Fighting games have come on a long way since the 1980s. Nowadays we take 3D characters and fully animated backdrops and arenas for granted, countess game modes and opponents are expected and if a game doesn’t offer us online multiplayer modes then modern gamers are – at best disappointed and at worst feel somewhat cheated.
Kung Fu Fight! takes us back to a simpler time, back to the 80s where games focused on gameplay rather than graphics and concentrated on something that should be at the heart of all gaming experiences – fun! Reminiscent of the early side-scrolling beat-em-ups, you take on the role of a farmer in a small village in ancient China (or Japan… as the story goes, even the game isn’t quite sure!). Now hear me out, this does explain itself in a minute… An evil warlord descends upon the village demanding his usual tribute payment. Unable to pay, he kidnaps the granddaughter of one of the villagers before attacking the elderly man. You swear to avenge the assault and rescue the girl but how? You’re just a farmer… until the old man gives you a strange headband with mystical powers granting you martial arts abilities. Now you’re ready to take on everything in your path…
At the heart of Kung Fu Fight! is a side-scrolling action game. The best way to describe it is a hybrid of running games such as Cannabalt and old-school beat-em-ups such as Kung Fu Master from the arcades. Rather than adopting a push-scroll technique (the game scrolling as you move your character), the game is continually scrolling so you have to react constantly to what appears ahead of you. You have to travel from your village pursuing the warlord through buildings, roadsides, temples until you finally face him in combat. Along the way there are obstacles in the way that you either have to jump over or duck using a sliding movement. There are a variety of opponents in your way who can either be jumped over or attacked and while most will remain stationery, some will run towards you making timing more crucial.
You only have a basic amount of moves at your disposal – punch, jump (and if you use the attack button while in the air you will perform a high kick) and when you slide to duck under things the attack button turns that move into a sliding kick. It’s pretty much as simple as Kung Fu Master was back in 1984 but, to be honest, it doesn’t need anything else more. There are a range of different adversaries that you will encounter and while each only needs a single strike to defeat them, they are all varied. Some are passive and require nothing more than a hit to deal with them, some (dressed in red) throw shuriken at you, others are armed with spears, some throw daggers, there will be sumo wrestlers whose sole intention is to crush you with an almighty belly flop… and more that I’ll leave you to discover. With many of these there are several ways that they can attack you so you need to watch for the signs carefully to know what type of attack you need to use.
The game is spread over a number of stages with checkpoints along the way. While you have an unlimited number of lives, contact with any adversary or collision with any object will take you straight back to the last checkpoint that you had reached. Unlike their previous PSM game, Quiet, Please! here you can leave the game at any point and return at a later date to the last checkpoint you had reached – a much welcome feature as this is a considerably longer game than their last title.
There are two basic game modes – the Story Mode which is the main game itself and you have to proceed through all the different stages to reach the Warlord and rescue the old man’s granddaughter from his clutches. Even with an unlimited number of lives, this game mode will keep you playing for quite some time as it’s a fairly lengthy and varied game with plenty of gameplay in it and once you do eventually complete it, there’s still plenty more replay value here as there are three difficulty levels on offer to challenge you.
The second game mode is Infinite Fortress. Following more closely the gameplay style of Cannabalt and its many clones, you only get a single life here and you just have to travel as far as possible. In both game modes there is a distance counter at the top of the screen, but this is the mode where it really counts! Just remember to keep your wits about you, and be prepared to fight! Again there are three difficulty levels to keep pushing you further and give the game even more longevity.
But that’s not all there is to Kung Fu Fight! In terms of all the opponents you come across and all the obstacles you have to avoid, these are randomly placed so no two games will ever be the same. In fact, if you have to replay any particular section from a checkpoint, things will be different so from that perspective it means that the game will never be the same twice. For me, that meant that this was a real joy to play. It never grew tiresome for one moment and each time I had to restart from a checkpoint it literally was a new set of challenges to face keeping the game fresh every time.
And then there are the “trophies”… At present, PlayStation Mobile doesn’t offer Trophy support, but Kung Fu Fight! has it’s own Trophy Case where you can work towards earning it’s own 15 in-game “trophies” by accomplishing different goals during the game. Some are fairly easy to achieve but others aren’t quite so easy. One of the more quirky ones involves getting to the end of the game’s credits… which presents you with another “hidden” game!
The credits themselves are presented in the form of another elongated level based on the main game with the credits scrolling past. You’ll need to jump or duck under the names of the developers, jump over or attack the randomly appearing characters and avoid or destroy objects to be able to reach the end of the credits and if you manage then you’ll be rewarded with a trophy. Plus it means you’ve had another game to play as well!
Visually, this has been created in the same style as Quiet, Please! – attempting to recreated the pixelated 8-bit look but with a larger colour palette and with slightly chunkier graphics. While the character animation is rather limited, I think it fits the game wonderfully and creates a fantastic retro atmosphere. Despite being small and pixelised, everything is clearly defined, it’s easy to tell each type of adversary from another and it’s wonderfully smooth.
Sound is limited to a few 8-bit sound effects, a chip tune playing in the background (although this was probably more 16-bit era that 8-bit if I am honest here!) and a short burst of digitised speech. The speech itself was limited to just a couple of words and is intentionally rough-sounding (anyone who heard some of the early attempts at sampled sound in the 8-bit era would understand what it was like back then!), but it really adds to the old-school feel of the game.
But how does it play? This really is a great fun game. It’s incredibly simple and while it’s not going to set the world alight as a beat-em-up, it was never intended to. I’ve played a lot of run-and-jump games over the years and while I have said before that I preferred games like I Must Run to games like Cannabalt, neither come close to this. This has taken that genre and really shaken it up and this is one of, if not the most original and unique of all the similar games available. It’s certainly the most addictive. The first time I sat down to play this I intended to try it for a few minutes just to make sure it had installed properly… an hour later and I was still playing it and there aren’t many PSM games that have grabbed my attention so quickly.
This really is a gem and should be an essential buy for every PS Vita owner. If you’re not into retro gaming, look beyond the graphics and I promise you that you’ll love the classic gameplay underneath.
At A Glance
- Title: Kung Fu Fight!
- Publisher: Nostatic Software
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 13Mb