Kung-Fu Master (video game)

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Kung-Fu Master
KungFuMaster arcadeflyer.png
North American arcade flyer of Kung Fu Master
Developer(s) Irem (arcade)
Nintendo (NES)
Publisher(s) Irem (JPN arcade)
Data East (NA arcade)
Nintendo (Worldwide NES)
Designer(s) Takashi Nishiyama
Composer(s) Koji Kondo Edit this on Wikidata
Platform(s) Arcade, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, C64, MSX, NES, ZX Spectrum
Release Arcade
  • JP: December 1984
  • NA: October 18, 1985
Game Boy version
Genre(s) Beat 'em up
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Cabinet Upright, mini-upright, and cocktail
CPU Zilog Z80
Display Raster (Horizontal) 4:3

Kung-Fu Master is a side-scrolling beat 'em up game produced by Irem as 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 (スパルタンX, Suparutan X) as a tie-in based on the Jackie Chan film Wheels on Meals (which was distributed under the same title 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 mysterious crime boss Mr. X.


Screenshot of Kung-Fu Master.

The player controls Thomas with a four-way joystick and two attack buttons for punching 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 temple has five floors, each ending with a different boss who are "sons of the devil" which are the Stick Fighter of the first floor, the Boomerang Fighter of the second floor, the Strongman of the third floor, the Black Magician of the fourth floor and Mr. X of the final floor who must all be defeated before Thomas can climb the stairs to the next floor so he can rescue Silvia. Thomas must complete each floor within a fixed time; if time runs out or his energy is completely drained, he loses one life and must replay the entire floor. If a boss defeats Thomas, the boss laughs. Although there are five bosses, the game only uses two different synthesized laughs. (The NES version uses a third, high-pitched synthesized laugh for the Black Magician, the fourth boss.)

Once the player has completed all five floors, the game restarts with a more demanding version of the Devil's Temple, although the essential details remain unchanged. A visual indication of the current house is displayed on the screen. For each series of five completed floors, a dragon symbol appears in the upper-right corner of the screen. After three dragons have been added, the dragon symbols blink.


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 videogame development division, creating the Neo Geo arcade system board and its games like Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, The King of Fighters '94, and Samurai Shodown there, as well as several of their successors.[1]

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.[2]

Ports and related releases[edit]

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), Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It was also made for the 8-bit Gameking console, under the name of Nagual. Some of the 8-bit conversions offered highly degraded performance, sound and image resolution. The NES version was ported and published by Nintendo simply under the title "Kung Fu" in North America and the PAL region.

The original 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 also released to cell phones.[citation needed]

The Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum versions of the game were included on the 1986 compilation They Sold a Million 3,[3][4] along with Fighter Pilot, Ghostbusters, and Rambo.

For iPad a homebrew version was released in 2011, Kung Fu Master for iPad.

Video game sequels[edit]

Mosaic of "Thomas" by Invader in Hong Kong (2014)

There was going to be an arcade sequel called Super Kung-Fu Master, but it was never released.

Irem's 1988 Vigilante was intended as a followup. The gameplay is nearly the same, but with a completely different plot added to it that takes place in the urban areas of New York City, where a nameless titular character must save his girlfriend, Madonna ("Maria" in the Sega Master System version) who was captured by the Skinheads ("Rogues" in the Sega Master System version). One unique feature is the ability to pick up and use the battering weapon: the nunchuks, until either the player gets hurt, finishes a stage or begin battling the final boss.

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 with the same protagonist along with a new set of enemies different stages and new bosses including a Chainsaw Man, another Strongman, a Napalm Bomber, a Ninja, a Shinobi and a mysterious and wealthy Kung Fu Master named Zapp Morgan who is the leader. Some of Thomas's new abilities are back-flip kicks and small bombs dropped by enemies. The flat levels were modified into stages with different platforms and objects in an urban city style similar to Vigilante's. The English version was modified from the Japanese version, by changing the look of Thomas, renaming him "Bruce Leap", and add some small enemies in the final stage before fighting the final boss.

In 1991 a Japan-exclusive sequel to the game was released for the Famicom, titled Spartan X 2. Like Vigilante and the Game Boy version of Kung-Fu Master, Spartan X 2's plot is also quite different and takes place in an urban area, with no mention of Sylvia, but rather "Johnny Spartan", a member of an unnamed crime-fighting unit who wears a red, short-sleeved jacket, an charges with foiling 6 drug smugglers including a punk named Flamey Joe, a magician named Chin Gen Sai, a boatswain strongman named Billy Bailey, a circus trainer named Mr. Benjamin, a femme fatale named Madda Lin and the crime syndicate leader and kung fu master named Caeson Hawk. One unique feature is the ability to crouch for a second before either sending an uppercut or grab and throw enemies from behind.


  1. ^ Leone, Matt. "The Man Who Created Street Fighter". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Spartan X". Arcade History. Retrieved January 22, 2016. 
  3. ^ http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0011373
  4. ^ http://www.mobygames.com/game/they-sold-a-million-3

External links[edit]