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Johnny Kung Fu (3DS) artwork

Johnny Kung Fu (3DS) review

"UFO Interactive's latest eShop release has charm, if not much substance."

New games in retro styles have been all the rage this generation. Games like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World pretending to be SNES games, or Mega Man 9 trying its best to be a NES game, or La-Mulana and VVVVVV being love letters to the MSX and Commodore 64 respectively. One platform you don’t see a lot of nostalgic gushing over is Nintendo’s Game & Watch. UFO Interactive’s latest eShop release, Johnny Kung Fu, aims to fill that niche, with a dash of Double Dragon thrown in to keep things interesting.

The game opens with a short decidedly un-LCD video of our hero, Johnny, setting out after his girlfriend, Paula, who has been kidnapped by the evil Mr. Wang Gang and brought to the top of their giant office building. Johnny has one hour to save her before she... gets murdered or something, I guess. The reason for the time limit is never really made clear. The cutscene feels pretty cheap, but the voices are so cheesy it’s actually kind of fun to watch in a so-bad-it’s-good sort of way.

The Game & Watch references start with the first level, a Donkey Kong-style climb to the top of the first “floor,” dodging rolling bombs and throwing knives along the way. It plays exactly like an LCD game, with animation frames confined to specific spots on the screen, and simple one-button controls.

After the first floor comes a more modern brawling stage. The brawling mechanics are pretty simple. Press Y to punch or X to kick. Press either button repeatedly for a combo. Jump to avoid attacks with the B button, or jump into the background with the R button. The background jumping ability is pretty useless most of the time, and the one battle where it might actually come in handy, it’s unavailable. Brawling stages aren’t particularly deep, but they’re not unpleasant either. Most brawling stages have minibosses which have special attacks you’ll have to evade (usually by jumping) while you chip away at their health. After you defeat them, the next brawling stage will feature waves of weaker versions of the last miniboss you fought. There are also regular bosses that throw projectiles at you. Those projectiles must be reflected in order to stun the enemies that threw them, so that you can inflict damage. There’s not a lot of variety within the brawling stages themselves, though beating bosses rewards you with handy new moves and short “the princess is in another castle” type cutscenes.

The music in the brawling stages is the typical kung fu rock you’d expect from this type of game, and it’s surprisingly catchy. The impact sounds and visual flash effects that come from landing blows are satisfying, and the sprites, while simple and lacking much animation detail, are cute and charming. The 3D effect is subtle but (as it is for many 2D games on the 3DS) beneficial.

Aside from the platforming and brawling stages, there are a few more recurring minigames based on Game & Watch classics like Judge and Ball. These are pretty simple games that are easy enough when you first encounter them, but they get more difficult as you progress. They basically function as breaks to keep the brawling and platforming segments from wearing out their welcome.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it. These types of levels repeat for 30+ floors until you reach the top of the building and win the game. There’s a time limit of one hour, but you won’t come close to needing it unless you die a lot. (Continues will shave a few minutes off your remaining time.) The core game is short, but there also are a few "bonus games" (basically score attack versions of the platforming and brawling stages) that you'll unlock as you progress.

It’s hard to decide if Johnny Kung Fu is really repetitive or not. There are several different styles of play included in the main game, but each style has little variety in itself. Platforming stages just have more bombs or throwing knives flying at you in later levels. Later brawling stages throw more enemies at you than earlier ones, but otherwise, they’re basically the same. They’d definitely start to feel repetitive if the game wasn’t only about 30 - 40 minutes long. Completing the game unlocks “Master” mode, but it’s still more of the same, just harder from the start. Still, despite the game’s shortcomings, I can’t help but like it. It’s novel in its simplicity and love for LCD games, and is worth playing if you have a soft spot for Game & Watch games or those old Tiger handhelds from the 80s and 90s that were based on every movie, cartoon, video game, comic, and breakfast meat. You can probably find a better brawler somewhere on the eShop if you dip into DSiWare, but there’s a place for Johnny Kung Fu on the 3DS eShop. Just keep your expectations low, and you might actually have a good time.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (July 12, 2012)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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