Kung Fu Chaos (Xbox) review
"I could sit here all day and blow sunshine up your butt, telling you that Kung Fu Chaos doesn’t take stereotypical jabs at those memorable 1970s-era cheesy martial arts films with horrid English translation and disturbing “special effects.” I would be lying — this Power Stone-meets-mini-games brawler literally depends on its players having prior awareness of the atrociously corny, irresistibly goofy movies that occupy overnight time slots on cable networks. You bet KFC is stereotypical — every t..."
I could sit here all day and blow sunshine up your butt, telling you that Kung Fu Chaos doesn’t take stereotypical jabs at those memorable 1970s-era cheesy martial arts films with horrid English translation and disturbing “special effects.” I would be lying -- this Power Stone-meets-mini-games brawler literally depends on its players having prior awareness of the atrociously corny, irresistibly goofy movies that occupy overnight time slots on cable networks. You bet KFC is stereotypical -- every theme it presents is clichéd to the point of parody. Littered with little “in-jokes” and overdone accents from the very movies that it lovingly recreates, the premise can come off as sourly annoying or amusingly comical. Either way, underneath is an entertaining adventure, but with far more zesty madness through multiplayer endeavors.
It all begins with director Shao Ting (names like this will be recurring) trying to create a magnum opus, so he can resurface in the movie biz. His plan is to complete an explosive action picture, so he needs actors skilled enough in hand-to-hand combat to beat the tar out of one another across expansive, hazardous, completely mismatching sets. Stuntmen aren’t an option for the financially lacking, so these are real blows being dealt!
It’s a simple game: two main attacks, one quicker, the other more powerful, a throw/trip maneuver that is that is cannot be countered by can be seen coming from a mile away, a block, a jump, and a taunt. Success is most likely to be found in throwing together button combinations, creating a multi-hit chain, thus leaving the opponent on his back. This is typically followed up with the taunt, which sends obscenities flying from the mouth of the harasser, as the fool on the receiving end is absorbs the verbal humiliation while he’s still grounded. Repeating this pattern -- finding a way to down your opponent and then quickly following with a taunt -- three times lends your character the ability to unleash a ‘super attack’, capable of ending the life of any opponents it connects with instantaneously.
The system obviously isn’t as robust as a full-blown fighter, but perhaps has more depth than other games in the limited ‘party fighter’ genre. There is a multitude of short, two-to-four button combos to be formed using the three attack buttons, as well as single-hit attacks such as running jump kicks and ‘clear-out’ attacks that give you breathing room in a crowded situation.
There are a number of ways to approach the multiplayer modes, such as changing the criteria needed for a victory. You can base it on whoever survives the longest, racks up the most kills, holds the ‘mojo’ for the longest (basically a keep-away game), or style, where switching up your methods of attack is rewarded with bonus points. You can form teams, or make the competitions free-for-all.
References to the “Classics”
Even the “storyline” is a playful paying of respect to the atmosphere of those kung fu films -- a loud, shrilling, poor director speaking borderline idiotic English with plans to create an overblown, stunt-ridden action flick involving excessive numbers of fierce ninjas. The character himself is beyond silly to the point of exasperation, but otherwise, I cannot really imagine how much different the actual directors of the abominable movies really were from this dolt. How classy, suave and intelligent can a person be to make one of those things, honestly? Thankfully, you can completely mute the tedious imbecile, at the expense of a handful of character-specific insights that are actually funny.
A few of the fighters and situations are equally absurd, and in the same subject matter. Over-the-top battle sequences -- ones where any normal person of any culture would have died at least four times from beginning to end -- are the essence of the majority of the scenes. The solo adventure sees the player exploring each of the different stages and battling hordes of villainous ninjas in order to meet the expectations of that particular mode of play. It’s usually slaughtering enough hapless martial artists to move to the next scene. Based on your performance, you receive a ranking from one to five stars, depending on how well you did in the allotted time. Just like with real film, three and up is good -- you get to move on.
Unfortunately, the ultra-generic set of enemies in the single player mode grow tiring, as a number of the same type will often attack you in a row or simultaneously. There is some variety in the tricks they use (some of the tougher breeds block excessively, while others are more attack-oriented), but they lack any standout qualities to make them interesting. I suppose it could be construed that even this element is in homage to the never-ending supply of unidentifiable baddies from the old flicks.
Far more creative are the subtle touches, however, that one notices as they progress. In true low-quality style, there is a pair of filters that can be used to give the action the feel of a poorly crafted presentation. The ‘50s-style filter sees the action from a dully colored, grainy “camera”, and the auditory elements sound as if they’re being dragged through a tin can at the bottom of the ocean. The ‘70s style is more colorful and a bit less blotchy, with tuned-up music quality.
Perhaps you’ll notice, later on, as you and your enemies leap from rooftop to distant rooftop during an intense battle, that you can see the ropes tied to the actors’ backs as it safely glides them through the air and drops them off at the next fighting location. This is the kind of thoughtful, silly touch that can be truly appreciated in recognizing how cheesy those stunts in the movies were.
You’ll find what you’d expect as far as formulaic kung fu characters in Master Sho Yu, Chop & Styx, and Xui Tan Sour, all of which fit the chop-sockey profile in spirit and attacks. Not to mention that “hilarious” nomenclature.
Don’t forget one of the greatest perks in the package: Carl Douglas’s legendary Kung Fu Fighting, which plays during fights and when you choose to view the incredibly stylish replay sequences that allow you to relive your fighting practically frame-by-frame in zoom-ins and slow motion portions. The rest of the music is quiet, forgettable oriental style stuff that sneaks its way in to the presentation unnoticed. You can custom design soundtracks with your own music, as well.
Forget Kung Fu: Incorporating Dinosaurs and Sinking Ships
Surprisingly, though the premise, atmosphere and a couple of the characters and locales are reminiscent of the cheap motion pictures of decades past, a large chunk of the material are direct parodies of other elements of different cultures altogether.
Perhaps the blond, roller-skating valley girl will convince you; she wields yoyos and cruises around in a miniskirt, whacking people in the face and spouting off the annoying, whiny taunts you’d expect from such a stereotype. More interesting is the shotgun-wielding African American woman, which is obviously in reference to the Pam Grier, blaxploitation figures of the past. The types of characters are anything but limited to the old films, but there is the generic ninja character for those who want it. Plus a monkey god! The artistic style used on them -- gritty, ugly textures, small bodies and freakishly large heads -- makes them all somewhat unappealing in appearance, though. (This is in sharp contrast to the beautiful, colorful, almost boundless scenes you explore.)
Or how about your face-off at sea, where you battle across the slowly sinking “Gigantic”, which apparently has the exact same dimensions and downfalls of that other ship that snapped and capsized practically a century ago. It’s a scene that borrows almost blatantly from the film Titanic -- the decks slowly being consumed by creeping waters, the entire ship tilting at an angle so that tables, chairs, passengers are sliding helplessly down towards you, perhaps even knocking you off balance, or making themselves available for you to pick up and throw at the other combatants. Eventually the ship starts to sink, and any player that cannot hurdle the railing at the far end of the ship to hang on to loses a life. Incredibly offensive, harmlessly fun, or both? There is no denying that the look and feel of this level makes it quite authentic.
The majority of the environs are unquestionably meant for fun, however, as a hulking dinosaur chases you down river on a runaway raft in another scene, taking bites out of the back of the float, and any unlucky fighters that may happen to be in the vicinity. And that rooftop hopping that was mentioned earlier -- this takes place while alien ships fire deadly lasers at you from above! After unleashing hell on one another on top of four of five different buildings, the fight concludes on a dizzying flying saucer that spins and tilts without warning.
The variety of the situations that you’re thrown into during any mode of play is staggering. Whether it’s dancing across lilly pads as a giant, mutant piranha jumps up and consumes them on bye one, or being hurled down a pit, trying to navigate your character’s fall away from the protruding ledges laden with deadly spikes, repetitious scenes is never an issue.
Thankfully, the fighting sequences are intermixed with mini-games that are equally enjoyable, creating a sense of variation that is otherwise nonexistent as far as gameplay goes. One sees four fighters placed on tipsy, high platforms playing a game of hot potato…with a princess. Timing the catch when it comes your way is essential for not being knocked from your perch. Another is a tractionless bumper cars-like game on a slippery iceberg. Nudge your adversaries into the walls of ice until they crack and tumble, them push them into the freezing waters below.
These sequences only last about a minute, or until there is only one man standing, but they allow for a very relieving intermission from the breakneck rumbles.
The only thing I’m left to wonder his how this can possibly last any length of time. Frantic brawlers aren’t typically known for their longevity, and with a rhythmic method for success (attack – taunt – attack – taunt – attack – taunt – super attack, etc.), I’m not sure that this one will last too long. The different scenes are very usable for eliminating opponents by throwing them into hazardous areas (mouths of carnivores, off of skyscrapers, into propelling helicopter blades and onto beds of spikes), so there is some variety in killing off a foe. Some of the characters and scenes are unlocked through progression, and each of the fighters has their own ending and biographies to be earned. Unfortunately, to unlock everything, you must receive the perfect five-star rating in every level, which can be frustrating.
I can see the multiplayer aspects remaining entertaining for a good while, but the single-player tasks can’t possibly last as long as one would like. This seems like the kind of ‘fun’ that is absolutely amazing to start with, but deteriorates as the tricks go from old to new with more play time.
The balderdash that seemed to be going around at KFC's release, thanks to a couple popular publications, is that the game is, in its entirety, racist. I’m not Asian, so I can’t really claim to be offended. But I have to ask: aren’t the cheaply made, completely senseless Kung Fu movies of the ‘70s that this game plays off of the true mockery? It’s not like the jokes are confined to a single culture; the valley girl character may very well be the most annoying in the game. Offensive material is a possibility, considering that a scene like the sinking Titanic is made into a complete caricature. But saying that this is racist is a stretch. It’s all in good fun, just like watching the old films for laughs.
Featured community review by dogma (December 30, 2003)
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