Kung-Fu Master

Kung-Fu Master
Company: Activision
Model #:
Dan Kitchen
Year: 1987
Port of the 1984 coin-op Spartan X


During the 2600 revival years, Activision attempted to port several popular arcade games to the rapidly aging 2600.  While these ports were technically very good, they were beyond the 2600's capabilities.  The result was games that looked great, but played poorly.  Complex games like Double Dragon, Kung-Fu Master, and Rampage simply shouldn't have been attempted on the 2600.


For those unfamiliar with Kung Fu Master, the concept is relatively simple.  You must make your way through five levels of the evil dojo and rescue the lovely Victoria (known as Sylvia in the arcade).  As the name suggests, your only weapon is Kung Fu (punching and kicking).  Each level is full of evil henchmen that try and prevent you from reaching the end level boss (what else are evil henchmen for?).  

Henchmen - These guys are your standard grunts.  Henchmen simply try to grab and hang onto you, slowly depleting your energy.  Shake the joystick left and right to get rid of them.

Midgets - These guys aren't your little gherkin buddies!  Midgits are very similar to Henchmen, except they must either be eliminated by a low kick or punch.  Midgets can also perform a somersault to hit you if you decide to try and jump over them.

Knife Throwers - These guys are a royal pain.  Knife Throwers appear seldomly, but require two hits to dispose of.  The deadly knives they throw take off a significant chunk of your energy so be careful.

Snake Pots - Snake Pots only appear on the second level.  Snake Pots fall from the ceiling and turn into snakes which run across the ground.  Snakes can't be killed so Jump them to avoid damage.

Confetti Balls - Confetti Balls hang in the air for a brief time and then explode.  Thankfully they only appear on the second level.

Dragons - Dragons also appear from the pots which drop on the second level.  They can only be destroyed by a quick punch to the face.

Moths - Laugh all you want, but these deadly moths are nasty and annoying.  Thankfully they only appear on the fourth level.


At the end of each level you'll face up with a boss.  Each boss is unique, and requires a special strategy to defeat.

1. Fist Fighter - In the arcade version this guy had a big ass stick which he smacked you with, however in the 2600 version he just uses his fits.  Treat him as a harder than normal Henchmen and move on.

2. Boomerang Man - This guy is alot easier than he looks.  Simply jump over or duck his boomerangs to get in close, then beat the snot out of him.

3. Strong Man - This guy is MEAN!  He behaves very similarly to the Fist Fighter, but is much much stronger (and thankfully a little slower).  Duck down and punch him in the stomach to defeat him.

4. Magician - This is the toughest boss in the game.  The Magician is a midget which can summon snakes and throw fireballs.  Low kick him until he teleports, then low kick him again.  If you kick his head it will fly off but cause him no damage (ewww!).

5. Mr. X - This guy is like a super version of yourself.  He has all your moves, but can also block your attacks.  Try alternating between punches and kicks to defeat him.



While it may look like it's arcade counterpart, Kung-Fu Master just doesn't feel the same on the 2600.  The controls and game speed are off, and in an action game like KFM, these elements are critical.  One problem is that since the 2600 only has one button, punching and kicking are done with the same button which is very awkward.  Jump kicks and diagonal jumping have been removed altogether making several parts of the game much more difficult.  Another annoying quirk is that your character can only kick when pushing left or right, not only does this make the gameplay difficult, but it allows the henchman to grab you easier.  Speaking of the henchmen, for some reason shaking them off in the 2600 version is a major challenge, and will often leave you with almost no energy.


Even more serious than the control flaws are Kung Fu Masters gameplay flaws.  Enemies behave oddly and do unexpected things.  This is most noticeable in the Knife Throwers, but affects all the enemies to some degree.  In the arcade version the Knife Throwers approached from one side of the screen, threw a knife or two, and then ran off.  In the 2600 version the Knife Throwers seem to have lost their fear and will run right up to you, constantly throwing knives at close range.  Not only that, but the knives seem to have picked up some bad habits from The Matrix and will constantly slow down and speed up at odd intervals.  


With all the limitations of 2600, it's amazing that Activision was able to program any game that remotely resembled Kung-Fu Master.  But with all the concessions they had to make to the gameplay, they probably shouldn't have tried.  Kung-Fu Master proves that just because you can port something to the 2600, doesn't necessarily mean you should.


Version Cart Text Description
?????? None Final version


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