Friday, 9 January 2015

Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Arcade)

Yie Ar Kung-Fu arcade title screen
Developer:Konami|Release Date:1985|Systems:It's all over the place

Today's 'Y' game on Super Adventures is arcade classic Yie Ar KUNG-FU!

In Chinese the title means 'One Two Kung-Fu'... or perhaps '12 Kung-Fu' I suppose. I wouldn't really know, as my understanding of Chinese is even worse than my knowledge of Japanese. Though one thing I do know is that this is likely one of the most influential games ever made, as it basically kicked off the 1 vs. 1 fighting game genre when it hit arcades way back in 1985. That's two years before Street Fighter 1!

Okay there were a quite a few other games that introduced important elements of the genre, like Sega's 1976 version of Heavyweight Champ, Data East's Karate Champ and Nintendo's Urban Champion, but Yie Ar Kung-Fu has the proper health bars, the varied cast, the freedom of movement, the punch and kick buttons... nearly all of the basics in one place. I suppose its greatest gift to the fighting game genre though, was to prove that you don't have to have 'Champ' in the title to be successful, because otherwise today we'd be talking about games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Champcom 3, Champgirls, Guilty Champ Xrd, Melty Champ: Champtress Again Current Champ, and Street Fighter II' Champion Edition.

Yie Ar Kung-Fu came out for a million different systems, but I'd hit my arbitrary word count limit just listing them all so I'll be sticking exclusively to the arcade version this time around. My plan is to give it an hour or so, fail a few (dozen) times, then finish off by blaming the game for all my mistakes.

Right, if I'm reading this screen correctly I'll be going up against the three regular fighters along the top first, then the two mysterious boss characters underneath, and then presumably that'll be it. Not that there was anything regular about these guys at the time, as you just didn't see one vs. one fighting games with varied opponents, different fighting styles and female characters before 1985.

For a second though I assumed this was the character select, but that was apparently an innovation too far at this point. I'm always stuck playing as the same guy, even in two player. It doesn't even do a Ryu/Ken style palette swap; it doesn't have to as the two players would never end up facing each other, instead they'd take turns fighting the AI alone.

Wow, I almost missed the "Hot Fighting History" text on the top of the screen. Seems that sexy historical combat awaits.

And that's the first fight done with. There was one round, no time limit, and Oolong won 8 hits to 1.

I'd give you the blow by blow and explain my strategy, but truth is I was just hammering buttons until the other guy fell over.

This blow in particular seemed to give Buchu something to be sore about though. That's Oolong pulling off a package check seven years before Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat. Man... I wish they'd called him something like Wulong instead of Oolong. No one should be expected to carry that many 'o's at the start of their name.

I was thrown off by the combat at first as neither of the buttons seemed to do anything. It took me a second to figure out that Oolong refuses to punch or kick unless I also pull a direction while I'm pressing the button.

Direction + punch or kick = different attack. I assumed at first that the arrow was there to show me who I'm playing as, but it actually spins around to show which direction I'm pulling in. And that's weird.

Oolong's got a surprising number of moves available to him, which should let me send his fists or feet precisely where I want them to be... just as soon as I memorise what each direction combination does (and there's a lot of them). Or maybe I'll just pick one or two moves I like and rely on them instead.

Like jumping for example, there's a good move. The collision detection seems very lenient when I'm airborne, letting me dodge shurikens with ease, but I don't have a great deal of say in where he'll end up afterwards. There's absolutely zero air control, so once I hit jump all I can do is wait until his feet hit the ground again. He also seems to have a block move, but this is apparently just a clever ruse as it doesn't actually block any damage.

I beat Star here on my first attempt too, but it was a much closer fight this time around as she brought weapons with her! It seems that someone neglected to send Buchu and Oolong the memo explaining that they're apparently allowed (and encouraged) to bring weapons to this tournament. We could've bought an axe!

Next up is Nuncha... I wonder what he'll be armed with.

Well there goes Nuncha. He gave me some serious trouble compared to the other two, so I had to resort to my backup plan: spam my best move over and over and hope he walked into it. It's not all that impressive a technique I know, but in this case it actually got results (to my great surprise). It sure was close by the end though.

Alright that's the first three fighters down, time to move up to the next tier and reveal the first mystery boss.

Oh right, of course Pole would use a pole, just like Nuncha used nunchucks and Star used throwing stars. I guess Feedle's going to be coming at me with a violin.

Wow, I don't think I like this guy's stick. Again I've been thrown into a fight against a superior opponent armed with a weapon, while all I have is plan B.

Amazingly my plan (eventually) worked a second time, as I clawed this one back and scored a victory by hammering the button and using the same move over and over. Man I'm going to be in real trouble when I come up against an opponent who can withstand my spam.

Though now that I think about it I've only got Feedle left and I'm done here. You might actually witness me beating a fighting game here for the first time in my site's history, and it's only the start of January.

Okay... what the fuck? I know clones all tend to look alike, but that doesn't mean they're the same person! You can't send 8 of them out into a 1 vs. 1 match and claim they only count as one opponent, I don't care if they're all wearing the same pants!

It might look like I'm spamming moves randomly here, but I'm doing my best to play it properly! It's still using fighting game movement rules though, where Oolong automatically turns to face his opponent, so all my moves come out wrong when he decides to hit the guy behind him instead

There you go! When I got them all onto one side things went a lot better for me. Fortunately they all turned out to be clones of someone with a glass jaw, so I only had to hit eight of them once each to finish the fight.

And... I'm done here! And done with the game too I think.

What?

Crap, there's a whole other board of fighters for me to defeat! And somehow I get the feeling that Masterhand History is going to be a lot tougher than Sexy Hot History was.

And there's my first life lost.

I probably would've done better in that fight against Chain if I hadn't kept kicking the bloody chain! Man, that particular move seems so useless it's almost as if they threw it in to punish players who just hit directions at random. When am I ever going to need to attack the exact spot where my own head would be?

I managed to defeat Chain on my second try, after I mastered the art of getting my head down when the chain came flying overhead (or at least jumping over it), but Club here is a lot trickier. He should've actually been called Shield, as he's effortlessly blocking everything I've got to throw at him. And yeah despite the gif above, I am throwing out more than just this one move this time.

Okay, I need to stop relying on my instincts and figure this thing out. What would a fighting game player be telling me to try if they were watching over my shoulder? Actually better yet, what would Twitch chat be yelling at me if I was streaming this?

Hmmmmmmmm... wow, maybe I should just stand still and let him hit me. Thanks you imaginary assholes!

With just one 1 up left I put my new plan into action and figured out Club's weakness. He leaves himself open during his attack, so all I have to do his hit him a split second after he takes a swing at me! Shouldn't actually work, but it somehow did.

Hey, does this mean I'm finally learning how to learn how to play fighting games now?

No... no it really doesn't. Though in fairness, he had a sword.

I've got plenty of credits left, but using one brings me back to the very first fight against Buchu, so I think I'll walk away now.


CONCLUSION

Yie Ar Kung-Fu was an important game back in the mid-80s, but fighting games in the eighties were all (to be brutally honest) kinda crap. Experts in the field of video game design experimented tirelessly throughout the decade, inventing and refining all the components they'd need in order to eventually assemble a proper fighting game, but it wasn't until the release of Street Fighter II in 1991 that we finally saw what they were working towards.

Though saying that, you could probably still get some entertainment out of this today as long as you're not expecting blocks, special moves, unlockable playable characters, playable characters in general, fatalities, babalities, two player versus mode, a story, bonus rounds, round 2, combos, cancels, counters, Kombat Kodes, practice mode, charge attacks, strong attacks, weak attacks, duo team attacks, unmotivated automobile destruction, a timer, stage transitions, interactive backgrounds, QCF+P, sweeps, stuns, super gauges, guard break, post-battle smack talk, air juggling, parrying, throws or an announcer yelling "ULTRAAAAA COMBOOOOO". It does have a stage where you fight your evil twin though, so there's that.

It's fast, responsive, there's plenty of attacks, it's visually appealing (for 1985) and the sound's not all that bad either. The game's just really basic, with tiny little sprites, and I couldn't really figure out what I was suppose to do beyond leaping out of danger and trying to get a hit in when I could. Then again fighting games are a mystery to me in general so please ignore all my opinions.


Chances are that if you're reading this text you've either read some of my words, played the game yourself, or both, so if you've got any opinions on Yie Ar Kung-Fu or my writings about it, then please feel welcome to leave a comment. Feedback is always appreciated.

Or you could just try to guess the next 'Y' game I suppose. Good luck with that though, I've made it nearly impossible to figure out this time.

3 comments:

  1. Nice review!
    Never saw this on the Arcade machine, but used to play it on the Amstrad with a green monitor. Less enemies there, and starting from the beginning after beating the final boss, Blues, who is just a copy of Oolong.

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  2. I had this on the Commodore 64 and I remember not liking it much back then but I've come to appreciate it more in the years since. It doesn't have all the gubbins and cruft that's been added to the genre over the decades and as such is a more pure and efficient game. I'm fond of IK+ for the same reasons.

    All that said, I'm a bit of a fighting game heathen as I tend to think that the genre peaked with Street Fighter II Turbo.

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