Kung-Fu Heroes is a charming looking title for the NES released in the US in 1988 - the comical martial arts game was originally launched as an arcade title in 1984, and was then ported to the NES in 1986 by Culture Brain (formerly known as Nihon Game). The NES adaptation is the second entry in the Super Chinese series (known also as the “Ninja Brothers" series in America).
In Kung-Fu Heroes, up to two players control the delightfully cheery and well-animated characters, Jacky and Lee, with the mission to rescue Princess Min-Min from the Dragon Clan army and recover the ten stolen treasures. To save the day the two familiar sounding characters must fight their way through eight castles and test their martial art skills against a range of enemies. Each room – ranging in colour, design and detail true to martial arts' culture – features a number of traps including water pits, and a large amount of enemies; a certain number of them must be defeated in a set number of lives in order to progress. After four rooms, the player then proceeds to the next castle.
Culture Brain adds much variety to this simple concept by including key unlock bonus stages (providing the player with extra points and more), kung fu techniques, an array of enemies at different levels of difficulty, and items and power-ups to collect. The moveset in Kung-Fu heroes provides a sense of strategy, splitting attacks into punching, kicking and sword techniques. To punch the player must tap A, and to perform flip kicks including the Moonsault and Miracle Kick the player is required to tap B and press the control pad – as long as they have enough of the respective power-ups. Sword manoeuvres are slightly more complex, firstly requiring a sword, and then simultaneously pressing a number of buttons to wield it.
Power-ups can be uncovered by punching rocks and revealing hidden treasure boxes and question balls inside. Treasure box items can enhance punching power, allow the player to perform a Miracle Kick, weaken a range of enemies, reveal hidden traps and more. Some question ball items include money bags and a gun ball – allowing players to shoot enemies; other more traditional items include extra lives. These all prove helpful at some point throughout Jacky and Lee's adventure, and prolong each play session.
These elements, combined with appropriate martial art music and sounds fitting the cute kung fu theme, readies players for battle against the Dragon Clan army. The enemies themselves all differ in colour, design and strength depending on the room, and all of them contribute a unique amount of points for the player's score when defeated. These enemies range from Kung-Fu Commandos who kick, punch and jump, a variety of cats – some firing beams from their mouths – and a Dragon Man who can only be defeated with a sword. This is not to mention special enemies requiring more hits than normal, including Dragon – the leader of the enemy clan.
As a single player experience Kung-Fu Heroes isn't all that alluring. As a two player game, however, this entry in the martial arts genre gives players the opportunity to devise plenty of team-based tactics with a combination of power-ups, items and movesets; ultimately saving the day. It's this simple formula which is sure to unite family and friends, and before you know it everybody will be – kung fu fighting.