Kung-Fu Master, known in Japan as Spartan X, is a 1984 beat 'em up arcade game developed and published in Japan by Irem. It was later published in North America by Data East. The Japanese version was based on the Jackie Chan movie Wheels on Meals, known as Spartan X in Japan, and credited 'Paragon Films Ltd., Towa Promotion', who produced the film upon which it was based. The game is considered by many to be the first beat 'em up video game, and contains elements of Bruce Lee's Game of Death.
The player takes the role of Thomas, a man in a Keikogi and slippers. Thomas's girlfriend, Sylvia, has been kidnapped by criminals, and Thomas must fight through five side-scrolling floors full of enemies to rescue her. Brutally summarized as 'rescue girlfriend – hit people', the US and UK version opens with the explanation, 'A kung-fu master, Thomas and Sylvia were attacked by some unknown guys. (Sylvia was kidnapped by them.)'
In this early beat 'em up, the player controls the main character, Thomas, with a joystick to move/jump/crouch and separate buttons to punch and kick. Either attack can be done from a standing, crouching or jumping position. Punches award more points than kicks and do more damage, but their range is shorter. Human enemies encountered by the player include Grippers, who can grab Thomas and drain his energy until shaken off; Knife Throwers, who can throw at two different heights and must be hit twice; and Tom Toms, short fighters who can either grab Thomas or somersault to strike his head when he is crouching. On even-numbered floors, the player must also deal with falling balls and pots, snakes, poisonous moths, fire-breathing dragons, and exploding confetti balls. The temple has five floors, each ending with a different boss who must be defeated before Thomas can climb the stairs to the next floor. Thomas must complete each floor within a fixed time; if time runs out or his energy is completely drained, he loses one life and must replay the entire floor. If a boss defeats Thomas, the boss laughs. Although there are five bosses, the game only uses two different synthesized laughs. (The NES port uses a third, high-pitched synthesized laugh for the Black Magician, the fourth-floor boss.) Once the player has completed all five floors, the game restarts with a more demanding version of the Devil's Temple, although the essential details remain unchanged. A visual indication of the current house is displayed on the screen. For each series of five completed floors, a dragon symbol appears in the upper-right corner of the screen. After three dragons have been added, the dragon symbols blink.
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