Tag Archives: arcade

FGC #340 Tekken 3

King of the Iron Fist, AgainVideogames always move forward, but is the past really the enemy?

As I’m writing this, Mario Odyssey is just around the corner, which makes it an unknown. Will the game be good? Bad? Previews have lied before, it could be anything! There is technically just as much of a chance as seeing the next Mario Galaxy as Mario is Missing. But one thing we do know is that it won’t look like this:

GLUB GLUB

In much the same way you don’t want to show your naked baby photos to a date, the old days of gaming are fairly embarrassing. Okay, yes, there is nostalgia for the “8-bit style”, and every once in a while we get a great “throwback” game like Shovel Knight or Mega Man 9/10, but those adventures are few and far between. The lamest of cell phone games do their best to have “high definition” graphics, and even something like Pokémon Go, a game that barely requires graphics at all, looks better than most of the Playstation 2 oeuvre. Videogames move forward because they must, and looking back (or releasing a product that is actively looking back as an artistic choice) should be about as successful as scoring your bald-headed granny a gig with Insane Clown Posse (this is not to say your grandmother could not be a thriving juggalo, I understand that is a very warm and welcoming community).

At first glance, Tekken 3, the third Tekken game released on the Playstation 1 (I know that sounds obvious, but it’s not like there were only three Final Fantasy games on the Playstation), seems to follow this same line of thinking. Tekken 3 was a very deliberate reboot for the series… or… perhaps that’s the wrong word? Tekken 3 is definitely a continuation of the Tekken universe (so this isn’t some alternate universe or a situation where Spock accidentally nuked the space-time continuum or anything), but from a gameplay perspective, this may as well be a reboot. Tekken 2 featured 25 characters (or thereabouts, depends on how you count model swaps), which was a fairly significant roster for 1995. Tekken 3 featured 23 (or so) characters, but only six of those characters were familiar faces from previous Tekken entries. Okay, again, that’s kind of an exaggeration, as characters like King and Kuma are just “the next generation” compared to some previous characters. Kuma II technically isn’t Kuma I, and Panda certainly has nothing to do with any of that.

WooooBut, as ever, a fighting game is defined by its roster, and this roster makes an obvious comment about the “old” roster. It’s old! Paul Phoenix has gone from the Ken of the series to a glory-seeking has-been (who, incidentally, got beat up by a bear), Lei looks like he’s getting too old for this shit, and Heihachi Mishima is your super powered grandpa. The only characters that stay youthful are the cryogenically frozen Nina and Anna, and that was only because videogames are lawfully forbidden from featuring women over 40 (that’s the explanation, right?).

The rest of the roster, meanwhile, is youth in spades. The new main character is Jin, the son of two former Tekken characters who behaves properly like a genetic mix of the duo. He comes with a love interest and new rival, and, yes, they’re all in high school. Then we’ve got Forest Law, son of Marshall Law (God I love that pun), King Jr., the protégé of King Sr., and Julia, adopted daughter of Michelle. The rest of the new characters seem to emphasize youth, with Eddy Gordo as a break-dancing hip hop gangsta octopus[citation needed], and Bryan as one of those topless zombies that all the kids seem to love. And the big boss is an “ancient evil” that has been resting for millennia, so, yes, the final battle is absolutely going to be a teenager beating up the oldest thing he can find.

But there’s very little to complain about with the youthfulness of Tekken 3, as it’s an improvement to the franchise in every way. Tekken and Tekken 2 seemed destined for the Virtua Fighter graveyard of games that are 3-D, technical, and not very fun at all for some reason. Tekken and Tekken 2 weren’t bad, and, in fact, they might have been some of the best 3-D fighters out there… but this was also during the era that “3-D fighter” was a completely new thing, and competing with the raw love some had for really creative games like Street Fighter Alpha or Darkstalkers was no simple task. Yes, Tekken 2 had a boxing dinosaur, but did it have an enchanted succubus battling a giant bee from hell? Tekken 3 turned the weird up to eleven, smoothed out the basic flow of a battle, improved the graphics, and tossed in a magical wooden man (and woman!) for good measure. YouthfulTekken 3 rode that youth wave to conquer the fighting world, and you’ll still find 30somethings wandering around local arcades talking about the wonders of that Yoshimitsu.

But Tekken 3 didn’t quite forget its past.

Tekken 3 was the final Tekken title on the Playstation 1. It might seem ridiculous now, but the original Playstation was kind of a big deal in its time, as it was Sony’s first foray into the videogame console market, and the first successful console to support CDs (sorry, Sega). And Tekken was right there at the start of the Playstation’s R U E adventures, complete with next gen, blocky as hell graphics and “a TV scorching 50 frames per second”. So it seemed only appropriate that Tekken 3 would find an apposite way to close out the generation (before kickstarting it again with Tekken Tag Tournament).

Tekken 3 included a pile of unlockables, as was the style at the time. Over half the roster is missing at the start, and then there is a Final Fight-esque beat ‘em up mode to be completed. And I’m pretty sure you had to do something ridiculous to score the one and only Tiger, too. But after earning the entire cast, you could beat the game with said cast, and gradually unlock all of their endings. And then, after all that was done, you finally earned a completed Theater Mode. And do you know what you could do with complete Theater Mode? You could pop in an old Tekken or Tekken 2 disc, and watch every ending in the entire franchise.

Never understood the shoe thingThis was unprecedented in videogames! This is still incredibly unusual! You, dedicated Tekken fan, are actually being rewarded for owning old games. In an industry that’s constantly pushing the new and… that’s it. Just the new. It doesn’t matter if the latest version is actually better than the previous game (or not), what’s important is that you buy the newest hotness, and trade in those old discs at Gamestop or some other wretched pawn shop. A game (and the people producing said game, obviously) actually remembering that older games even exist is amazing, and, simply a “theater mode” or not, it’s great to see a franchise remember its roots.

So, way to go, Tekken 3. In an industry obsessed with the latest thing, you managed to marry the new and old with aplomb. You truly are the King of the Iron Fist.

…. Whatever the hell that means.

FGC #340 Tekken 3

  • System: Playstation 1, though probably also available on every system produced by Sony. Vita? Sure, probably.
  • Number of players: Fight, fight, two players, always fight.
  • Yay Gon!Favorite Character: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Ending: Gon is a precious angel that could only be on this Earth for a short time, and he will always be remembered.
  • Favorite Game Mode: Tekken didn’t establish itself as Tekken until Tekken Ball, the only fighting match that requires a giant beach ball to win. Or… wait… did that happen in Dead or Alive?
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So, first of all, I managed to score my copy of Tekken 3 right before leaving on my freshman high school band trip to Myrtle Beach. Like, I literally bought it an hour before the bus left. So, since I naturally brought my Playstation along, our room was basically just all Tekken 3, all the time. Pretty sure the entire roster was unlocked before the second day. On the other hand, I distinctly recall my freshman crush looking over the instruction manual and noting, “Wow, that guy has a huge package”. “That guy” was Eddy Gordo, and I have been jealous of that digital beefcake ever since.
  • What is even happening here?Did you know? It sounds like a high school rumor, but Anna actually has two different endings. In America, Anna’s ending is a poolside bit of sibling rivalry where Nina has to watch her sister get the attention of all the boys. In Japan, the ending ends with Nina snapping Anna’s bikini, and we close on a triumphant Nina and a topless Anna. It’s true! It’s on youtube! My uncle told me!
  • Would I play again: There’s actually a Tekken 3 arcade cabinet in the retro section of my local arcade, and I’ve hit that a time or two. It’s a fun way to beat up a bear, so, yeah, I’ll play it again.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo! Good! I needed an excuse to try out that SNES Classic! Please look forward to it!

FGC #334 NBA Jam Tournament Edition

Let's get ready to rumble?I’m a gamer. I rather loathe that moniker, but the shoe does seem to fit. And, as you’ve no doubt noticed, I’m a gamer that cares about videogames. It’s not about the physical cartridges or discs or the history of gaming or anything so concrete; no, I care about actual fake videogame people and concepts. At any given moment, I’m worried about what Ryu is getting up to. I have cried over fatally kabobed JRPG heroines. I have spent a great deal of my life logging the goings on of one moron with a key-sword. And these are all not “default” settings for the human brain. Had I never “gotten into” gaming, I’m sure I’d be worried about other, more mundane pursuits, like how often I get laid, or how I could totally crush it at beer pong. Also, I might give a damn about sports. I’ve always been confused by that one.

Before we go any further, I want to make one thing clear (and spell it out for myself so I don’t meander later in the article… eh, that’s probably inevitable): I am not the kind of person that sees “I don’t like sports” as some kind of higher calling. It’s very easy to insult any given sport for being “a bunch of adults that get paid millions to play a children’s game”, and I want to be absolutely clear that that is not how I see it. I don’t like sports, but it’s not somehow the corner of my belief system or identity. I’ve been to a couple baseball games, I tried watching college basketball with an ex, and I was dragged along to a number of marathons by another ex. Did I think these events were wastes of time? Or perhaps that the players involved would be better off applying their phat physical skills to, I don’t know, repaving my driveway? No, of course not (though if any NFL stars would like to repave my driveway, please give me a ring. I’ll accept estimates). There are people that think Shigeru Miyamoto has not actually contributed to the betterment of mankind, and there are people that think the same of Babe Ruth. They’re both wrong. In my opinion, if you make people happy with what you’re doing, and you’re not hurting anybody while doing it, then you’re doing a good thing. I’m not going to lambast anyone just because they’re not specifically making me happy.

He's on fire!But, as a giant nerd, I’ve always wondered why I didn’t like sports. It’s not because I have the physical coordination of a beached manatee, because I know plenty of people that can barely leave their couches, but adore the sweet sciences. It’s not because of some lingering obsession with “jocks” and “nerds” from high school, because some of my best friends were jocks (when you have spindly little arms, you learn pretty quick to make friends with people who could, twenty years later, please move your couch). And I can’t imagine it’s because I didn’t have parental encouragement, because my dad tried to get me to throw the ol’ pigskin around roughly 20,000 times before he finally realized I wasn’t going to stop cowering at an incoming ball-shaped object. And I did always enjoy gym class and “playing sports” and such… even if I wasn’t any good at anything. Look, I was a kid, I couldn’t even beat Castlevania, I knew I wasn’t that great, and I didn’t have high hopes for my soccer career. Oh, and I’ve always enjoyed swimming. That’s a kind of sport, right? I like sports, maybe! Kinda!

But I’ve never liked sports games. And it’s not for lack of sports games entering my orbit as a child. Tecmo Superbowl was played quite a bit, and I believe it was NES Baseball that taught me the wonders of following a ball’s shadow. Ken Griffey was on the cover of at least one of my beloved Nintendo Power issues! Sports was all around me, but… It just never really registered as a “fun” thing. Was it simply because I found watching sports to be incredibly boring, so “playing” said sports on my television was equally dull? Or did I not care about a bunch of anonymous randos known only as “catcher” and “pitcher” on “blue team” when I could be playing a perfectly good adventure game starring an elf? I’d play sports games, but I wouldn’t salivate for them like some of my more preferred “sports”, like bombermanning or beat ‘em upping.

And then there was NBA Jam.

I don't get itNBA Jam is ostensibly a sports title. It’s a basketball game. It features real basketball teams. It stars authentic, live basketball players like that one guy that is our ambassador to North Korea. You score three pointers and dunks. Passing is important, traveling is not allowed, and getting that last toss off at the buzzer is as important as ever. This is basketball. This is unmistakably basketball, one of those sports things that doesn’t do anything for me.

So why did I play NBA Jam, NBA Jam TE, and NBA Hangtime for approximately 100 billion hours?

While it would be easy enough to blame my peer group (we were all nerds, but some of us were nerds with delusional aspirations of becoming some manner of sports hero just as soon as that all-important “growth spurt” finally hit [“Vinne, your dad is like 5’ 3”, don’t kid yourself”]), but I think NBA Jam is something much more simple: it’s basically a fighting game. It’s 2v2, but that second player is only on your team for passing along the ball when things get crowded. Once you get past that, this is basically just a one-on-one fighter with rad dunks substituting for jabs. And I understand fighting games! This isn’t about “plays” or “stats” or whatever the heck happens in Hockey (what the hell is “icing”?), this is about scoring hits on your opponent and blocking every time the offense gets offensive. You’re only as behind as your score (formerly health) allows, and even the turbo works as a sort of “super meter”. Throw in a kombatant or two, and this would be indistinguishable from some of the other arcade offerings of the time. And I know every game at the arcade.

BOINGSo that, evidently, is what it takes to get me to care about sports. I might not give a damn about the Celtics or the Knicks, but I know that any videogame where I get to play one-on-one with my archrival is going to get my attention. No homeruns, no commentary, just two opponents, and a seesawing score card that is ruled by a turbo meter. That’s what I like to see from videogames, and that’s what I like to see from a sport.

FGC #334 NBA Jam Tournament Edition

  • System: Super Nintendo is dear to my heart, but also available on Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Sega 32X, Sega Game Gear, Playstation, Jaguar, and (dear God no) Nintendo Gameboy. Also, there’s an arcade version, because that’s where it started.
  • Number of players: Two for realsies, but there’s probably a version out there that allows for four. Did the arcade? You’d think I’d remember such a thing.
  • Port-o-Call: I don’t own the original NBA Jam, because I think I rented it until it just became one with my SNES. TE came out at just the right time for a gifting holiday, though, so that actually wound up in my collection. I believe TE started the substitution system, and also included the “crazy” powerup/extra point options, but who cares? It’s all basically the same (fun) game.
  • Favorite Team: Is there a single person who played NBA Jam and didn’t just choose the Chicago Bulls every single time? I know nothing about basketball, and even I knew that was the team to play.
  • GET IT!?Greatest Loss: Somehow, there was never a NBA Jam/Space Jam crossover. However, you are welcome to listen to the Space Jam soundtrack while playing NBA Jam. I mean, if your Jock Jams tape is busted or something.
  • Hidden Players: This is somehow the second game of the FGC to make weird, innocuous jokes at the expense of the Clintons. In retrospect, we all should have expected a Clinton loss in 2016, as she’s been the butt of random jokes for two decades. Good thing our current president hasn’t been the subject of media mockery since the 90’s.
  • Did you know? Most people know that the Mortal Kombat 2 incarnations of Raiden, Reptile, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion were all cut from the arcade game. But did you know that we also lost the Grim Reaper, King Kong, and some dork with a weird nose named Elviscious with that same update? NBA Jam… is a weird game.
  • Would I play again: Maybe! Like, if I’m suddenly twelve and stuck in my old life again, NBA Jam would certainly be on the menu. Otherwise, no, probably not. Not a big sports fan.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rayman 2! Pirates and frogs ahoy, mateys! Please look forward to it!

Jazzy

FGC #326 Rolling Thunder 2

Here is a complete list of passwords for normal mode of Rolling Thunder 2.

A MAGICAL THUNDER LEARNED THE SECRET

Let's get this rollingRolling Thunder 2, in an effort to not drive its audience completely insane, made all of its passwords actual words and phrases. This is in stark contrast to much of the NES and Genesis library, which used a password system that was, according to nine out of ten scientists, ferret chasing a ball wearing banana pants crazy. The mere concept of misplacing one semicolon and causing the entire program game to crash is a cruel thing to inflict upon a five year old that just wants to see Simon Belmont conquer the Castlevania countryside, and the idea that someone could memorize those random assortments of letters and numbers is laughable (ONBI UQAU Z12S SRYA). Rolling Thunder 2 instead presents a series of words for selection, and every password at least looks like a complete sentence. Awesome! This is even thematically appropriate, as the heroes of Rolling Thunder are (not very stealthy) spies, and these “passwords” could be seen in spy media as… well… passwords.

Of course, when you’ve got actual sentences going, it’s inevitable that you want to find meaning in said sentences. Our password to access Level 2 is “A MAGICAL THUNDER LEARNED THE SECRET”. This makes a certain amount of sense, as the heroes of this game are the titular Rolling Thunder Task Force, and I guess they learned a secret at some point. And they can soak more bullets than most people, so “magical” seems appropriate. So far, so good!

A NATURAL FIGHTER CREATED THE GENIUS

WHAT IS THE PASSWORDThis is not how these things work! I could see a genius creating a natural fighter (I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of at least two Tekken backstories), but a fighter creating a genius? Ha! The very idea is laughable… and immediately causes me to consider exactly how that would work. I’m assuming we’re dealing with one of those “negative intelligence stat” situations wherein someone was clobbered so soundly by a natural fighter, they suffered extreme brain damage. But there’s a happy ending! Said addled “genius” now is too dumb to realize that, say, inventing time travel is impossible and stupid, so it is done. How about them apples? Or maybe we’re just dealing with a specific kind of genius, like a fighting genius? That’s less interesting.

A ROLLING NUCLEUS SMASHED THE NEURON

I don’t know enough about science to say whether this is at all accurate or not (Gee, did the previous paragraph give that away?). But I want to say that this sounds just science-y enough to be legit. Look, I’m giving a TED Talk later this afternoon, and I’m going to see if the audience reacts at all when I stick this phrase in my introduction. I’m betting there will be no issues.

A CURIOUS PROGRAM PUNCHED THE POWDER

Oh hell yes. This is obviously the plot for the next summer blockbuster. In a world where science runs rampant, one professor decides to code his own sentient AI. But everything spirals out of control when this curious program decides to “punch the powder” and take control of all the nuclear weapons on Earth. Only natural fighter Hadoken Harrison (Shane Black) has what it takes to bring down this rogue AI. But when that AI inhabits the body of a generically sexy lady, will Hadoken still be able to jump kick his way to a better tomorrow? With Patton Oswalt as the nerd and whichever actress is currently 22 as the AI.

A LOGICAL LEOPARD BLASTED THE SECRET

ELEVATOR ACTION!There are logical leopards now? And they’re capable of blasting? Dr. Rob Liefeld wrote that most creatures are invincible while they’re blastin’, so we’re pretty much screwed. Let us all take a moment to bow to our new leopard masters, so they may evaluate our succulent necks at their leisure.

A PRIVATE ISOTOPE DESIRED THE TARGET

You know, while we’re on the subject of spy media, I think I want to compile a list of words and phrases that just sound like they’re something out of a technical manual. “Isotope” is the obvious science word here, but let’s not discount “target”. Adding “target” to any bluff increases the validity of your statement by about 200%. “We’re looking at hitting target projections shortly”. “The target demographic is very excited about this.” “Stay on target.” Every time you use the word “target” (and you’re not talking about darts), you sound more worldly by a target estimate of about 300%. And no isotope is ever going to take that away.

A NATURAL RAINBOW ELECTED THE FUTURE

Man, I wish that happened in 2016.

A MAGICAL MACHINE MUFFLED THE KILLER

The final boss of Rolling Thunder 2 is a robot man, so this might be some manner of foreshadowing. Or… wait… No, it’s the duty of Rolling Thunder to defeat that magical machine… which is a killer… um… Hm. Oh, no, I’ve got it! The killer is the final boss, and the muffling magical machine is your gun! Yes! That makes perfect sense. Apparently Rolling Thunder 2 is more pro-gun than the NRA, and believes your standard pistol to be a magical machine. Now we’re all on the same page.

A DIGITAL NUCLEUS PUNCHED THE DEVICE

For a game that only lets you use firearms (even when you run out of ammo, you still shoot the same gun, just slower), there sure is a lot of punching in these passwords. This one seems to be a “greatest hits” of the other passwords, and retreads a lot of well-worn ground. A digital nucleus? Are we back on another robot kick? And always with “the device”. I’m betting it’s just a common watch. A robot punched a watch? Huh. I guess that does sound more interesting when you bring a little ambiguity to the table.

A PRIVATE THUNDER CREATED THE POWDER

Did you think I was making this up?It’s only appropriate that we close these passwords with something that at least passingly acknowledges our heroes. While a “private” thunder is still the dream of planetariums everywhere, if we assume the “Thunder” in this case is actually referring to the heroes, then… they’re making drugs? Oh! Wait! They turned their enemies to powder! That’s it! “Private” aka stealthy Thunder-spies infiltrated eleven different strongholds, shot the living heck out of everybody, and turned their foes, human and robot alike, to powder. These passwords do make sense! Awesome! Next we’ll tackle the hard mode passwords, but let’s take a little break first. I need to go create a private thunder.

FGC #326 Rolling Thunder 2

  • System: Sega Genesis and Arcade. Unlike the original Rolling Thunder, I’ve never seen the Rolling Thunder 2 arcade cabinet. I don’t particularly remember where I saw Rolling Thunder 1, mind you, I just know that it’s burned into my memory from somewhere. Oh, also available on the Wii Virtual Console.
  • Number of players: Two player simultaneous! Woo! And you can’t accidentally shoot each other, either! Even better!
  • Pew PewMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: What we have here is a basic “cover shooter” in the 2-D environment, a little slower than Sunset Riders, but a little faster than OG Elevator Action. This is the kind of game that does really well in the arcades, but gets kind of boring on the home consoles. Or, well, I suppose it doesn’t get too boring, as, if you ignore Hard Mode, the game doesn’t really overstay its welcome, but it has about as much replay value as your average beat ‘em up.
  • Favorite Character: There are only two available here, but I’ll take Leila, the hard boiled 80’s gal, over Albatross, a James Bond wannabe (with a heavy emphasis on “wannabe”) any day. Apparently, in the arcades, Leila was the default player one, which is unusual for the era always.
  • Did you know? The original Rolling Thunder featured presumably “real” human opponents, they were just cloaked into genericness by a bunch of hoods. In Rolling Thunder 2, the majority of your opponents (save a few evil dogs) are secretly androids of some kind. I’m pretty sure this means that the bad guys of the Rolling Thunder universe followed the same trajectory as The Foot Clan.
  • Would I play again: Rolling Thunder 2 is pretty fun with two players. As was tangentially mentioned earlier, it’s basically a beat ‘em up game with guns, so that makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, I have other, better, real beat ‘em ups that I’d rather play with my friends, so, sorry, agents, you’re retired.

What’s next? Random ROB… is taking a backseat, as I play the game everyone has to play right now. Metroid 2! Samus is back, baby! Please look forward to it!

Huh?

FGC #314 Kung Fu

HIYAHKung-Fu is the NES port of Kung-Fu Master, an arcade game originally intended to be based on Jackie Chan’s 1984 film, Wheels on Meals. By all accounts, such a dubious origin should not be the foundation for every fighting game that has ever been produced, but, hey, here we are.

Kung-Fu originates from the early “arcade” era of videogames, a time when “fun” had to be carefully balanced with “player will never ever succeed”. Kung-Fu appeased these twin masters with a fun, interesting gauntlet of unlimited, faceless mooks that want nothing more than to see your immediate death. Everyone remembers the bizarre “man train” of random dudes, but those that actually had the quarters to finish Kung-Fu also encountered dragons, moths, and a unusually high number of acrobatic dwarves. Each stage finished with a unique boss, and the final level of the pagoda hosted none other than Chuck Norris. Or maybe that guy from Karate Kid? Look, it doesn’t matter, the point is that that guy is capable of some punishing kicks, so trouncing him and reclaiming the captured Sylvia felt like a real accomplishment. And then the whole thing looped back to the beginning (complete with a bit of text that seems to imply that Sylvia is a professional kidnapping victim), because an arcade is not happy until you leave the place a penniless (quarterless) hobo.

Now, to be honest, that account could describe a number of games. Who is Mario but an average dude that deals with generic/murderous monsters on his way through a castle to rescue a princess from a big boss? And this game is based on a movie… a movie that didn’t have that much of an original plot to begin with. Come on, if battling up a pagoda was at all original, it wouldn’t be a lame sidequest in Final Fantasy 7. No, there isn’t much of a plot and story for Kung-Fu to latch onto. And if we’re going to claim this is the origin of fighting games, welp, it ain’t because this was the secret origin of Ryu.

Growl!But in the same way that Space Invaders tells you everything you need to know within its title, and Pac-Man never need be anything more than a puck-shaped man, Kung-Fu’s fighting origins come from the simplest of sources: the joypad. Ever seen a Kung-Fu Master arcade cabinet? There is a completely centered joystick, punch and kick buttons on either side (seemingly to, for once, placate our left handed community), and a complete lack of a jump button. Where did jump go? It’s the up key, and that’s all it ever needed to be.

And that changes everything.

Remember Donkey Kong? Why did Mario need separate “up” and “jump” buttons? Because ladders, that’s why. Mario had to distinctly climb his way to rescuing Pauline, and, while Jump Man may have been on a 2-D plane, he needed the faux 3-D motion of “going up” to properly ascend. In some stages there were elevators or moving platforms, but “up” was a necessary way of scaling the heights. “Jump” was there not to soar, but to avoid obstacles in Mario’s path. And when Mario became Super (after the release of Kung-Fu Master, incidentally), “jump” became Mario’s offense, defense, and a way to properly climb over blocks and up towards clouds. Mario’s jump was versatile to a ridiculous degree, and time has shown the many, many ways a jump can be applied to both terrible platformers and more interesting jump-a-thons.

But the jump of Kung-Fu is a very different animal. When you jump in Kung-Fu, you are doing one of two things:

  1. Avoiding a low attack
  2. Delivering a hella rad jump kick

HIYAHThat’s it! That’s all a Kung-Fu jump does. There are no ladders to climb. There are no doors to enter. Even vaulting over an enemy is less satisfying than simply kicking that creeping snake right in the asp. The jump of Kung-Fu is there for one reason and one reason only: it is another avenue of attack. The best defense is a good offense, so the best way to avoid a million encroaching dudes is to distribute a million deadly punches. If that doesn’t work, leap over the incoming attack, and, hi-yah, jump kick to the face. Who needs “environmental hazards” when you’ve got dudes tossing friggin’ knives!?

And that right there is the origin of the fighting game. I’ve said it before, but fighting games are pure expressions of basic concepts. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Self (mirror match). Man vs. Metal Slug. When Chun-Li experiences a particularly bad Tuesday and needs to avenge her father, she doesn’t need to jump over seventeen barrels and then successfully bop sixty turtles before finally moving onto the main boss; no, all she need do is beat ten dudes to a pulp, prove her worth in a simple 2-D plane, and advance to the tournament organizer/Magic Hitler. And, yes, Chun-Li jumps by simply tapping up, because her jump exists exclusively to necessitate various kinds of sweet kicks. In fact, upgrade for better graphics, buttons, and the occasional fireball, and Chun-Li controls exactly like Thomas the Kung-Fu Dude. And the boss of the third stage of Kung-Fu? You can’t tell me that ain’t Mike Bison Balrog.

So many little peopleKung-Fu might not be a true fighting game, but all the elements are starting to coalesce here in this 1984 game. Play Street Fighter, Blazblue, or even Tekken, then return to Kung-Fu, and things will seem… very familiar. It all starts with a simple jump interface, and it ends with Ryu tossing dragon punches.

And the poor folks behind Kung Fu Master never get any credit…

Oh, wait, apparently Kung-Fu Master was created by Takashi Nishiyama, the man responsible for Street Fighter who then went on to SNK to start Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, and Samurai Shodown. Huh. I guess that guy knew what he was doing.

Well, nobody ever claims Moon Patrol was the start of all fighting games…

FGC #314 Kung Fu

  • System: NES for the review (and certainly the version I played the most), but Kung-Fu also appeared in the arcades (duh), Apple devices, a couple of Ataris, and the Commodore 64.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. This is not the game where two guys fight in front of a judge with weird hair. That’s Karate Champ.
  • HIYAHFavorite Boss: The magician at the end of the fourth stage will literally lose his head if you knock it off with a kick. He… gets better.
  • Did you know? Koji Kondo, the composer for Street Fighter 2 (and thus, Guile’s theme) composed the soundtrack for the NES version. Another fighting game connection!
  • Would I play again: This is an important piece of history that is hard as steel. I might play it again for thirty seconds, but I’m totally quitting after my first death.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sonic Generations! Dammit, ROB! Sonic Mania just came out! Can’t I write about that game? Or could you have picked Sonic Generations last week, and we could have made a theme out of it? No? Damn you, robot. Fine, Sonic Generations it is. Please look forward to it!

HIYAH