Pure, no frills, unadulterated action. There’s only an extremely small handful of games that can have almost no variety with its audio, visuals and mechanics, and still be addicting and satisfying as all hell. Enter Kung Fu on the NES. Probably one of the only games on the NES that I can play for hours on end, despite just about no variety whatsoever.
Kung Fu was an early to mid 80’s arcade game, so naturally, it’s not going to be a technological behemoth that’s going to knock your socks off with lush, extravagant looks and 7.1 channel surround sound. Instead, expect a light blue background with the same tile patterns under your feet, three enemy models, barely any animation and a three color palette used for your character. There’s three or four musical pieces (all sound pretty sweet regardless) and simple, recycled sound effects. Even the controls hold no type of sophistication or anything. One punch, one kick, press up to jump, press down to duck. It’s all so simple and plain.
It doesn’t matter much, though. The simple formula of Kung Fu goes a long way. Five shot stages, going from left to right or vice versa, defeating bad guys that want to hug you, midgets that want to bounce off your head and guys in bandanas that throw knives at you. the second and fourth stages have some differences in the first 2/3 of the stage, where either vases fall and reveal snakes that slither across the ground or dragons that spit fire (stage two) or these moth like creatures that come out of predetermined openings in the background and chase you down (stage four). At the end of each stage is a different boss, ranging from a guy throwing boomerangs at the end of stage two, to Mr. Clean at the end of stage three. Things don’t get too hard until these said bosses, which a couple need to be killed in certain ways.
The whole experience is extremely simple, but it’s also a good bit of fun. While there’s not much to challenge yourself with after you’ve become really good with the game, other than a better score or faster stage completion time, it’s a simple formula that’s rather addicting. It does get repetitive rather quickly, but it’s easy to pick up and play anytime, and you’ll want to come back and play it often enough. It’s definitely a classic in the world of gaming, although I personally prefer Kung Fu Master on the Commodore 64, even if I had to press the Space Bar to switch between punching and kicking.