The Origin of Brawlers – Kung Fu (1984)

Kung Fu

Kung Fu Master is considered the first game in the Brawler genre. It was based on the arcade game Spartan X, which is loosely based on the Jackie Chan movie 快餐車, known as Meals on Wheels in the US. The side-scroller game play has Thomas, a Kung Fu master, fighting his way to rescue his girlfriend, Silvia, from her kidnapper, Mr. X. Thomas battles through five levels using combinations of punching, kicking, crouching, and jumping. Each level ends in a boss fight. This pattern of rescuing a girlfriend and fighting gangs or rivals through levels to boss fights became the standard plot and gameplay around which most brawlers are built.

Developed by Takashi Nishiyama, Kung Fu Master set the stage for both the popular brawler style as well as the later fighting game genre pioneered by Nishiyama when he created Street Fighter at CapCom. Kung Fu Master was ported to NES in 1985 under the name Kung Fu. Kung Fu came back to its movie origins featured in a romance film directed by Agnès Varda called Kung Fu Master! (in the US, Le Petite Amour to show it wasn’t a martial arts film), released in 1988. The 1990 Game Boy sequel retained the original gameplay style but made numerous changes in other aspects of the game, including plot and setting. Irem’s intended sequel, Vigilante (1988), also retains the gameplay but changes additional aspects of the game significantly.

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Gift of Ben Rog-Wilhelm, 2013.021.001