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Video Game / Kung Fu Master

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"Your love Silvia is in custody now. If you want to save your dear Silvia's life, come to the Devil's Temple at once. 5 sons of the devil will entertain you."
Mr. X, game intro to Kung Fu Master

Kung-Fu Master is a 1984 Arcade Game released by Irem, also known as Kung Fu in its 1985 NES port and Spartan X in Japan (all versions except for the MSX one, which was titled Seiken Acho due to the existence of Jackie Chan in Spartan X, a different MSX game by Pony Inc.). Playing as martial artist Thomas, you get to kick, punch and jump-kick an horde of...rather grabby enemies and acrobatic midgets throughout 5 straighforward stages.

The original game's plot is quite simple: the mysterious Mr. X kidnaps Thomas' girl, Sylvia, and leaves a letter challenging him to rescue her by going through a 5-floor pagoda known as Devil's Temple, fighting against his hordes of grabby mooks and the 5 Sons of the Devil (the Stick Fighter, Boomerang Fighter, Strongman, Magician and Mr. X himself).

There were two sequels made for the console market. A Game Boy version of Kung Fu Master/Spartan X released in 1990, dealing with Thomas, now a secret intelligence agent, as he investigates the disappearance of scientist and engineers known in the field of weapon development, and the apparent involvement of mysterious millionaire and martial artists Zapp Morgan. Now Thomas has to face Morgan's contracted killers (Chainsaw Man, Napalm Bomber, twin Ninjas and the return of Strongman) plus hordes of still very grabby mooks. The game plays identical to the original, albeit Thomas has a new flying/cartwheel kick attack and stages now have moving platforms and traps.

And then there's Spartan X 2, released in Japan in 1991 for the Family Computer, and advertised but not released for the NES as Kung Fu II. Now going by the name Johnny Spartan (the manual revealing his original full name as Johnny Thomas), he's a police officer who lost his family in an incident with a new type of drug, which his father was subjected to. Quitting the corrupt police force, he becomes a secret service agent in order to track the drug route and find the mastermind, which turns out to be man named Caeson Hawk. Johnny confronts many drug smugglers and dealers (Flames Joe, Chin Gensai, Billy Beiry, Mr. Benjamin and Murder Lin), and once again very grabby mooks on his crusade against Caeson. Sylvia shines by her absence, with Johnny instead getting assistance from Tracey, his HQ contact, as well as his heavily-stressed chief, Steve. Just as before, two new moves are given to Johnny in the form of a Shoryuken-esque rising uppercut and an overhead throw.

If you were looking for Mr. Miyagi and co., see Mentors. Also not to be confused with the film and TV series starring David Carradine.

This game provides examples of:

  • Artifact Title: In Japan, "Spartan X" doesn't really seems to have anything to do with the game itself (barring the fact that Irem bought the license from a movie of the same name, see the In Name Only entry below). X 2 actually tries to justify it by rechristening the main character "Johnny Spartan", and then having Caeson mention the fact he was once known as "Thomas".
  • The Beast Master: Mr. Benjamin sics his trained gorilla against you.
  • Beat 'em Up
  • Big Fancy House: Caeson's "Dark Manor", which has its own underground drug factory and Olympic-sized swimming pool.
  • Bound and Gagged: Sylvia. Didn't look quite clear in the Arcade and NES versions because she could still yell "Help me, Thomas!" during the intermission after Stage 2, but the screen bezel for the U.S. cabinet depicts her to be gagged as well, as does the title screen for the Amstrad version.
  • Circus of Fear: The Gypsy Air Circus in X 2, which are actually a band of smugglers.
  • Evil Laugh: Mr. X is fondly remembered for his mocking laughter in the intermission "cutscenes". All bosses mockingly laugh at Thomas after he loses too, with Strongman having a lower pitch and Magician a higher.
  • Guide Dang It!: The Magician is the only boss who needs to be struck in a specific way to hurt him.
  • Here We Go Again!:
    ''"Congratulations, Thomas and Sylvia! But their happiness does not continue long."
    **Stage 1 starts**
  • High-Altitude Battle: Stage 04 in X 2 takes place atop a moving plane.
  • In Name Only: The Japanese version, Spartan X, took its name from the Japanese title of the Jackie Chan film Wheels on Meals, since Irem bought the license to make a game based on the film. Despite the title, the game has nothing to do with the movie outside of the names of the two main characters (Thomas and Sylvia) and was more inspired by the unfinished Bruce Lee project Game of Death.
  • Kiai: The original arcade game has Thomas doing Bruce Lee-style kiaing when he attacks, specifically, he goes "Ata!" when he punches or kicks, and "wooga!" when he jump kicks.
  • Let X Be the Unknown: Mr. X, pretty much. The Japanese manual states the group he's leader of is also known as the "Mysterious Organization X".
  • Mighty Glacier: Strongman packs a very mean punch/kick, but he also telegraphs which attack he's going to use.
  • Mirror Boss: Mr. X in the NES game uses the same moves as Thomas, added to his unique specialty in blocking/dodging attacks.
  • The Movie: The French film Le petit amour features the game heavily and became known internationally as Agnès Varda's Kung Fu Master!.
  • My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Probably why Mr. X went through all the trouble of kidnapping Sylvia.
  • Ninja: Most Mooks in the Game Boy game are these, plus two more as bosses. X 2 has 4 ninjas hidden in Caeson's olympic-sized swimming pool.
  • Off with His Head!: Kicking Magician has this effect: his head falls off and he teleports, unharmed.
  • Personal Space Invader: Most enemies attack by throwing themselves on you and attempting to weigh you down.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Whenever you complete the temple, the game plays a snippet of Dvorák's "New World Symphony".
  • Regenerating Health: Only the bosses have a rather slow health regeneration, which is only noticed if the player does notable damage, and disengages. The Atari 7800 version increases this rate.
  • The Rival: Mr. X and Caeson. In the latter's case, it's implied they have met before (probably from the incident in which Johnny lost his family).
  • Smashing Survival: The Ur-Example. Any time you let an enemy get too close to you they will grapple you and you have to waggle the joystick frantically to break free.
  • Spell My Name With An S: One that's basically become fanon. Thanks to a mistranslation in the fan-translation of Spartan X 2, any time the game is discussed, the main character is called "Keiji Thomas".note 
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: The last section in the final stage of X 2 has Johnny walking underwater without any ill effect. The Mooks falling into the water to hug him aren't affected either.
  • Timed Mission: The timer starts at 2000 and counts down at around 18.4 per second, gives around 100 seconds per floor. The timer starts a Critical Annoyance when it's around 320.
  • Traintop Battle: Stage 02 in the Game Boy game and the first one in X 2.
  • 12-Bar Blues: Used in the main gameplay theme of the original game.note 
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Both Tracey and Steve communicate with Johnny through their group's HQ-Link as part of the game's cutscenes.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Invoked by Caeson, who claims that doing exactly that wouldn't be much fun, and instead challenges Johnny to a "special stage" made only for him.