As with other digital video game services, the Wii U eShop offers its fair share of shovelware. When indie games launch at a price of just one or two dollars, it’s easy to write them off without even thinking twice. In many instances, these cheap titles are indeed easily forgettable. However, I can’t say that’s entirely true for Kung Fu FIGHT!
Compared to today’s standards, there’s nothing special about the graphics and sound used in Kung Fu FIGHT! In fact, both are pretty terrible. But this game doesn’t need those qualities to accomplish its goal. In fact, the minimalistic presentation and lo-fidelity chiptune acoustics fit this title rather well. Its retro look and feel may first remind you of the 1985 NES classic Kung Fu, but it’s more akin to Aksys Games’ Bit.Trip Runner on Wii and Nintendo 3DS.
At first glance, Kung Fu FIGHT! may appear to be “just another runner,” but I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. It actually has a storyline, albeit run of the mill where your sole objective is to take out the bad guys and rescue a damsel in distress. But the developer added just the right amount of clever personalization and humor to keep me interested. And that put a smile on my face.
The story unfolds in a small Asian village under the control of a dark warlord during the feudal era where martial arts is prevalent. When an elderly villager fails to pay tribute, the evil warlord snatches up his granddaughter as collateral. After demanding the warlord set his granddaughter free, the villager becomes a target to one of the warlord’s henchmen who kills him with a single ninja star. Before passing, however, he gives you a red headband that possesses strength — but you’re just a puny farmer peasant. It’s your mission to avenge the villager’s tragic death by tracking down the evil warlord and rescuing his granddaughter.
From here, the game immediately places you in control of the hero who automatically runs from left to right. Using a combination of punches, kicks, jumps, and slides, you’ll endure many obstacles — from wooden and steel crates to tables to belly-flopping sumo wrestlers and star-throwing ninjas. You’ll even encounter some guys who throw sake bottles at you and blurt out on-screen text that says “What a waste of sake!” When you successfully strike an enemy, they don’t just disappear on the screen: they explode into a beautiful cluster of pixels. And you don’t just journey endlessly through one boring setting where you’re surrounded by rolling green hills and Japanese cherry blossom trees; you traverse dojos, wooden bridges above water and, if I’m not mistaken, warehouses and restaurants. As you progress, you’ll be exposed to weather elements, too — thunder, lightning, and rain. In one section, you’re tasked with taking out the bad guys while suspended high above a blazing inferno.
Unlike other runners, Kung Fu FIGHT! doesn’t have you complete different stages. Instead, it’s just one long dynamic setting equivalent to roughly 4,000 meters long. There are frequent checkpoints along the way, so being dealt a deathblow won’t make you overly frustrated; you simply continue where you left off. Every time you restart from a checkpoint, the stage hazards are randomly generated, and I appreciate the developer incorporating this. It made the game addicting and very easy to pick up and play at any time. There are two difficulty modes to choose from. Story mode offers “Normal,” Hard,” and “Brutal” options — with stage obstacles becoming more dense with each. Infinite Fortress mode has the same options as Story mode, less the checkpoints. Good luck beating that one on Brutal!
Kung Fu FIGHT! isn’t just a once-and-your-done experience. There’s plenty left to tackle following your final showdown with the warlord. As your progress through the game, a meter keeps track of your overall progress — accounting for your performance in the two modes of play and how many trophies you’ve unlocked. A basic rank structure also rewards you as your percentage increases; you start off as a peasant. I’m currently ranked Master with 78 percent, but I think that’s about as far as I can make it. Unlocking trophies requires you to take on some pretty fun tasks. For example, the description for the Bad Houseguest trophy (my favorite among them all) reads: “Take out your anger on the Warlord’s stuff! Break 15 things without dying and don’t even apologize.”
One of my favorite moments in Kung Fu FIGHT! was the credits, accessible at any time from the menu screen. Credits scroll from right to left as stage hazards, just as they do in the game. I thought that was a really fun touch. Plus, if you complete the credits scene you unlock a trophy. Configuration options let you setup the game to be displayed on the TV only, the TV and Wii U GamePad, or just the GamePad.
If you’re looking for an indie title that puts a fun, clever, and humorous spin on runner-type games, Kung Fu FIGHT! is definitely worth checking out. I can easily say that I don’t ever remember having this much fun for two bucks. When it comes to newly released indie games, Kung Fu FIGHT! delivers the final blow.
Kung Fu FIGHT! is developed and published by Nostatic Software. It launched in the North American Wii U eShop on August 6, 2015 for $1.99.
Review copy provided by Nostatic Software