Kabuki Quantum Fighter
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Human Entertainment
  • Publishers:
    • JP Pack-in-Video
    • US HAL
    • UK Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 12/21/1990
    • US January 1991
    • UK 02/20/1992
Score: 75%

This review was published on 12/17/2016.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Human Entertainment for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on December 21, 1990, North America in January 1991, and Europe on February 20, 1992. The game was published by Pack-in-Video in Japan, HAL Laboratory in North America, and Nintendo in Europe. Bizarrely, the Japanese version of this game was based on a 1990 fantasy movie directed by Kaizo Hayashi called Zipang, sometimes spelled Jipangu. The main character of the movie is a samurai named Jigoku Gokuraku Maru, which also happens to be the name of the Japanese version of Kabuku Quantum Fighter. Besides a few tiny details, the connections between the movie and game were tenuous at best, so all references to the movie were removed in the North American and European versions of the game. All versions of the game play identically, however. On that note, Kabuki Quantum Fighter is one of the NES' better games.

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It's the year 2056 and someone, or something, has hacked into Earth's main defense computer and infected it with a virus. The origin and nature of this intrusion is unknown, but if the program controlling the nuclear weapons systems is tampered with, then that could spell doom for the whole planet. Earth's last hope is an experimental technology known as the Image Transfer System, which is capable of converting a human mind into raw binary data so that it can easily travel within a computer's circuitry. So basically, it's Tron. However, the conversion system is completely untested, so nobody knows what'll happen when it's used on a human. The man chosen for this dangerous mission is Colonel Scott O'Connor, who takes on the form of a Kabuki dancer when digitized, hence the game's title. Apparently, the reason for this odd form is because his great grandfather was a Kabuki actor, or something. As stupid as that is, it's now up to Scott to delete the virus. Great Scott! More of the plot is conveyed through cinematic sequences that appear after every stage, which is done similarly to the ones in Ninja Gaiden. The Ninja Gaiden similarities don't stop there, either.

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While they aren't the NES' absolute best, the graphics are pretty good in this game. The visual style is sort of like the 1989 Batman game on NES, featuring a lot of dimly lit environments that are rather detailed. Thematically, the environments are an odd mixture of futuristic cities and ancient castle ruins, and the game has a general cyberpunk feel to it. There's some Life Force thrown in here, as well, in the form of occasional organic imagery, like beating hearts in the background. The game is also very well animated, from the backgrounds to the sprites. Speaking of, the sprites all look pretty decent, and the enemy designs are quite imaginative. You've got samurai dogs that'll attempt to stab you with swords, upright walking frogs, and disembodied heads with exposed brains that breathe fire at you. The creepily nonsensical enemy and environmental designs are reminiscent of another Human Entertainment developed game called Monster Party. The music is also fairly fantastic, consisting of a wide array of catchy 8-bit tunes that perfectly jive with the game's surreal atmosphere.

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You play as Scott, the titular Kabuki, as he makes his way through the innards of the main defense computer. The Quantum Fighter dashes left or right by pressing those directions on the d-pad, ducks by pressing down, jumps with the A button, and attacks with the B button. Scott's standard attack is to fling his hair forward as if it's the whip from Castlevania. When crouching, his attack changes into an anemic punch that has less range than his hair. Like Shadow of the Ninja and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, Scott can hang from underneath certain platforms by simply jumping towards them. While hanging underneath a platform, Scott's attack becomes a kick instead of a punch or hair fling, plus he can drop off by pressing down or jump elsewhere with the A button. Aside from the slight delay to your attacks, the controls are quite responsive.

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In addition to his hair, there are other weapons Scott can use, and you switch between them by pressing the select button. You begin the game with one of these other weapons, referred to as "chips," which are shuriken-like projectiles that allow you to attack from a distance. However, similar to Mega Man, you're rewarded with a new weapon after almost every stage. Such weapons include a bigger projectile blast, a gun that shoots three bullets in a spread pattern, sticks of dynamite that do tons of damage, and remote controlled bolos that home in on enemies. Other than the hair, all weapons deplete your "chips" meter at different rates, so you must use them wisely, though it's possible to obtain more chips from the digital carcasses of enemies, along with additional life energy. Strategically using your other weapons can get you out of sticky situations, like when you're pinned down by many ranged foes. All in all, this weapons system gives the game a tiny bit more depth without saddling it down with needless convolutions. That's precisely what you want for an action game.

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Strange setting notwithstanding, this is a fairly standard side-scrolling action game in the vein of Ninja Gaiden. In other words, you dash through linear stages, dispatching foes and collecting power-ups along the way until you reach the boss. Plenty of the typical platforming obstacles and hazards are present in this game, like frozen floors that make you slip around, conveyer belts that carry you in a single direction, streams of water that push you backwards with great force, and sharp spikes. There are also treacherous traps, like spiked balls that trigger when you get close. The combination of enemies and obstacles form a cocktail of conundrum, so traversing each stage requires a more methodical approach. Of course, you can't be too methodical, because you're racing against a tight time limit. There are only five stages, six if you count the final boss, but things get quite hard later on. Unfortunately, the game doesn't have infinite continues, so once you use them all, it's back to the title screen.

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The first few bosses are humanoid-like beings, but the rest are far bigger and creepier. Most of the humanoid bosses will do various acrobatics all over the screen, avoiding most of your attacks and making you feel like a massive slowpoke. One guy jumps off the walls and pounds the ground to cause a fiery shockwave, whilst another one shoots lasers and does constant back flips. The bigger bosses are slower, but still just as threatening, as they'll typically keep you at bay with ranged attacks. Generally, you'll want to save your special weapons for the boss fights, because hitting these guys with your hair can get a bit hairy. For example, there's this plant boss that shoots drops of acid at you that splash into three tinier droples, and it's really tough to get near the thing. Then there's a small robot that crawls on the ceiling while it shoots lasers at you, and it's essentially unreachable with your hair. Since there's only one boss per stage and there aren't many stages, that also means there aren't many bosses. They're an okay bunch, though.

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It's not one of the more known NES games, but it should be, because Kubaki Quantum Fighter is a perfectly solid experience. This game's got good graphics, excellent music, responsive controls, solid stage design, and decent bosses. Hanging underneath platforms like a monkey is also good fun, and being able to acquire new weapons throughout the adventure further adds to that entertainment value. The only faults here are the game's short length and ridiculously high difficulty level. There's nothing astoundingly original here, but what the game does, it does decently well.

Word Count: 1,334

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