Which NES Classic Is Truest To Fighting Style?

Which NES Classic Is Truest To Fighting Style?

A third-degree black belt in American Karate, with experience in five other martial arts, assessed the NES’ Kung Fu and Karate Champ to determine which 2D 8-bit game most accurately presents its eponymous fighting style.

Multiplayergames got the real-life karate master, John, to look at the titles – both ports of Data East classics that took about $US100 from me over the summer of 1985. Here’s his report on Kung Fu:

“[S] ome of the goons attacking run at Thomas with their fist raised above their head. This may be trying to convey something like a wooden monkey style. That being said, the ancient visuals actually serve martial arts proud by rendering chambers and pivots through punching and kicking (the base foot turns on Thomas’ side-kick). The jumping kicks are right on for any style of Kung Fu as well as the quick striking, but the limited graphics make it impossible to show all the circular movements and blocks that makes Kung Fu artistic/cool looking, therefore a popular choice for movie characters to show off on screen. Thomas lacks any kind of guard stance and certainly doesn’t hold a wider one which is more appropriate for Kung Fu.

And now on Karate Champ:

The graphics do not demonstrate technique as well as Kung Fu. Much of it is a jumbled mess, but the idea of the point fighting is fairly accurate. In point fighting tournaments, you score a point, break, and go again when the judge starts you. The typical colours are even white and red, as in the game. The side scrolling graphics are also appropriate for point fighting in the 80’s, because sport karate used to be more linear then, as more angled and dynamic fighting evolved shortly after.

The verdict? You know what, head over and see for yourself. It’s a brilliant idea and a great read.

Multiplayergames’ Digital Dojo: Kung Fu vs Karate Champ
[Multiplayergames, thanks Matt P.]


  • Pretty cool idea for an article.
    I find it interesting that there’s so much resemblance to real movements. Martial arts is a fair bit harder to program than a car, so it’s interesting to see that there’s a large amount of attention to detail without the need for mo-cap or teams of animators.

    • Yeah, it’s cool to see game developers and the folks who work on part sim games like fighting, racing and even some FPS (most notably Operation Flashpoint) take into account the realistic physics and machinations that actions like fighting, racing and even shooting take into account. In Operation Flashpoint my friend told me he had to even tilt his gun, as the bullets accurately decpicted the bullet fall due to gravity. Then again when I joked around on Forza 3 by turning all the damage sims to realistic, I had to drive extremely carefully, as I found my usual romp at 150 km+ got my car totaled within seconds.

      Good article. Now I’d like to see stunt car drivers and even retired or current servicemen and women comment on the accuracy of the games I’ve mentioned above.

  • That’s not a bad read. I’ve played Kung Fu before, and I thought it would be the most non-realistic style – can’t you jump like 10 feet over the enemies head? 😀

Log in to comment on this story!