Everybody Was Retro-Fighting (Johnny Kung Fu Review)
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS
Back in the ‘80s, when Reagan was still in office and the Nintendo Entertainment System was just getting its legs, portable gaming was significantly different from what we know today. Many games, such as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros., were adapted into simple, standalone handhelds of the Game and Watch type. This form of portable entertainment supplied me with hours upon hours of joy when I was away from my Atari 2600 and NES, which, subsequently, kept me from annoying the heck out of my parents on those long car drives during summer vacations.
Now you can relive – or experience firsthand – those days with Johnny Kung Fu for the Nintendo 3DS! Johnny Kung Fu blends together that old-style, LCD-backlight gaming with 2D-fighting action on multiple screens.
The premise is quite simple: Johnny’s girlfriend, Paula, has been taken by the evil UFO (Unethical Financial Operations) Corporation – a company sharing its name with the developers of the game. He has one hour to fight his way up the corporate ladder before the bad guys make off with her in their chopper.
There are three main modes of play in the game: The previously mentioned Game and Watch-style LCD game, full-color 2D-fighting levels, and a Change to Color mode. The LCD style game is very basic in its control scheme: players use the directional pad to move and duck, with the B button acting as his or her action button to jump and punch out the bad guys. This mode is made up of three floors. On the first floor, you must jump over hurtling bombs and make your way over to the baddie tossing them at you. In the second, you must duck and dodge knives being hurled at you by another assailant. The third floor is where you must enable a circuit breaker and make your way through a series of alternating laser beams to the elevator to get to the next level.
The 2D fighting levels consist of having to fight your way through an onslaught of enemies using your kick, punch, and jump buttons. You are also able to jump into the background and foreground using the right shoulder button. Once the horde has been dispatched, you’ll fight a mini-boss at the end. This is also the setting used for most of your boss battles.
The Change to Color mode is a mix of the two previous modes, where the game’s background is in full color while you, your assailants, and (as you progress later into the game) incoming projectiles are all in an LCD style. You must take out the evildoers in order to fill your color gauge. Once full, Johnny comes back to the world of color and the round is over. Be careful though; if you take a hit, it not only hurts your life bar, but your color bar as well.
Other mini-games include a bomb-juggling game where you must keep the explosives from hitting the ground until your counter reaches zero, and a dodge-and-attack mode where you face off against an opponent. In the latter, there is a number over each of your heads. If your number is higher than your foe’s, you can attack. If your number is lower, you must dodge the oncoming assault. In the event of a tie, you need to attack before the enemy does. Sound simple? It really does on paper.
Additional game modes are unlocked as you progress further into the story mode, as well as new, more powerful combos and attacks. These become necessary to learn as your continue your way up the building, because the game most certainly gets more and more difficult as you move along.
The game has some pretty severe penalties for dying, as well. On top of the fact the timer is always running and any damage or deaths you incur help to run down the clock, having to continue comes at a hefty price as well of a 5 minute penalty against the clock. Run out of lives more than a couple of times and you’ll find yourself doing the Darth Vader “Nooooooo!” as your girl is airlifted to parts unknown.
Johnny Kung Fu features a varied mix of graphical styles, which add to the nostalgia of the game. The little anime chibis are cute and amusing to look at regardless if they’re in the retro LCD style or the full-color, animated modes. The backgrounds of the LCD levels also contain the “shadows” consistent with the retro style of gameplay, further adding to the sentimental game type, while the 2D backgrounds are colorful and simplistic, with subtle animations such as cooking pots boiling over while you’re fighting in the fray. UFO seems to have quite a fascination with ramen as well, as you’ll often see Johnny eating this Japanese treat during the pause screens, as well as collecting them to unlock the aforementioned special moves.
The music is quite enjoyable, albeit repetitive. UFO continues with the ‘80s faux pas of using electronic, “oriental” style tunes in a rapid tempo for fight music while playing in the 2D games. For the LCD style, it goes back to basics with the good old bleeps and bloops of decades past.
Johnny Kung Fu isn’t without faults, however. Aside from the repetitive music, the game does seem to have needed a bit of work with the directional controls in the 2D fighting, as Johnny doesn’t always seem inclined to turn and face an enemy when you direct him to. Additionally, the LCD portions are truly randomized and can actually wind up getting you stuck in a particular spot while a seemingly endless stream of bombs or knives, doing not much more than burn down the clock while you wait for a gap to proceed.
Furthermore, the game seems to have a pretty steep difficulty curve that will require a lot of memorization on the gamer’s behalf in order to make it through the LCD levels. This can become increasingly frustrating as the game’s pacing ramps up. Yet the challenging gameplay in Johnny Kung Fu is also what adds to its appeal; not many games carry the repercussions of truly losing like this anymore, which makes it quite a unique find in the endless sea of cookie cutter game types. For this gamer, the nostalgia really adds a lot as well, tempting me to troll through eBay to search for a replacement for that long-lost Ninja Gaiden portable from Tiger Electronics I misplaced so many years ago.
Johnny Kung Fu kicks its way through 4.00/5.0 chibi henchmen.
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