Saturday, July 13, 2013

KUNG FU / SPARTAN X … Call it what you want its Awesome !!!

Welcome back ! This week we played Spartan X !! What's that you've never heard of it ?
Thats preposterous ! Well I say you have and the majority of those reading this probably played it loved it or even owned it !! 

Spartan X is known in N.America and most of Europe as...wait for it.....KUNG FU !! or Kung fu Master... The name game is a long one with this classic title so lets just dive right in shall we. In 1984 in a little place called Hong Kong Jackie Chan ... thats right I said Jackie Chan , whats that? Oh now your interested are ye alright soo Jackie Chan was appearing in "Wheels on Meals" a film who's title was rearranged by the studio heads as their last 2 films starting with "M" flopped. They needed not worry for this one though as it was the 3rd film in the original "Lucky Stars Series" a series of films that only were related by the fact that the 3 biggest Hong Kong action stars were in them Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Jackie Chan. The films success caused Japanese game developer IREM to leap at the opportunity to create an arcade game. The arcade game was a hit and the ports sold well due its popularity, but the game would be called Spartan X due to the fact that in Japan the movie was renamed Spartan X (this happens with import kung fu films). Data East brought it to N.America and europe and renamed it Kung Fu Master. Nintendo saw it as a hot title and got the License from IREM and published it themselves using the Spartan X name at home but here overseas calling it simply Kung Fu to both avoid legal action from Data East and not lose link to the Arcade version for sales.
Wheels on Meals Movie Poster, one of many styles 

American arcade Flyer

Japanese Arcade Flyer with Movie photos Tie In

Kung Fu was one of the first games I had for my Nintendo. I recently realized most of my NES games were ports of arcade games that I absolutely loved and Kung Fu was no exception. As an American child in the 80's I absolutely loved martial arts ( Not Chuck Norris though sorry Chuck ). Kung Fu was a game that I dumped quarters in almost daily across the street at Napoli Pizzeria. So when I got a Nes and saw there was home version of one of my favorite games I had to make it a birthday begging priority ( Now believe it or not Pokemon generation there was a time when kids got only one game a year if lucky) I still remember being so happy to play it and not even noticing any of the small  differances between the aracde and Nes. The game has remained a favorite of mine since. Over the years I had heard that the original title was Spartan X and even was told that there was a movie it was based off of ( again poke trainers this is what life was like pre google... I prefer to yahoo ). Time has passed information has been gathered and checked using the inter web and blah blah blah yah yah on to the game ......

NES Box version, whats with the * did he use steroids?

Spartan X the game like Micheal Jackson's kids hold no resemblance to its name sake. The movie is about Thomas (Chan) and his cousin David (Biao) whom own and operate a gourmet  high tech Chinese food truck in Barcelona. They make money during the day selling in a tourist area as Jackie Chan skateboards as a waiter and then at night run a cheaper cart version of the truck in a red light district with hookers offering them freebies for all the spring rolls they gave away. They go to vist David's father in a mental institution and meet his fiancé and run in to her gorgeous daughter Sylvia whom David falls in love with on sight. Sammo Huang shows up as private eye with a Jheri Curl  "Moby" who is looking for Sylvia as her mother was raped (not kidding) by a rich dead Count making her the only heir in a bastard uncles way of keeping the families fortune. Bastard uncle wants her dead Thomas an David try to save her fight uncles army of henchmen yada yada yada NONE of this happens in the game except the fact that you play as a guy named Thomas that looks nothing like Chans character and you save a girl named Sylvia. The game takes place in a giant pagoda the movie ends in a spanish castle ? The game's setting more closely resembles Bruce Lee's Famous "Game of Death" his final film in which he ascends a Pagoda and stops at each level to fight a different specialized Martial Art Master...WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU DO IN THIS GAME !!!!!!! This is probably the only movie game adaptation on the NES that even gone wrong  is still a great game. Oh right I said on to the game....


It was one of my first NES carts and its one of my first Famicom too

I love personalized carts

Has nothing to do with the Movie but its great art 

Normally I play the games in my Famicom for the feel of what it was like on the original system, not this time. I pop the cartridge in to my Famiclone (fake NES with home made converter) because I wish to play it as I did when I was a kid with my trusty NES Advantage... turbo dials cranked all the way up !! This was one of the games that made that a well begged for Birthday gift.

choices !

An old Friend 

As you start the first level a great little jingle that leads in to the stage music lets you know that "Its On!" Creepy purple pajama  wearing perverts come running at you in groups and when they get close enough grab on and don't let go till they wrestle you to the floor where after the screen goes black I assume they violate you. So in a mighty effort to not let that happen you are equipped with the B button for long rage safe distance kicks  standing, jumping and sweeping or the A button with its short range but more powerful punches at all heights. Moving quickly along the stage to the left brings me face to face with the grabbers which I gleefully watch fall to my "turbo speed" punches which not only are stronger then kicks but net me double points. The First level is filled with random groupings of grabbers  which are taken down with one hit each and the occasional blue and white clad knife thrower which can alternate his throws low or high, dodging them is easy enough as I move in for the kill he is dropped with several fast punches. Part of what makes this a great game is the sound effects, the screams of Hiyah from Thomas or the sound the hits make as they connect echoing in your ear. As you progress though the game the enemies will constantly be dispatched from off screen on either end if you were to just stop moving and attempt to fight them all swarm after swarm would move in until the timer counts down to zero ending your life. At the end of the level is the First Boss the Stick Fighter he is a quick man wielding a Tonfu (stick) the key to dropping his life bar and beating him is using punches up real close as he must back up to use his ranged weapon... something I painfully learned slow as a child. When he is defeated he cries out in digital pain and fall off screen as Thomas walks up the stairs behind him and ascends to the next level.

Hey hey hey watch the hands

I said no creeps !!

You might notice the repeated white signs on each level displaying chinese characters changing as you progress these are numbers marking how far away the are stairs, there are 5 signs the 5th is above the Bosses. The game uses the same backdrop the whole game but breaks up environment by changing the enemies.

 Level 2 now has us heading to the right where we will be greeted by lanterns/vases dropping from the ceiling right above you, these can contain fire breathing dragons, slithering snakes, or exploding confetti all of which can be taken out with a single hit before erupting for big points or dodged afterwards for no points and possible damage. Thomas's Life bar can be weakened considerably in this area if care is not taken. By the 4th wall marker the lanterns/vases stop and the Grabbers return with their excited little friends... I was taking about the Tom Toms you sicko ehhhh your gross. The Tom Toms or midgets as we used refer to them when we were uneducated un-P.C. little kids are short acrobatic lil bastards that will either join in on the group groping or if you crouch to early they will flip over you and smack you in the head. The Tom Tom's threat is removed with one hit and the telegraphed flip attack is quickly stopped by pushing up and striking with a jump kick. Just before the end of the level I hear a familiar sound similar to the subway doors closing chime as my points roll over to 50,000 and earn me a 1up, banking 3 guys I continue on. The Boss of this Level is the Boomerang Fighter and like the knifes Boomerangs must be dodged at high or low heights but watch out because not only do they return from behind you they don't necessarily return on the same flight path. The Boomerang master can throw up to 2 at a time so I move quickly slipping between the projectiles and take him out with some swift sweep kicks tiil he lets out his scream and drops to his death. There are several Screams in the game utilized by the developers for the Bosses's defeat some Bosses share one.

Sweet a Real Dragon ! , Hi Dragon ...

Ahh why why would you do that ?!

Have a cookie

'Keep away HaHa Keep away " 

As Thomas reaches the top of the stairs Im taunted with a screen showing a tied up Sylvia sit before a running Thomas as she text screams for Thomas to help her Mr.X is heard 8 bit Laughing at me from off screen.... Bastard !!

Level 3 has us moving back towards the left side once again. A great thing about this game is that the enemies order is completely random a unique quality that keeps the game fresh for years. Theres is only HOW to defeat the enemies NOT where or when, this a rare trait helps define a great game here as it does years later in Left 4 Dead. The Grabbers return with Tom Toms in tow and the Knife thrower makes his comeback also this floor. These are all enemies that we've taken out by the dozen at this point but its the combinations that make them dangerous. Eliminating a simple Knife thrower is met with more challenge when flipping Tom Toms attack while perverts close in for the squeeze. The Boss here on 3 is inspired by Kareem Abdul Jabbar's character in the "Game of Death" he's a giant of a man that can take Thomas out with two hits. The key here is to get in fast & close and try landing some speedy crouching punches and ending it with a jump kick that will hopefully dodge the massive kick he throws at you. With the big guy down its on to the stairs.

Oww man shit!  I keep my junk there dude

Level 4 starts and you guessed it moves back to the right where we encounter holes cut out in the wall that dispense poisonous moths. This part is pretty simple as long as you don't get caught up in fighting them and quickly learn at what heights they are dangerous. If you don't learn quickly enough the moths will reduce your health bar to nothing all the while making a awful squeak noise as they suicide bomb our hero. Once past the moths at marker 4 Thomas is met with the usual tag team of Tom Toms and Pervys. On to the Fourth Boss the very tricky Magician of the Black Arts this guys a tough one. So on to the screen walks a hunchback looking chump whom will suddenly either throw a fire ball at your head or your feet or sometimes it turns in to the dragon from the lantern orrrr one of the poisonous moths... This isn't even this tip of it...  If you try to punch him in the head his head will roll backwards off his neck and explode in to a smoke cloud then a new head will appear and while your saying WTF?!?!  he absolutely will attack again. The Magician can also disappear and reappear with a illusion double that you must hit to discover if its the real one. This leaves me the only strategy of just getting in there and attacking rapidly below the neck line. Armed with 4 lives I face the ugly freak bag and just as I throw the first punch he disappears I move in to attack and Thomas refuses to punch so I quickly lose my full health bar to shock and die for the first time this article. I start the 4th floor over and head towards Quazimoto losing only minimal health I dispatch a stray Tom Tom with a kick and proceed to attack the Boss again with a combo of "Turbo" punches and kicks but once again Thomas just stands there like a dummy. Hmmm.... starting the level over once again I fool around with the big red A & B buttons on the Nes Advantage and realize that if press them down on the edges of the surface then the controller doesn't register it ahhhh I see my adult fingers are a hazard as the buttons don't present as big a target area any more. Again I arrive at my opponent and prepare to pummel him with the turbo options switched off for safety and I die exactly the same way again. With my final life in jeopardy  I pause and sadly swap out the Advantage for old faithful the original Nes controller. Due to human error I lose some health on the way to the Bastard but still make it face to face with him, I move in for the kill and get a fire ball in the face ......... *&#@!@#$%^&*^%$#@#$%^&*(*&^%$#@#$%^&**&^%$#@!!!!!!!!

I pull out the cart and place in in the Real Famicom its like Samual L Jackson said  "When you absolutely positively have to kill every Magician in the room accept no substitutes" Soo I quickly in 3 minutes make it back up to the C@(k$u*ker and totally decimate him in front of his friends and family. Then its up the stairs and on to the bastard that started all this the Evil Count Uncle I mean MR. X.

Bend over !

Level 5 starts and I am first taunted once again by Mr.X's laughter and the sight of the captive Sylvia. We then walk off to the left to finish the fight. This floor quickly meets me with an abundance of sped up Tom Toms, Grabbers and Knife Throwers. But quickly tapping the buttons on the OG Famicom pad I remove them with precision like a Shaolin Surgeon. As I approach the 5th marker a black & red dressed Mr. X comes in to view and unlike the other Bosses he steps right up to meet me as he is THE FINAL BOSS !!!! Having no compassion left for dealing with these assh*les I quickly jump up delivering a kick to his head, upon my decent im punched square in the chest losing half my health bar. I duck down to return the favor with a sweep kick and then immediately start pressing up to shoot straight up into another jumping kick to the head. Mr. X screams like bitch ( not really) and falls back to hell where he belongs along side the Magician and their Mothers.

Sweep the leg Johnny !!!

I continue to guide Thomas off screen when the game takes over and the cut scene starts by showing Sylvia being released from the chair for a firm embrace from Thomas and then the screen around them changes and new music plays as hearts flutter around the happy couple and a message is displayed congratulating both Thomas & Sylvia, the message then changes again to say "But their happiness does not continue long" Awww isn't that nice WAIT!! WHAT ?? NO!! NOOO?!!? NOOOO!!!!!!! NOT AGAIN EVRY GAH DAMN TIME !! .... couldn't they come up with another way to get you to play the game again like " Hey great job kid now try this harder mode" or " Hey play this again or well kill your Grandma" Hell Super Mario Bros changed the enemies order around and the color of the levels to make it replay-able and sh*t it was already the most replay-able game ever.

Screw you !

Well What ever I played it through again and yeah its harder which is neat but the main screen lets you pick a hard mode from jump sooo whats the point, in the Arcade it gets more of your money I get that but at home it just makes the climactic awesomeness of actually beating a game not climactic or awesome. Its still a great game one of the best even but I wish it wasn't such di*k.

Theres a Japan only sequel with very different graphics from the original and a Game Boy version that seems a mix of the two. Also it should be noted that Irems Vigilante was meant as a sequel it was in Arcades and I had it for the Turbo Grafx-16 in 1989... oh look heres a Spartan X comic made in America that I have no clue if it ties in but it has Jackie Chan in it .... Jackie Chan has been the subject of a few video games which I now think Ill do a separate article on at another time. Oh btw Jackie Chan did a film called Kung Fu Master so it really all comes full circle. Or not?

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