Yie Ar Kung-Fu for the NES is a mediocre port of the arcade version, but it is still fun while its campy appeal lasts.

User Rating: 6 | Yie Ar Kung Fu NES

Yie Ar Kung-Fu made its debut in arcades, attempting to cash in on fads raised from entertainment seekers' infatuations with Oriental movies that had the themes of close-combat martial valour at the time.

Not wanting to lose an opportunity to make even more money, Konami had the game ported to just about every imaginable consoles and computers of the time. One of these ports are to the NES.

The NES port does not make for a good first impression. The main menu is terrible; the game's title is rendered in an attempt to resemble brush strokes but comes off looking like it has been made with a silly-looking font, Konami's name is stated not once but twice in characters whose sizes match those of the game's name, and there are only two choices that the player may make in this screen, which are "Level 1" and "Level 2".

New players would have no inkling about what these options mean unless they have been otherwise informed by more experienced players.

If this reviewer recalls correctly, these options apparently dictate the speed and reflexes of the AI-controlled opponents, with "Level 2" providing them with much greater alacrity. There appears to be no incentive other than greatly increased challenge from playing Level 2. If one is only playing just for fun, then Level 2 may probably only offer embarrassing beat-downs.

Selecting either option plays an amusingly cliched music clip (which also plays again for every subsequent next stage in the game), and then throws the player into his/her first stage with no tutorials or instructions whatsoever. While learning to figure out which button does what, a new player would likely have his/her player character clobbered by the astonishingly merciless AI-controlled opponent - and this is just the first opponent that "Lee", the orange-haired protagonist in pink pants and mismatching blue shoes, has to battle.

A comparison of graphics with that of the arcade version shows that these versions are worlds apart. Arcade "Lee" has a more intriguing name ("Oolong"), has a more dignified clothing design and generally has more features in the design of his head. The NES version, relatively speaking, looks ugly and lazily done.

Comparing the arcade versions of combatants other than "Lee" with their NES counterparts does not yield a better impression of the NES version either. A seasoned Konami games consumer would suspect that the NES version just cannot support names with more than four characters and sprites with more than four colours.

Arcade Yie Ar Kung-Fu's greatest contribution to the fighting game genre is its variety of combatants, each with his/her own (somewhat) unique fighting style, which is a game design that would become prevalent in later fighting games.

Unfortunately, the NES version reduces the number of combatants (a dozen for the Arcade version, including Oolong) to just six. Furthermore, the NES counterparts have greatly reduced variety of moves. Again, this is likely due to the NES's technological limitations, but this did not make the deviation any less disappointing.

Another peculiar gameplay design for the NES version is that once the set of five other combatants had been beaten, the game simply loops the stages together again, with no changes whatsoever in the prowess of the combatants. If there ever was a game where ridiculously high scores (i.e. those that cause value overruns in the score counter) can be obtained via grinding, by which the player does after having memorized the ways to efficiently beat every stage to utter second-nature numbness, this game is it.

Perhaps an even bigger disappointment is how the fighting arena looks like. It is a black screen, with textures stretched and repeated across parts of the screen to give a semblance of an in-door ambiance and to restrict the playing field. Doodads like Oriental lanterns hang from the ceiling, but are otherwise no more than flat props which none of the combatants would ever collide with. There are also windows, but these are peculiarly situated so high above the floor.

A more critical player would wonder if what he/she is seeing on-screen are actually under-development builds of the game that have been rushed to completion. An ever-present statement that this game is a 1985 copyright of Konami appears to suggest this.

Text for score counters, opponent names (and life-bars) and stage counters have places on-screen which are practically parts of the arena gouged out to accommodate them. Considering that these places happen to be the roof of the arena and what appears to be stair-steps, this contrivance further reinforces the suspicion that the development of the NES version was half-baked. The only text on-screen that at least gets placement that has some dignity is the Oriental calligraphy for "Kung-Fu", which gets a signboard of sorts above a stately gong.

To compound the bad impression that the game is making, the same arena is used for stage after stage. Every loop of combatants does appear to change the colours of the textures, but to increasingly gaudier palettes that would be offensive to the eyes.

The music soundtrack, which consists of tunes that ascribe to the Kung-Fu fighting pop-culture, would be quite good to listen to, if not for the fact that like the arena design, it is repeated for every stage.

If it is not apparent already, Yie Ar Kung-Fu does not have a very good presentation, at least to this reviewer.

Fortunately, there are some saving grace that this game has, and it lies in the controls, sprite animations and the sound effects associated with the gameplay.

The protagonist can be handled quite well, as long as the player realizes that he needs time to have his attack animations reset to his neutral stance, and that his punches and kicks are meant to specifically connect his hands and feet with that of the opponents' sprites.

The player can have him leaping across the screen to catch enemies who are attempting to speed away (with some measure of control in how far he leaps) and to dodge projectiles. Punches and kicks are doled out instantly; considering that distance is the main factor when deciding between using punches or kicks, this is a welcome convenience.

(Jumping upwards tend to be a useless maneuver, however, as the protagonist may just land in front of an opponent only to receive a beating. It can be ended with an attack, fortunately. Also, doing a forward leap without any attack - which will always be a kick if there is one - is a waste of a maneuver, because there appears to be no advantage for not having a leap end with an attack.)

Most combatants have animations that choreograph their attacks, but these are not too cheesily long as to give more than enough warning. These choreographs may not result in an attack either, i.e. they can be feints. In fact, the AI for the combatants appear to be more than able to inflict painful defeats onto careless players. This reviewer finds this form of challenge welcome.

The game also pauses momentarily whenever a hit, either by the player character or the opponent, is registered on the other. This gives the player ample time to think about his/her next move, and particularly experienced players can use this time to execute multiple consecutive hits on the opponent in a short time.

As for sound designs, Yie Ar Kung-Fu for the NES sounds like what an NES game would. Attacks by the player character are accompanied by what appears to be (stereotypical martial-arts-associated) grunts and groans strained through 8-bit filters, though these are only made by the player character and are actually quite unnecessary.

Sound clips that are more useful (and necessary) are those that coincide with registered hits. These are also accompanied by text pop-ups for points awarded for these hits. There are plenty of indicators for registered hits, and the slight pause would give less experienced players a chance to learn more about the sprite collision system for this game.

(There is also a bonus stage where players can use what they have learned about the collision system thus far to earn extra points by scoring hits on projectiles thrown across a screen.)

These designs that are not associated with the atrocious presentation of the game are what would give Yie Ar Kung-Fu its bit of worth.

In conclusion, the NES version of Yie Ar Kung-Fu is still somewhat fun if one only has access to the NES version, but the original Arcade version is far superior than its stripped-down counterpart and should be the go-to version if one has access to both and wants some Yie Ar goodness.