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Ka-Ge-Ki: Fists of Steel (Genesis) artwork

Ka-Ge-Ki: Fists of Steel (Genesis) review

"After hesitantly accepting the HANGEDMAN CHALLENGE, I figured out why this game is called Ka Ge Ki. To understand the title better, one must break these three two-letter words down and investigate them individually. "

After hesitantly accepting the HANGEDMAN CHALLENGE, I figured out why this game is called Ka Ge Ki. To understand the title better, one must break these three two-letter words down and investigate them individually.

Ka. This is either an abbreviation or a typo. Either way, there should be another ka there, because such a foreign vulgarity is the only way to correctly describe this game.

Ge. I assume it is pronounced ''jeh,'' as in ''kah-jeh-kee.'' A lot of words that start with the letter J, which is what it sort of sounds like if you cut someone with a Southern drawl off in mid-pronunciation (work with me, people). It begins a lot of words that accurately describe this game. Jump. Jab. Joke. Junk. You get the picture.

Ki. As far as I can tell, the key to staying awake while playing this game involves cartons full of NoDoz and a friend sitting nearby to slap you awake when you finally do pass out in a bout of sheer boredom.

Etymology lesson aside, Ka Ge Ki is an absolutely wretched game. It's Pit Fighter without the cheering audience; it's Final Fight without the pleasing variety of attacks; it's any other beat-em-up imaginable without the fun factor. In it, you play a musclebound hero who must infiltrate the bad guys' nine-story building and rescue the girl at the end of the line. I would have been able to glean more information from the biographies at the title screen, but they flew by awfully fast and I wasn't really in the mood to read them again. After playing this game through one time, I wasn't really in the mood to do anything related to it again.

So this hero, with his black greasy hair and maroon leggings, takes his floors one at a time. He shares fisticuffs with a couple of generic lackeys whose only differences are their hair color and the way they move around the screen. After fending off a couple of these henchmen, our hero, with the FISTS OF STEEL advertised in the subtitle, will square off with a unique larger enemy with an energy bar, a silly costume, and one or two basic attacks - that sort of thing. Some of these bosses are absolutely hilarious and will proceed to punch you a lot while you laugh at their absurdity and ponder the drug being used at the moment of their conception. My favorites included a purple-robed fatty who appeared to break out in hives once his energy bar reached a certain point; a tight-faced man who very loosely resembles Hercule from Dragon Ball Z and turns into the Incredible Hulk when you get his energy bar low enough; and a person with scrubs on and a surgical mask over his face. The only reason the last one was funny was because the surgical mask reminded me of Michael Jackson. But I digress.

Jackie Chan your hero is not. He has but two moves that will aid him in his fight to the ninth story. One is a jab that moves very quickly but does all the aggregate damage of a wad of Scotch tape. Then there's the stronger straight punch. Anyone who spends even a couple of minutes with Ka Ge Ki will find that the straight punch, while slower, is more effective and will often take out enemies in the lower echelon - those who look the same save for their hair - in one or two easy hits. Since forming the skeleton of a battle strategy should not take too long, you're ready to enter the arena and take on the various goofball personalities of Ka Ge Ki.

It seems easy enough: you move around, anticipate your enemy's movements, line up with him, and sock him a good one in the jaw. Lather, rinse, repeat. This may appear to be a good strategy, but you must either time it exactly right or face the wrath of a million punches that you have almost no hope of escaping from. Button mashing will get your guy back on his feet a lot quicker, but as a novice you'll wonder how any fights can possibly be considered fair at all. True, Ka Ge Ki approaches martial arts Hollywood-style by only sending one assailant your way at a time. But judging from the angles others accost you from and the mystical hit detection that causes an inordinate amount of swings to miss their target, it's easy to see why one might think this.

Many poorly planned factors combine to throw you off balance. Surely the game's skewered ideas of depth perception help no one. When you move up and down along the screen to punch your opponent, you must either be so dangerously close that they can connect with their fist as well or make the tricky move around to an easier horizontal standpoint. The initial brawls are easy in that many lackeys (and even the half-witted bosses themselves) have so few brain cells that they will walk right into properly timed straight blows repeatedly. As you progress, they start weaving around and whacking you from obscure angles that you can't reciprocate from, a type of cheapness that builds up slowly through the first two-thirds of the game and then reaches a head at Round 7. Food items that restore your health and fist-strengthening components are thrown into the ring at certain minute marks, but it's hard to get to them when the fattest man in the game keeps his fat butt planted on top of them.

Though it allows you to start as far ahead as the third floor and is generous with continues, Ka Ge Ki gets boring and needlessly tough in a hurry. Almost none of this is due to any inherent difficulty programmed into the bosses; rather, you are often placed in such compromising positions and given such spotty control over your supposedly suave protagonist that it's a struggle to win the final matches. The computer has that advantage of knowing all the timing and approved hit detection spots and leaves you to figure them out. Worse, it is impossible for you to attack from the awkward stances that the CPU can, which makes each brawl a fight for your sanity as well as your life.

If you choose to play on, Ka Ge Ki keeps going on like this. You have to grit your teeth, bear down, and be ready to seek an end to your means if you want to finish it. The rest of us realized we liked hundreds of other games, dare I say thousands even, better and went over and played those.

If you think Ka Ge Ki has anything going for it other than its rough-and-tough battles and stirring victory sequences in which the loser is tossed down a manhole that mysteriously inhabits every floor of the building, you are gravely mistaken. Even the neo-cubist painters had a better grasp of perspective than these hapless losers, and the ugly disproportionate fighters with scrunchy faces and blocky muscles make this game all the less appealing. The sound and music don't fare any better, and digitized voice samples like ''Hey! Let's fight!'' and ''Is that all?'' repeat themselves ad nauseam and at grossly inappropriate random intervals to the point where the prospect of a totally silent world begins to have its advantages.

Like the fighters unlucky enough to die at the hands of the ebony-haired hero, the only fate worthy of this game is a hefty toss down the manhole.

Back to the loch with ye, Nessie!

snowdragon's avatar
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)

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