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Kung Fu Review

Action SeriesI’m not entirely new to the action beat’em-up genre. Last year I quite enjoyed playing Karateka at school on the Apple II computer and Bruce Lee on my Commodore 64. Both of those games played quite differently from one another, and Bruce Lee in particular was a bit abstract and strange. Still, they were fun games to burn a couple of hours on. I have been itching for a new fighting game and it’s great to see one available on launch day of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).


Kung Fu on NES is a port from the arcade game Kung Fu Master by Irem. Some of Nintendo’s internal team developed the game for the new system. The premise is a tale often told of a damsel in distress. You play a kung fu master named Thomas. One day his girlfriend, Sylvia, is kidnapped and held captive by Gang X. It’s up to you to harness Thomas’s elite skills and take out the waves of bad guys standing between him and his future wife. It won’t be easy taking down a wide variety of enemies in quick fashion before the timer runs out.


Unlike many games on the Atari 2600, Kung Fu actually scrolls left and right, creating the illusion of long hallways to navigate. All of the characters are big in size and have a level of detail to them that’s quite impressive. The different enemies all have varying animations and they are instantly recognizable, which makes learning their methods of attacks important to your success. Graphically the game looks better than its counterparts on the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64. While it doesn’t come close to the arcade version it’s based off of, the graphics are clean and crisp and the amount of enemies on-screen is pretty impressive.


Thomas has two modes of attack: punching and kicking. Pressing up on the control pad allows him to jump, and pressing down will drop him to his knees. While moving, Thomas can jump diagonally to avoid incoming enemy attacks or to deliver a jump kick to the face. Knocking out opponents will earn points, but some enemies will give more points depending on how they’re dealt with. For example, kick a Gripper and you’ll net 100 points, but punching one will win you 200 points. As I mentioned earlier, there is a timer that’s constantly draining. The quicker you complete a level, the more points added to your overall score. In addition, the more health you have at the completion of a level, the bigger the point bonus. If you score 50,000 points you earn an extra life.


Kung Fu is a mixed bag in the sound department. The sound effects work well, with digitized moans, groans, and the swift thwack of a punch or kick landing. The music leaves much to be desired as it repeats ad nauseam. I guess it beats no soundtrack at all, but be warned; you might be reaching for that volume knob after thirty minutes of the same music droning on over and over.

Atari 2600 (left) and NES (right). It’s obvious which version looks better.

Kung Fu allows for two players to alternate play and there are two difficulty levels with Game A for beginners and Game B for experts. The game’s length is rather short and its arcade roots show up rather quickly when you discover that you’re really only playing for a high score. It’s fun while it lasts and is one of the better launch games on the NES. If you’re itching for an action-packed beat’em up game, this is your only option at the moment. Something tells me it won’t take too long for some competition to show itself.

Note: Some images courtesy of NintendoComplete.

Kung Fu Review
  • 7.5/10
    Graphics - 7.5/10
  • 5/10
    Sound - 5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Gameplay - 7.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Lasting Appeal - 6.5/10

Final Thoughts: GOOD

Kung Fu is an enjoyable game and one of the better launch titles for the NES. Even though the game is short, the action does become repetitive after a few minutes of play time and the music grated on my nerves. Not a bad game, but not great either.

User Review
8.25/10 (2 votes)


Added on May 25, 1986

Computer Entertainer Logo

Taken from the April 1986 issue:

04-86-Kung Fu Review - ComputerEntertainer

Computer Entertainer awarded Kung Fu 3 out 4 for graphics and 3.5 out of 4 for quality of game play and entertainment value. It received a Recommended rating.

Computer Entertainer Review Guidelines:






♦ = ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMS (1st set of diamonds = quality of graphics; 2nd set = quality of game play and entertainment value)

Any program for a given system is compared only to other programs for the same system. In other words, all C64-compatibles are judged separately from Apple. Some programs, which are virtually identical for multiple systems, will be so noted. When we review software for more than one system, we will note differences and which system we reviewed.

Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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