Kung-Fu Heroes for the Nintendo Entertainment System is a top down action game ported from Japanese arcade game called Super Chinese. The game was developed by Nihon Games and published in North American by Culture Brain in 1986. It was also later made available through Nintendo’s Virtual Console. This title was followed up by Little Ninja Brothers on the NES, which is differentiated from Kung-Fu Heroes in that it included some RPG type gameplay.
The story behind Kung-Fu Heroes is that monsters have taken over the land, filled it with ‘sorrow’ and Princess Min-Min was has been abducted. You play as either Jacky or Lee who are supposedly Kung-Fu masters that just returned from training. You must go after the monsters, save the princess and return happiness to the land.
Gameplay is fairly basic, but that is a good thing here. You can either attack this one solo or 2 player can join up for some great co-op action. The player moves around stages with the directional pad and punches with the A button. The B button performs what is called the “Moon Sault Kick” (according to the original manual) and is basically a jump move that also damages the enemies as you land. The jump move can also get you over obstacles, such as water pits and rocks. Controlling the characters is mostly good, though a bit stiff at times. It isn’t quite as fluid as games like Ninja Gaiden, but it also suffices for the way the game works. You can run into some slightly frustrating issues with hit-boxes and jumping if you aren’t careful, but you will pick up on the nuances of it as you play more.
There are at least 14 different basic enemies that you will encounter on the 32 unique stages. These enemies seem to have variations on their abilities and can be different than the last stage you may have encountered them on. For example, on earlier stages some of the enemies just walk around, but later stages they could be throwing lightning bolts. On top of that, there are 3 different boss type levels that are periodically encountered. Most levels have a secret stairway to locate which will either bring you to a level skip room or a bonus stage where you can earn points and extra lives.
The Kung-Fu masters also have access to some power-ups, but without the manual, you may be a bit lost as to what they do. The game doesn’t do a good job of explaining things, so a read through of the instructions is highly recommended (download now). The most obvious power-up is the “Gun Ball” (which is a ball with a G on it) which allows you to throw fireballs for a brief period of time. There are other items which are more passive benefits for various enemy types, check the manual for more information.
Visually the game is a fairly faithful recreation of the arcade version (as well as can be expected on the 8-bit NES). The enemies are varied looking, though determining what they are meant to be can be difficult. For example, I was attacked by what looked like a sock with teeth – but it was actually called a “Floating Viper” in the manual. There are plenty of other examples of this too, but it doesn’t really detract from the gameplay itself. In fact, it can be kind of fun trying to figure out what everything is before reading the manual. There are various visual themes you will come across as you play, which adds to the uniqueness of each stage.
The sound effects are mostly basic and not noteworthy. That said, they managed to include fairly high quality digitized voices for various attacks in the game. Nothing crazy by today’s standards (or even 1990’s standards) – but in 1986, there wasn’t a lot of digitized voices in NES games. The music on the other hand is mostly garbage, it even cycles through some really basic 8-bit surf songs.
Fortunately, despite the lackluster music and audio, we are really here for the gameplay. That is where this game shines and is why I would highly recommend anyone who is into a fun arcade action games to check out Kung-Fu Heroes. I would more so recommend it if you are able to tackle the game with a buddy for some great co-op action. The levels and enemies are varied enough to make mastering the game difficult, but the game is simple enough to be inviting to new players.
My Let’s Play for Kung-Fu Heroes
NOTE: I had some frame drop issues on this stream, so I apologize for that. I also didn’t pickup the game audio, so you may hear me make reference to the sound effects and not be able to hear it, I will be fixing that for my next streaming session.