"Remember Kung Fu for your old NES? Think hard and it will all come rushing back to you. It was a punch, kick and jump side-scroller, and it featured amateur martial artists who would rush at you so they could hug you to death. Occasionally, one of them had the wherewithal to wield a stick, or toss a knife at you. Well! With the advent of 16-bit power back in 1989, things only got worse. Witness China Warrior. "
Remember Kung Fu for your old NES? Think hard and it will all come rushing back to you. It was a punch, kick and jump side-scroller, and it featured amateur martial artists who would rush at you so they could hug you to death. Occasionally, one of them had the wherewithal to wield a stick, or toss a knife at you.
Well! With the advent of 16-bit power back in 1989, things only got worse. Witness China Warrior. The play mechanics are so bad that it's laughable, and a huge Bruce Lee look-alike as the hero doesn't help matters any. Like Kung Fu, you will encounter hordes of same looking assailants, here dressed in cloaks that change colour depending on the level. They cannot attack you—nor can they even hug you to death)—they just run into you. The only variation that exists is that some will duck, and some will take more hits to kill than others.
Aside from this human element, you've got inanimate objects to worry about, and they figure into your frustration much more prominently than the cloaked YMCA Karate dropouts. This is funny—you must avoid flying branches, teacups, javelins and knives streaking across the screen from destination unknown, and boulders straight out of another Hudson Soft game, Adventure Island. To power up your vitality meter, you can jump kick what looks to be a floating box of cereal when it comes along, from time to time.
You will trek through an obligatory and badly drawn temple on your journey to the inevitable 'cave of darkness'. All the while, you'll be pelted by flying nunchuks and falling plaques. The objects attack in formation, and when they're not boring and facile to take out, they're frustrating and overwhelming to deal with, and getting hit by them is like stubbing your toe; annoying stuff. There's no middle ground, no intensity, only alternating feelings of boredom and anger.
The saving grace in all of this is supposed to be the size and detail of your character, and the boss characters. Yes, you're a big boy, but the alleged detail has been much exaggerated. Or to be more accurate, your man's muscles are all finely sculpted, but the drawing itself is poor. Gogan from The Legendary Axe (released for the same system, at around the same time) looks better, and he is drawn on a much smaller scale (about one half it looks like) with fewer lines detailing his battle-hardened physique.
And what of the bosses? There are only four of them through the 12 levels. Each of the four, differently themed areas has three stages. For each stage, the colours are changed up, and the pattern of inanimate objects hurled at you is different. Every level has a boss, and they too go through this colour change brilliance. The first encounter is with Stone Cold Steve Austin in fatigues. He makes many encore appearances, turning into Roadblock from G.I. Joe along the way. For all his chameleon antics, the way to beat him doesn't change throughout. There is a simple enough pattern to take out each of the bosses in fact, and sometimes all that is required of you is to flick on the turbo switches, push your man into the corner, and hold down the kick button.
What this means is that the saving grace in China Warrior does not save it at all. Yes the characters are large, but they don't look very good, and there is nothing to fighting them. Your own guy has very little to offer in the way of martial arts expertise either. He has a standing and ducking punch, and a standing and jumping kick (the latter is useless by the way). Bruce would not be pleased. And if you play for more than a few minutes, you won't be either.
Staff review by Marc Golding (October 27, 2003)
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