level staircase climb.

For as close as this one came, it really is a shame how bad this game controls. In order to fit the somewhat large repertoire of fighting maneuvers onto a one-button control scheme, players must press both the button and the joystick towards the enemy at the same time. A different direction on the stick pulls out a different move. It doesn't really make much sense either. It's not like this move set is entirely necessary. You can get through the game with just the kicks. Give players just the jump kick, foot sweep, and standing sidekick would have eliminated this problem.

The generic group of enemies here also have a rather large advantage. In other versions, it's the knife throwers who caused the most damage. That's not the case in this one. With an unfair advantage, these guys now hold on to kill (what exactly are they doing to poor Thomas anyway?) and the gamer behind the controller is helpless. Expect your life bar to empty down to the halfway mark if you get caught.

An actual improvement to the game is the soundtrack. Thankfully, the incredibly annoying digitized voice sample that played EVERY time you attacked in the arcade game is gone. Thank you limited technology. Now, only the decent soundtrack leads players through these stages. Even the quick little intro theme is here. If only the control was this good.

All things considered, if you spend time with this one, you could adjust to the archaic control scheme. But, when the NES has an almost flawless port, why would you even bother? Credit is given for trying to keep the spirit of the original alive on such limited hardware, but you can find a better experience elsewhere (and maybe figure out why all of these guys are protecting Mr. X in the first place... What do they get out of the kidnapping?).


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Last updated: Saturday, September 25, 2004 10:55 AM