Friday, July 29, 2011

Spartan X

I'm sure every gamer has that one special video game. That one game that you used to watch the big kids play at the arcade when you were a kid, but never got to play yourself because you were a smaller kid and didn't have any quarters. All you could do was watch and yearn.
For me, that game was Spartan X. Well, actually it was "Kung Fu" as the game is known in North America, but for present purposes I'll refer to it using its Famicom title.
In the mid to late 80s my dad was stationed on an American air force base in West Germany. On base they had this rec centre for kids that I used to go to sometimes after school. Their biggest attraction was a Kung Fu arcade cabinet.
It was an extremely popular game. The bigger kids in Junior High or even High school had a virtual monopoly on it. Elementary school kids like me if we had quarters (I never did) would have to get in line. The best we could realistically hope for was to be allowed to look over the big kid's shoulders as they played.
I did a lot of that, watching and wishing I could play. I never played that Kung Fu game, but I knew it like the back of my hand just from watching the big kids sending those bad guys in their blue and purple jumpers hurtling off screen.

I think that feeling of longing - almost like unrequited love - really heightened my appreciation of the game. In my adulthood it evokes different, but equally strong, feelings for Spartan X when compared to games which I actually owned and played.
Twenty plus years later when I started collecting Famicom games I discovered that the same arcade game I had so badly wanted to play as a kid was released on the Famicom as Spartan X. It immediately became the game that I wanted most (after Antarctic Adventure which I wanted for my wife). Despite the fact that it is a relatively common game it took me a few months to find, though having already waited more than two decades at that point it wasn't such a big deal.
I finally found it one day at Omocha Souko. It was just so amazing. I raced home and immediately put it in. So worth the wait. The kicking. The punching. The.....well, basically just kicking and punching. But so MUCH kicking and punching!

Now I somehow have accumulated five copies of it, as you can see from these photos. In addition to being one of my favorite games to play, it is also one of my favorite carts. The purple looks brilliant, as does the look on Thomas' face as he kicks the henchman. Absolutely fabulous.

Related Posts:
- Planes, Trains and North Korean Propoganda
-Tour d' Excitebike


  1. A great read, thanks! I've never played the game in question on any format (perhaps I should do so for my next 'Arcade Classic' feature) but your photos made me laugh a lot as always. Keep them coming! :P

  2. What part of Japan did you take this pictures in... the blade runner district?

  3. Simon - thanks! I do recommend playing Spartan X or Kung Fu, especially if you like kicking and punching.

    videogamesarerad - yup - Bladerunner in the light of day. Actually these are photos taken in an industrial area near my place. Not a pretty place for a stroll, but I thought it'd make an interesting backdrop for some Spartan X carts.

  4. Going through your back catalog of posts, don't mind me.

    Great story, I love when people reminisce about why they like a game. Kung Fu was the first NES game I ever bought with my own money, I believe...I was about ten years old so SNES was in full swing at the time. I went to a pawn shop with my friends and found a copy there for five bucks. I played it on and off for a few years and could never beat stage 3, although the boss's laughing always cracked me up.

    Now that I'm collecting NES games again, I found my old Kung Fu game and managed to make it all the way to the last boss (I think so at least, maybe the real Mr. X is after stage 5). Nope, still can't beat it.

  5. Thanks Jascony! I`m glad to know I`m not the only one with fond Kung Fu childhood memories!

    I`ve managed to make it past the boss on level 5 as Spartan X is one of the very few games out there that I`m actually pretty good at thanks to practice (1942 and Galaxian are a couple others in that category). I won`t spoil the surprise by telling you what comes after that.

  6. Sounds like a challenge! I'll keep trying until I clear it then.