One of the interesting things about going back to look at older games is seeing how they evolved from relatively primitive forms into the established genres we’re familiar with today. Konami’s Yie Ar Kung-Fu is obviously one of the progenitors of the one-on-one fighting game genre, and while it plays quite differently from today’s fighting games, there are also some interesting similarities.
You play as Oolong, and you fight a sequential series of increasingly difficult opponents, many of which wield weapons. You have one punch button and one kick button, but the interesting thing is that pressing those buttons alone do nothing. Rather, you are require to use them in conjunction with one of the eight joystick directions, each one corresponding to a different attack. You also cannot attack while jumping, but the long, floaty jumps serve more as a means of moving around the screen.
Yie Ar Kung-Fu was not the first fighting game, preceded by the likes of Karate Champ, but it still came before even the original Street Fighter, and so you can see how it experimented with the concept of two characters battling it out. It’s a fairly simple game, but it does have a learning curve as you get familiar with the different attacks and opponents.
I don’t recall playing this game in the arcade more than maybe once or twice, but I did see it occasionally. It’s kind of funny, but I was a fan of Irem’s Kung-Fu Master (specifically the NES version), and the fact that both games had “Kung-Fu” in the title made me think that they were somehow related, even though I knew they really weren’t.
Yie Ar Kung-Fu has been ported and re-released numerous times on many platforms, usually as part of a Konami compilation. There was also an obscure sequel released only for home computers.
Modern fighting games like Street Fighter or Tekken are obviously far more sophisticated than this early specimen, but with its larger number of opponents, moves and controller combinations, we can start to see the genre digging deeper in Yie Ar Kung-Fu.
Hardcore Gaming 101 – A comprehensive retrospective.