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NES Reviews K

Kabuki Quantum Fighter
Grade: C-
Publisher: Hal (1991)
Posted: 2015/8/29

screenshotKabuki Quantum Fighter has a thought-provoking premise. In order to defend a compromised supercomputer a soldier has volunteered to be transformed into a stream of data to infiltrate the system's circuits. What form would this digitized soldier assume? How about a ninja in traditional garb with flowing red hair that can lash out at enemies? I bet you didn't see that coming!

The opening stage looks vaguely high-tech with its circuit boards and wires, but what in the heck are pulsating red organs doing inside of a computer?! You're attacked by soldiers, hopping dogs, and literal computer bugs. My friend Brent was like, "Wait a minute - the dogs can shoot?!" As if that's where the game lost him because it was too far fetched.

The second stage dispenses with the computer motif altogether as you're basically trudging through a sewer. Your character is a nimble guy with the ability to climb certain walls, hang from handles, and use them to vault. The jumping controls are responsive but the timing of your shots seems a little off. It's hard to land hits because enemies tend to jump around. Slow enemies absorb a ridiculous number of hits and others appear on a ledge just as you're about to land on it.

Ubiquitous hazards include spikes, conveyor belts, and iced-over ledges. As if that's not hard enough, advanced stages impose time limits! If there's one notable aspect of the game it's the music. The tune that plays throughout the opening stage makes this very low guttural noise like nothing I've ever heard come out of my TV. Otherwise Kabuki Quantum Fighter is standard NES fare that becomes progressively less fun as you play. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 38730
1 player 

Karate Champ
Grade: F
Publisher: Data East (1986)
Posted: 2021/7/13

screenshotWith all due respect to this early pioneer of fighting games, Karate Champ hasn't aged well at all. During the mid-80's the concept of a one-on-one fighter was fresh and exciting, but in retrospect this game is awful. Each match takes place in one of nine "picturesque" locations with a referee lurking in the background.

The control is generally terrible with hard-to-execute moves and fighters that tend to get stuck facing the wrong direction. The instructions include a confusing diagram of moves referencing right and left "levers". WTF? Are these the instructions for a different game?! Perhaps most telling of all is how I nearly managed to beat the game with no knowledge of the moves.

The graphics are plain but it's the animation that really kills this game. The fighter movements are extremely choppy and the jumps are ridiculous. It's downright comical to watch the fighters flail away in random directions, often passing clear through the other's body. How does this game even determine when a fighter makes contact? Should you somehow win, your dignified martial artist suddenly begins jumping up and down like a giddy schoolgirl.

The nine backdrops give the game much-needed variety. A few are impressive, like the palm tree silhouettes in front of a blood red sky. Others are as simplistic as a brick wall or train tracks. But no amount of eye candy can atone for Karate Champ's absolutely putrid, outdated gameplay. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 35,600
1 or 2 players 

Karate Kid
Grade: B+
Publisher: LJN (1987)
Posted: 2003/1/19

screenshotThis is one of the few movie-based NES titles that manages to capture the spirit of the film it's based on. Even if you didn't enjoy the old flick with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, you're still bound to become addicted to this side-scroller. It begins with a series of one-on-one kung-fu matches, where you must prove your worth in front of an audience. You can punch and kick high and low, and there are two special moves that you'll want to save for critical moments. One is the "drum punch", which lets you unleash a flurry of punches, and the other is the devastating "crane kick", which fans will remember from the film's climax.

Starting with the second stage, Karate Kid turns into a more conventional side-scroller, as you jump between platforms while beating up thugs who all shop at the same clothes store. Occasionally you're awarded a bonus item which endows you with a special move or replenishes your life meter. The third stage complicates matters with harsh weather conditions and flying objects like birds and sticks. With so many projectiles you tend to get knocked around a lot, making it difficult to maintain control. Getting caught up on the scenery is also a problem.

The final stage takes place in some castle ruins, culminating with an encounter with a boss named "Chozen". Peppered throughout the game are fun bonus stages that challenge you to avoid a swinging hammer, crush ice blocks, or catch flies with chopsticks. Despite its control flaws, I had a great time playing Karate Kid. It requires more technique and offers more variety than your typical side-scroller. Fans of the movie should be pleased. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 56,400
1 or 2 players 

Grade: C
Publisher: Data East (1987)
Posted: 2016/5/27

screenshotThis likeable platform-shooter stars a musclebound bald Russian who resembles a henchman from an Indiana Jones film. My friend Chris fondly remembers this game from his childhood because his "fat friend" had it. What makes Karnov unique is its exotic scenery and baroque soundtrack. The aged buildings and ancient statues look colorful and nicely detailed. As you forge through towns, mountains, and caves you're confronted with genies, winged demons, knights, and fireball-spewing stone heads.

Fortunately you can fire projectiles rapidly and even upgrade to triple shots. Collecting icons award you with ladders, bombs, masks, boots, and wings. It's not clear how you're actually supposed to use a few of these things. It's easy to use ladders and bombs, but how in the [expletive] do I use the mask? The platform action is tricky and you'll need to be light on your feet.

Certain enemies seem impossible to avoid, like the two birds that converge on you at the same time. Two hits will kill you but at least the checkpoints are generous. In fact you'll sometimes resume at a point further than where you died! The bosses aren't too bad and you get unlimited continues. Karnov feels a little sloppy at times, but its distinctive style helps it stand out from the crowd. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SDZ 6270
1 player 

Kid Icarus
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
Posted: 2012/5/1

screenshotKnown for its extreme difficulty, Kid Icarus is regarded as a classic by many of the Nintendo faithful. You control an angel named Pit in this sharp-looking platformer that features both vertical and horizontal levels. Attractive stage scenery reflects a classical architecture style with columns, statues, and crypts. The vertical stages are interesting because as the screen scrolls downward you can walk off one side and reappear on the other.

Enemies include penguins that fall out of the sky and walrus-looking creatures that are really hard to kill. Menacing red eyeballs are constantly flying around the screen. If you spot a grim reaper, stay out of his line of vision or he'll unleash his minions on you. Pit's bow is very limited in range but upgrades are available.

The game has a whimsical charm that shines through with bosses like the "Eggplant Wizard" and a creature with big lips named "Mick". The mood is light but the difficulty is no joke. Don't bother blaming the controls, because Kid Icarus is just plain hard! You begin with a sliver of life, and in the vertical scrolling stages it's very easy to fall off the screen. Narrow ledges are common and some are even covered with ice!

You can collect hearts to purchase health and upgrades, but everything is super expensive. Advanced levels are jam-packed with booby traps. Some would argue that the incredible difficulty is what makes this game great, but Kid Icarus crosses the line into pull-your-hair-out territory. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Kings of the Beach
Grade: A

screenshotI've played a lot of volleyball games in my time, and Kings of the Beach is the best classic volleyball game! Its graphics are terrific, with scenic backdrops and well-defined players. Okay, one guy looks like he's wearing a diaper, but work with me here. A brilliant control scheme lets you spike, block, and even dive for the ball.

One problem that plagues many volleyball games is the ability to get your player into proper position to hit the ball. Kings of the Beach addresses this issue by stopping your player once he's moved into the correct spot, and that makes all the difference in the world. There's even a training mode to help you learn the moves.

Volleyball is all about teamwork, and this game makes it easy to cooperate. Grab a multi-tap to form teams, or join forces with a friend to challenge a CPU-controlled team! Kings of the Beach is easy to play, but mastering it is another story, and the CPU opponents are no joke. So if you're in the mood to run around in the sand and spike a ball into somebody's face, Kings of the Beach is your game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1-4 players 

Kirby's Adventure
Grade: C+
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
Posted: 2020/9/22

screenshotKirby's Adventure is a kinder, gentler platformer with floaty jumps and adorable, puffy enemies. It's so good-natured I feel like a total bastard bad-mouthing it! A pink ghost with a big appetite, Kirby has become a Nintendo icon. He can inhale certain enemies and spit them out as projectiles. Sometimes he'll copy the ability of the creature he consumes, allowing him to swing a sword, breathe fire, or sprout spikes.

The control scheme is overloaded and confusing. Buttons assume multiple functions which can produce unexpected results. Each of the seven vast levels offers multiple doorways leading to a highly diverse set of areas. On top of that you're constantly being whisked off to some random bonus stage or boss battle. The bosses tend to follow a familiar formula - use whatever objects they throw at you to turn the tables.

The first few stages feel awfully generic but they improve as you go. There are plenty of surprises including a fun "claw machine" bonus stage. The game itself is not very difficult. Much like Bruce Willis, Kirby doesn't die easily and free lives abound. Kirby's Adventure was clearly designed for the youngsters in mind and sure enough they can't seem to get enough of him. It's a little sugary sweet for my taste but I can't deny there is some Nintendo magic at work here. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 138,920
1 player 

Kung Fu
Grade: B
Publisher: Nintendo (1985)
Posted: 2022/8/27

screenshotKung Fu is a side-scrolling beat-em-up delivering good-natured, arcade-style violence. Your goal is to ascend five levels of a pagoda, facing off against henchmen, snakes, tiny dragons, and kung-fu masters. Our hero looks like Bruce Lee in pumps (not judging) out to rescue a hot babe tied to a chair.

There's not a whole lot of thinking involved as you perform rapid-fire kicks and punches to dispatch "grippers" (who administer health-draining bear hugs), hopping "Tom Toms" (who look like kids), and "knife-throwers" (who throw knives). I love the tight controls which let you quickly toggle which way you're facing. That's critical because enemies tend to converge from both sides.

The scenery is sparse but each stage is different. The first is basically non-stop enemies but the second introduces falling vases that reveal poisonous snakes, explosions, or tiny fire-breathing dragons. Each floor culminates with a boss that requires a certain strategy to defeat. Don't dawdle once you defeat him, as you still need to reach the exit and hostiles just keep coming.

Kung Fu's fighting action is satisfying in part due to grunt sound effects and point values that appear on the screen. There are two skill levels to select from. In retrospect I appreciate a game like Kung Fu more today than I did way back when, because I now regard its brevity as a strength and not a weakness. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 69,580
1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, NES Player, Moby Games, Universal Videogame List