Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kung Fu Fighting!!

Kung who?  Kung FU!

Despite being insanely busy over the past two months I was nonetheless able to make a few acquisitions to my precious Famicom collection that I would now like to post in a boastful manner about.

About a month ago I was able to wheel and deal with the always excellent fredj on Famicom World for the above copy of Kung Fu!

I have been wanting a copy of that one for a long time but it is pretty crazy expensive here.  They have a minty CIB copy of it at Mandarake in town here for 63,000 yen (about $750 US), which is way out of my price range.  This was a slightly beat up cart only copy which allowed it to fall within my trading budget.

As you can note from the above photo, Kung Fu is very similar to Spartan X.  That is because it is Spartan X, just with a different name.   There is a bit of a history as to why this game was released with two names.  Here is the story as I have been able to gather from my surfing of the Japanese Famicom related internet.

Spartan X is the Japanese name of the Jackie Chan movie Wheels on Meals, which was a big hit here in 1984:

The game was released in conjunction with the film and thus had the same name.  This, I should note, came as news to me.  I had always assumed Spartan X/ Kung Fu was based on Bruce Lee`s Game of Death because....well because it IS Game of Death.  You use kung fu to fight an army of villains from floor to floor up a Chinese looking building to the boss at the top.  Exact same thing.

Anyway, whatever.  It is based on Wheels on Meals and not Game of Death.  No big whoop.

Nobody out there seems exactly sure about this, but it is the considered opinion of Japanese bloggers that Nintendo only had a license to use the film`s name for a limited time.  When it expired they switched the name of the game from Spartan X to Kung Fu, the same name the NES release was given.

I`m speculating here, but since this name change probably came late in the release`s lifespan they must have only sold a handful of copies with the Kung Fu name, hence the present rarity of that version.  Except for the title screen it is basically the same game.

In preparation to write this post I actually tracked down a copy of the movie Spartan X to see what it was like. It is kind of.....strange.  Jackie Chan plays Thomas who, along with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, are pitted against a bunch of bad guys who also know Kung Fu.  Sylvia in the film isn`t actually Thomas`s girlfriend.  Thomas and all of the `good guys` in the film seem to be bizarrely chaste virgins who have no obvious motivation to want to help Sylvia, a prostitute/ theif who stole all their money and doesn`t seem to have any sexual interest in any of them.

If you avoid trying to make any sense of the plot or characters though it does stand out as one of those so bad it is good movies. Lots of 80s style kung fu kicking and that sort of stuff.  Sylvia does get kidnapped and Thomas and friends do actually have to fight their way through an army of kung fu bad guys to rescue her at the end so there is some similarity with the game, though all this takes place in Spain for some reason.  There is a lot of humor throughout, some translates well, a lot does not.  Still worth a viewing though!


  1. Huh! I never knew this was released in Japan as anything other than Spartan X. Anyway, good thing you didn't have to shell out $750 for your copy. Yikes!

  2. As a Hong Kong and martial arts film afficionado, I take some offense to you calling Wheels on Meals "so bad it's good", but nevertheless this is a very interesting post - I had no idea there was a Japanese release called "Kung Fu"!

  3. Bryan - yup, its an obscure little variation on that one. I`ve seen loose copies on Ebay for 250$ or so, but that is a bit high.

    Josef - Yes, that was a cheap shot on my part. Actually I am really getting into these Hong Kong martial arts films, I never was before but after watching that I definitely want to see more!

  4. I'm a huge Jackie Chan fan, and yet I've never seen this movie or played the game. I'd probably rather the Spartan X version of the game over the Kung Fu version. And it seems once again you get an amazing deal. So jelly... :p

  5. I was watching an old episode of Game Center CX, and I always wondered why Arino kept calling the arcade game, clearly named "Kung Fu," "Spartan X." So as a cheap tie-in they just renamed it? Ha.

    I love Wheels on Meals, it's one of my favorite martial arts movies, simply because it's just so fun to watch.

  6. Something Spanish-related on this blog, what a surprise!

    I love both the movie and the game, but didn't know they were related!

  7. Hmm, I never heard about this alternate name either; thought it was just exclusive to that western release.

    By the way, do you actually have to beat the game 50 times in a row to achieve the true ending, or is it OK to get a few game overs along the way? Not sure if I even have the patience.

    I'll just watch the Jackie Chan movie instead. Yessir, that should be fun.

  8. Skyrunner - definitely check it out, its worth the watch!

    Angryrider - yup, over here it is known as Spartan X. In fact, since it was released in Japan first technically `Kung-Fu` is actually what they re-named it to!

    Rodrigo - Yup, not often that I can work Spain into a Famicom post! Interesting piece of Famicom trivia there!

    Kaibun - I`m not sure if you need to beat it 50 times wihtout a game over- I have nowhere near enough time/patience to try!!

  9. I'm under the impression that the Spartan X license was an afterthought on Irem's part, when the original Arcade game was under development at Irem's headquarters (probably as early as 1983) the designing team hadn't seen or heard of the movie (but it seems they watched Game of Death alright ^_^).
    The 1984 arcade game was mighty succesful, and Nintendo licensed the whole thing for a sure hit FC port I presume...(getting dragged in the SpartanX license mess ;^_^).

  10. Ah, that does make sense. It does seem like the game makers had Game of Death in mind when they designed it, they must have just added the names Thomas and Sylvia at the end to make it Spartan X-ish!