Imagine that the girl of your dreams was kidnapped by a ruthless mega corporation. Would you call the police to save her, or perhaps write an angry letter to the Better Business Bureau to express your anger at the company’s bad customer service? Well, if you got stuck with a name like Johnny Kung Fu, the only logical thing to do would be to tear through the villainous corporation’s skyscraper headquarters in a fury of flying fists and feet in order to get her back. This game, which was just recently released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, puts you in charge of this pair of star crossed lovers’ destiny as you battle your way through multiple floors of dastardly wrong-doers.
It is not often that a game can blend vastly different visual styles and gameplay styles all in the same title and have it still seem cohesive, but the developers for Johnny Kung Fu did just that. The game starts off on the ground floor of the bad guys’ company, UFO, and you only have one hour to save your lady friend. What was surprising about the introductory level is that it was styled like one of those old Tiger handheld electronic games from way waaaayyy back. You know, the one with the black LCD display on a silver background and a series of beeps serving as the soundtrack? You can move Johnny forward, backward, or make him duck behind something for cover, and there is one button that does both jumps and attacks depending on the context of the situation. There are a few different challenges Johnny must overcome on these super-retro levels, but one theme is consistent: timing is crucial to your success. Mess up enough times to loose all of your lives and you can continue, but at the cost of five additional minutes being taken off of your allotted time.
In between the throwback levels, the action moves up to the top screen and you will be thrust into a typical beat-em-up brawler. The art style is really nice, with 2D cartoony characters and environments layered in 3D. Enemies will either be in the foreground or the background, and you are able to switch back and forth with ease. Controls are simple on these levels, because initially Johnny can only flip, punch, or kick. Each time you defeat a boss in one of the colorful levels, you will be awarded with a new combo or attack. It was nice to see a game of this type offering moves that didn’t require an insanely complex combination of button presses.
There are a few negative aspects to this game, but none of them would even come close to falling into the “deal breaker” category. The first one, which may not even seem bad to some players, is the insane difficulty of certain levels. Once you fail two or three times, you might as well start the entire game over because you will probably no longer have enough time to complete the game successfully. The other big drawback is there is no save or checkpoint system. I found myself leaving Johnny Kung Fu suspended on my 3DS in between game sessions as a work around to this, but you still have to be very committed to playing this game for a while unless you want to start from the beginning again. In theory, the game should only an hour or less to complete, but this all depends on your skill and how many times you have to start over.
Overall, Johnny Kung Fu is a good game. It successfully blends the pleasant nostalgia of old timey LCD handheld gaming with new and whimsical cartoon art style that uses 3D nicely. Gamers looking for a challenge have likely found their match, because this game is also chalk full of the brutal, punishing difficulty of old school beat-em-up games. There is enough varied gameplay here that the hour you spend imagining yourself on a bloody and vengeance filled romp a la Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill will certainly be anything but redundant. That is, if you can beat a level before you karate chop your 3DS into oblivion during a ragequit incident.
Johnny Kung Fu
|Looks great, the LCD levels may seem disconnected from the rest of the game at first, but they add a lot of fun nostalgia to the game, classic beat-em-up gameplay will always have a place in gamers' hearts.||Difficulty level jumps back and forth from moderate to insane, lack of checkpoints or save system means you have to beat it in one sitting.|
|Verdict||The things that Johnny Kung Fu does differently from other games definitely outweigh the minor frustrations it offers.|