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Gaming Flashback: Kung Fu

Gaming Flashback: Kung Fu

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Being in the launch lineup for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Kung Fu is a very early and incredibly primitive title. You play as Thomas, whose girlfriend, Sylvia, has been kidnapped by the notorious Mr. X.  As the player, you must take control of Thomas and battle Mr. X's underlings to save your girl. The story may sound like a cliché, but given its age, I think we can forgive such an overused narrative.

The first stage of the game starts you on the right side of the screen and moving left, something different titles like Mario. The game changes this with each stage, though, with some moving the traditional left to right. Each area also includes obstacles to impede your progress. These can range from standard enemies to projectiles and even snakes and dragons that can appear to attack you. Most enemies will be dispatched with a quick punch or kick, which are performed with the A and B buttons. Punches are slightly faster than kicks, but have a shorter range, increasing your odds of taking damage. Requiring the player to plan ahead to ensure they aren't overwhelmed by groups of attackers.

Each level becomes more challenging with more enemies and projectiles getting in your way. Each stage also features a boss that Thomas must face to advance to the next area. Bosses have a life bar at the top of the screen and will take multiple strikes to defeat. Meaning Thomas must dodge his adversary's attacks and projectiles while attacking to avoid meeting your end before clearing the stage.

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Once the player has finished all five stages and saved Sylvia from the dastardly Mr. X, the game will loop back to the first stage, but with the difficulty ramped up. The game will continue to loop with increasing difficulty each time the player defeats Mr. X. It's a based premise, but being a game from 1985, and a launch title for Nintendo's first home console it holds up surprisingly well. The game offers a nice difficulty curve and can provide an excellent test of reflexes for even the most seasoned gamer.

The best way I can describe the graphics is basic, at least by today's standards. Looking at the game during the time it came out; it has some of the larger and more detailed sprites on the NES at the time. The sprites also succeed at showing off the much more extensive range of colors when compared to other home consoles on the market. The sound, on the other hand, is comprised of five tunes and a handful of sound effects. While the music isn't going to leave much of an impression, the sound effects that Nintendo used to simulate digitized voice samples are impressive for such an early title in the console's library.

Kung Fu is an interesting example of how far video games have come in the past thirty years. As an NES launch title, it's incredibly impressive and really shows just how far arcade to home conversions have come through the years. Despite its age, Kung Fu is still a fun game to pop in and give yourself a chance to test those retro gaming reflexes. It's short enough that it isn't much of a time sink but challenging enough that you won't just breeze through it on your first time.

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