Soundtrack by En Vogue. “Never Gonna Get It,” indeed.
What’s with the mismatched socks, bro?
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
RELEASE DATE: 05/17/87 – (JP, as Makai Retsuden), 10/1987 – (US), 01/1988 – (EU)
Even by 1987, a relatively early point in their console careers, Sega had churned out a handful of side-scrolling beat-em-ups – none of which were good. Black Belt turned “Fist of the North Star” into “Just a Japanese Martial Artist Looking For a Fight, #673.” Sukeban Deka II had limited brawler portions attached to a bizarre Japanese adventure/dungeon crawler based on the sequel to a TV series originally based on a manga. Wowzers! My Hero is the worst beat-em-up I’ve ever played, thanks to the Fisher-Price graphics and the weakest one-and-done “hero” to ever emerge from brawler-dom.
Then there’s the infamously named Dragon Wang. The SG-1000’s lone beat-em-up was known for its overwhelming difficulty, slow-moving main character, and sneaky trap doors that, once triggered, would lead you back to earlier stages. Naturally, Sega made a sequel for the Mark III, Kung Fu Kid. Despite its lineage, the title is the first semi-enjoyable beat-em-up to emerge from Sega’s overworked development teams.
Hopping ghosts and bamboo forests are a deadly combination.
Kung Fu Kid places you back in the tight, binding footwear of Master Wang. He’s got that same “lonesome dove” kicking style that he wore so well in Dragon Wang, but with the added bonus of being able to jump like a chimp. He can also walk faster than his previous zero miles per hour, though jumping constantly is still the best way to get around.
As in Dragon Wang, enemies clone themselves, then bum rush you; that’s just how brawlers operated in a pre-Double Dragon world. Unlike Dragon Wang, Kung Fu Kid has open environments that allow Master Wang to jump over the enemies and their clones with ease. By avoiding the enemies instead of attacking them directly, they pile up and chase you, but by jumping constantly, Wang will eventually run them off the screen. When you have to hit them, try to aim for two or three at a time; your kicks are strong enough, if you believe in yourself.
The bosses have great designs – ghost banshee, large frog, creepy wizard, ninja brothers, etc. – but are easy to defeat once you learn their patterns. The frog in particular just requires five fast low kicks before he croaks (my sincerest apologies), thus making him the easiest boss fight I’ve had in a fortnight. Still, I always looked forward to the boss battles, if only to witness the inspired craziness Sega hurled Wang’s way.
Wow, everybody really is kung-fu fighting.
Along with kicking and jumping, Master Wang can use Power Talismans dropped by enemies. Talismans will knock back and destroy two or three enemies at a time, which is great for the few claustrophobic areas of the game. Wang also wall jumps with relative ease, a surprising find in a game with few surprises. I can’t verify this for certain, but I’m not sure there are any earlier examples of wall jumps found in games. Strider emerged in 1989, Ninja Gaiden came out in 1988, Kung Fu Kid is 1987. Can anyone think of any earlier games with characters who could wall jump? Let me know in the comments.
Couple zombies, a frog, psychedelic wall patterns, the usual.
Kung Fu Kid could use a touch more difficulty (the first four stages can be overcome in a few minutes, while the last three just require memorization), but the gorgeous environments, solid controls, and well-paced level progression make for an above-average experience. I know that’s not the highest of praise, but if Sega’s earlier attempts at brawlers prove nothing else, it’s that I’ve played worse. After so many failed attempts, Sega finally has their answer to Irem’s Kung Fu.
All the other frogs with their pumped-up kicks better run, better run.
Like plopping a Tiny Toon into a Jackie Chan film.
I know what you’re thinking: Master Wang is cool and all, but Kung Fu Kid would be a true classic if a smarmy frog was the main character. Sapo Xule O Mestre do Kung Fu is the game for you then, a lazy re-skin of Kung Fu Kid with the Brazilian cartoon character, Sapo Xule, replacing Master Wang. If this frog looks familiar, that’s because he also appeared in a re-skin of Astro Warrior entitled Sapo Xulé: S.O.S. Lagoa Poluída. Controlling a frog underwater while shooting dirty shoes made an interesting game out of the rote Astro Warrior. Inserting the smirking Sapo Xule into the middle of Kung Fu Kid with no additional enemy design or environmental changes gives the production an inconsistent tone. On one hand, you have a frog that somewhat resembles Bubsy wearing a gi. Hilarious! On the other hand, you have ancient Japanese evil trying to attack said smirking frog. Confusing! Stick with Kung Fu Kid.
KUNG FU KID: B-
SAPO XULE O MESTRE DO KUNG FU: C