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Kabuki: Quantum Fighter (NES) artwork

Kabuki: Quantum Fighter (NES) review

"seemingly buried in the NES' great stash of platformers, does this game deserve to be remembered fondly? or be relegated to the "cheap shovelware bin" that games like friday the 13th or super pitfall? only one way to find out. "

Kabuki Quantum Fighter

When you think of the NES what kind of game do you think of? Shmup? Well yes the NES had plenty of those, RPG? Well yeah there were a couple, action 52?...just…get in the corner. I’m talking about platformers, the NES is chock full of good and not so good ones, with all of the greats like Mario and mega man out there it’s easy to miss some of the not so good but still excellent platformers in the NES library, this time I’m going to be talking about Kabuki Quantum Fighter.

Frankly with the awesomeness of the name I’m pretty sure I should give it a 10 right now but I think the game should speak for itself. As my rambling introduction states Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a platformer developed by Human Corporation (also known for their clock tower series) and published by HAL (for some reason known here in the PAL territories at the time as Halken) back before they were the super smash bros. juggernaut it is today. Finding it today doesn’t appear to be too difficult, about 5€ to about 40€ depending on box, condition, time of year, alignment of your chakra’s and how big a crap you took that day.

One thing that has always been great about most NES games is the fact that if they have a plot at all it makes no difference to the gameplay, here it is no different, the plot means nothing but the surprising thing is that there is quite a lot of it.

It is the year 2058, someone or some thing has invaded the worlds main defence computer and is using it to create unspecified havoc, the real worry being that it controls the worlds supply of nuclear weapons…because we would have absolutely no failsafes for such a contingency, with nobody thinking of turning it off and turning it back on again, doing a clean install or possibly converting to a mac the military (I think) decides instead to use a new and completely untested brain digitising device to upload our plucky young hero Col. Scott O’Connor’s brain into the main defense computer so he can do battle with whatever is in the computer…you know Linux is fine too. Upon taking the red pill our protagonist finds himself transformed…into a kabuki actor with long flowing red hair, a kimono like garb and a pure white face… this is actually explained as being a throwback to the colonel’s great great grandfather who was a kabuki actor… smell that? That’s contrived plot devices at work.

The reason for this is because in the original Japanese there was no Colonel Scott O’Connor, there was a 15 year old samurai battling a computer that had become too powerful…I’ll be here all day explaining this, it was a tie in to a movie called Zipang easily found on google. Scott checks in with a kind of ground control between levels, they don’t add much really other than to give a flimsy reason why you are going to the next level. It’s nice admittedly but I wouldn’t have a problem if they weren’t there.

Anyway once we are in the game we have a cool uploading sequence introducing the game where the player’s sprite materializes over a background of scrolling code (which was actual 6502 assembly code apparently) and then the actual game starts and…holy cow. the levels were meant to be the inside of a computer and yet I’m looking at what appears to be a living creature, hearts beating in the background, strange wailing faces looking like scream masks and flowing water, these levels look more like the final level of Contra than of a computer. I do need to say though that they are very well done, are fairly elaborate, each one looks very different from the last and the backgrounds are often pretty well done with some animation present in them like the aforementioned beating hearts and pulsing…things. Yeah I can’t actually tell what most of the stuff is meant to be, I think the developers were on some good stuff when they thought up the designs for these levels.

Your character’s handing and feature set is really well done too, in addition to standard running and jumping he has the ability to grab onto special hanging rings and use them to do a really well animated spinning jump move (seriously really look this up it’s really well drawn) to reach higher platforms (level 3 has long stretches of them) as well as the ability to jungle climb his way past special rails in some levels.

The really interesting part of the game however is the weapon system, your primary weapon is your hair…no I am not kidding, I’m assuming it’s meant to be made of plasma or something, press B and Scott whips his hair back and forth like a heavy metal fan and that somehow destroys his enemies, don’t knock it til you try it because it really works well, it has decent range and obviously unlimited ammo. The other weapons you have access to are the longer range weapons: an energy gun, quantum bombs and so on, you gain another after each level, really none of them are ever likely to see much use, the remote controlled bolo (the final weapon you receive) is probably the only one that will see real use, it sends out 3 small enemy seeking projectiles that attack the enemy repeatedly until either it disappears or they do. All of these secondary weapons use chip energy dropped from enemies.

Graphics are really good, they’re probably not the best the NES can push but by the standards of 1990 they were probably quite something, no two stages look alike, from the palette to the background. The palettes used however tend to be subdued, with only a few colours dominating for example a kind of purple in the first level to sky blue in the third, and cream in the fourth, sometimes the levels can look a bit monochromatic.

Sound is a mixed bag, while some of the tunes used are really good (the second level music is amazing) others are terrible (the 4th level music makes me want to claw my own ears out) other than that it’s just plain old NES chiptunes.

One thing I haven’t yet mentioned is difficulty, I’ve been playing this game since I first had my NES handed down to be in the late 90’s and it took me a long time to finish this game, today I can beat the game in about a half hour without losing a life but that’s from my familiarity with it, this game is hard, some of the bosses are incredibly cheap too, there is one that hides on the ceiling and has two little helpers dart around the room and shoot you, unfortunately they tend to hover just under or over your range, making them really difficult to hit, the main boss itself requires you to hold position under it whilst he fires at you, he needs to miss you twice before he comes down. Admittedly he is the cheapest boss.

Overall I think Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a pretty underrated classic and may even qualify as a hidden gem, I rarely see it get discussed as being a good game or even just brought up at all and I think it’s a shame, it’ll never gain the kind of popularity that Mario or castlevania enjoy or the smaller but dedicated following of games like bionic commando or battletoads get but it’s definitely something to add to the collection.


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Community review by maboroshi (April 27, 2013)

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