At a Glance: This week we bring you Kung-Fu Heroes, a spunky game that courted being fun but was tragically shot down. This joyful punch 'n' kick is cute, until you realize that it's a tiny 1986 NES title trying with all of its might to attain the complexity of, oh, I don't know, Baldur's Gate 2. While such D&D games do a better job of seducing the player with their endless flips and switches, at least players of Kung-Fu Heroes are slightly more likely to lose their virginity to something that isn't a drawing of an anthropomorphic fox. Well, that is if they don't remove their genitals first, as Kung-Fu Heroes is a lesson in pain.
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System, 1986
Know an awful ROM? Tell me!
Story: According to Wikipedia, the FREE Substitute for Actual Research:
Monsters have taken Princess Min-Min captive and have stolen the 10 treasures of the nameless land the game takes place in, leaving everything in sorrow. Kung-fu Masters Jacky and Lee return from training and must set out to rescue the princess and find the treasures.
Which begs the question: If I continue to play video games, how many more self-entitled princesses am I going to have to rescue? Peach, Zelda, Garnet, Farah... If anyone I knew were hauled off by a cross between a turtle and a BMEZine regular for the tenth time, I'd be more likely to file a restraining order than to rescue them. You know how growing countries like China and India are having an issue with people aborting all female fetuses? I think the Royal Families of Video Game Land need to take notes.
Gameplay: At first, it appears simple: You kill mans to get to the next level until you exhaust the supply of both levels and mans like the greedy resource-gobbler you are. Different enemies are weak to different attacks, which I foolishly believed consisted of "A to Punch, B to Kick."
Unfortunately, I failed to recognize the smear of gobbledygook at the top of the screen as a sign of the impending clusterfuck. See, Kung-Fu Heroes has an "innovative control scheme," by which I mean "a bunch of bullshit created by an epileptic seizuring on the keyboard during programming sessions." You can get the ability to "Miracle Kick," but only six at a time! You can get a 1-up, but only if you collect five little Es! But if you collect an X, you'll lose your Dollar Bags and the ability to press A+B to get an invulnerability item! There's a scroll! A cup of drugged sake! On and on and on! And of course, the game itself doesn't tell you shit!
It's not like you can neglect mastering these "moves", either, as some enemies are completely immune to anything but a Miracle Kick executed while upside down when the moon is in the seventh house and Krishna is currently leading 2-0 in a breakdancing competition with the Virgin Mary. What's more, it's very easy to miss power-ups (some of which appear only in certain levels,) as the only way they can be obtained is by wasting time wailing on rocks that have a 25% chance of being empty anyway. Or completely indestructible! Huzzah!
Graphics: Kung Fu Heroes was released in 1986, right around the time of the original Super Mario Bros. While the graphics aren't fantastic for the era, I thought they were pretty cute. They're colorful, perky, and the little stereotypical Mongoloid behemoths are just adorable. Unfortunately, the programming team seems to have run into some problems with the whole "makin da purdy pikshurs move" part. Enemies will often fall "under" the background, causing half of their bodies to disappear and making them invincible, even if you managed to collect that Scroll of Necrotizing Fungus in level G-cubed that they're supposedly weak to.
Enemies: While it's annoying to be trapped in a tiny space while a bunch of little goobers swarm you all at once, I do have to give Kung Fu Heroes credit in this department. Lots of NES bad guys were still the standard "they all walk into you and then you die" model, so it was pretty cool to see some variation, from gunslinging Semitic Trojans to walking vaginae that attack from below. Some enemies even have non-damage-causing attacks, such as the evil whores that turn you to stone by rapid-firing the coldness of their womanly hearts. Then again, maybe the enemies are too aggravating with their idiot weaknesses to be clever, as I've yet to meet a shrieking harpy that's immune to a testosterone-pumped fist in the eye socket.
Fun: Kung-Fu Heroes's failure in this department is downright depressing, because some care was clearly put into this game. The weakness-exploiting battle system could have been enjoyable had it been more limited. Alas, the compiling levels of bad relentlessly shoved down your throat soon cause you to choke to death on a massive Club Sandwich of Shit. The cramped and often glitchy stages mean that at any given time you're dodging a billion little homicidal stereotypes, while simultaneously spamming A against an immortal pebble and desperately trying to remember which of the gimmicky commands unleashes the only attack that can hurt Greater Blue Dragondorks. Wait, are those Lesser Blue Dragondorks? OOPS, you're dead!
Obviously, this soon becomes about as much fun as a self-taxidermy session. Either the game designers were retarded, or this is an early manifestation of the myth that a game has to be agonizing before it's "challenging." Here's a challenge for you: Maybe if you''ve played a game enough that you're breezing through the "Reinventing Calculus Whilst On Fire" difficulty level, it's time to fucking go outside. I promise your manhood and/or voluptuous titties won't shrink. Knowing hardcore gamers, you probably have both.
Defining Moment: Every couple of levels, a giant red creature appears that reminds me of either an extraterrestrial yeti or some sort of Leninist Muppet. Whenever he makes his entrance, the music changes and all other enemies disappear from the screen. I thought Comrade Yetislovski must be a boss fight of some sort, but you can't hurt him and he eventually vanishes on his own. My mind is filled with questions: Who is he? Where did he come from? Why is he so happy about having no skin, exposing his blood-drenched fat rolls for the world to see? In the end, though, he's just another superfluous detail, just like 9234802493 out of 9234802494 features in Kung-Fu Heroes.