Kung-Fu Master (video game)
North American arcade flyer
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up|
|Cabinet||Upright, mini-upright, cocktail|
|Display||Raster (horizontal) 4:3|
Kung-Fu Master is a side-scrolling beat 'em up game produced by Irem as an arcade game in 1984 and distributed by Data East in North America. The game was initially released in Japan under the title of Spartan X[a] as a tie-in based on the Jackie Chan film Wheels on Meals (which was also distributed under the name Spartan X in Japan); however, the game has no bearing on the plot of the film outside the names of the main protagonist and his girlfriend, allowing Irem to export the game without the license by simply changing the title.
The players control Thomas, the titular Kung-Fu Master, as he fights his way through the five levels of the Devil's Temple in order to rescue his girlfriend Sylvia from the crime boss Mr. X. Kung-Fu Master is regarded as the first beat 'em up video game. A port to the Nintendo Entertainment System as Kung Fu sold 3.5 million copies. The arcade game inspired a 1988 French film of the same name.
The player controls Thomas with a four-way joystick and two attack buttons to punch and kick. Unlike more conventional side-scrolling games, the joystick is used not only to crouch, but also to jump. Punches and kicks can be performed from a standing, crouching or jumping position. Punches award more points than kicks and do more damage, but their range is shorter.
Underlings encountered by the player include Grippers, who can grab Thomas and drain his energy until shaken off; Knife Throwers, who can throw at two different heights and must be hit twice; and Tom Toms, short fighters who can either grab Thomas or somersault to strike his head when he is crouching. On even-numbered floors, the player must also deal with falling balls and pots, snakes, poisonous moths, fire-breathing dragons, and exploding confetti balls.
The Devil's Temple has five floors, each ending with a different boss (described as "sons of the devil" at the start of the game). In order to complete a floor, Thomas must connect enough strikes to completely drain the boss's energy meter; he can then climb the stairs to the next floor. Thomas has a fixed time limit to complete each floor; if time runs out or his meter is completely drained, the player loses one life and must replay the entire floor. Upon completing a floor, the player receives bonus points for remaining time and energy. The boss of the fifth floor is Mr. X, the leader of the gang that kidnapped Sylvia. Once he is defeated, Thomas rescues Sylvia and the game restarts at a higher difficulty level.
An extra life is given at 50,000 points; thereafter, the rest of the game is on "survival of the fittest" mode.
The game was produced for Irem by Takashi Nishiyama, who also created Irem's 1982 arcade-hit Moon Patrol, and later designed the original 1987 Street Fighter at Capcom before leaving to run SNK's video game development division, creating the Neo Geo arcade system board and games including Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, and Samurai Shodown.
The game was originally based on Bruce Lee's 1972 movie Game of Death, with the five-level Devil's Temple reflecting that movie's setting of a five-level pagoda with a martial arts master in each level. However, the title was changed during development to make it a tie-in to Jackie Chan's Spartan X.
Kung-Fu Master was ported to the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Commodore 64, NES/Famicom, MSX (Irem/ASCII version as Seiken Achō), PlayChoice-10 (arcade, nearly the same as the NES version), and ZX Spectrum. The NES version was converted and published by Nintendo as Kung Fu in North America and the PAL region. It was also made for the 8-bit Gameking console, under the name of Nagual.
In Japan, Game Machine listed Kung-Fu Master on their January 15, 1985 issue as being the most-successful table arcade unit of the year.
The arcade version was later included along with the arcade versions of 10-Yard Fight and Zippy Race in IAC/Irem Arcade Classics for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn, released in Japan only in 1996 by Irem and I'Max. The arcade version was released to cell phones.
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An arcade sequel called Beyond Kung-Fu: Return of the Master was developed by Irem and underwent location testing in 1987, but was shelved after it underperformed. The Kung-Fu sequel was then revamped into Vigilante, after Irem decided to give the game a more Americanized setting, which was released in 1988.
In 1990, the arcade game received a completely different Game Boy sequel titled as Kung-Fu Master (Spartan X in Japan), which has similar gameplay to the arcade game, but with a completely different plot and setting.
In 1991 a sequel was released in Japan for the Famicom, titled Spartan X 2. Spartan X 2 did not receive a North American release until 2016, when it was included as a built-in title for the Retro-Bit Generations retro video game console under the name Kung-Fu Master 2.
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