Kung Pow in Video Games
Will Fairway / Aug 5th, 2002 No Comments
Kung fu movies are one of the most loved, and hated, genres in the film industry. Loved, because kung fu stars such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee transfer us to another world. A world where people fight with their bare hands instead of guns and bombs. A world where fighting is stylish and beautiful, as the main character performs moves that defy gravity and bone matter in rapid succession.
Despite the overwhelming coolness to be found in kung-fu movies, some people do hate the genre. Why? Well maybe it’s because of how there’s almost never a plot in a kung fu movie. Or how if the actions poorly shot then the entire movie is a bad experience. Although kung fu movies do have their low points, the colorful fight scenes almost always make up for it.
Many games have tried to replicate the feel of a good kung fu movie, but no one has really ever done a great job at it. Fighting games do a good job at allowing your characters to do complex combos and such, but it never really looks like a kung fu movie. Things don’t flow as well as they should. Games like Shenmue and Streets of Rage have attempted to replicate the one-man-versus-the-masses style fights, with fun gameplay as the result. The only problem is that with most of these games the moves are rudimentary, and the enemies are really weak. This doesn’t give the games a Kung fu feel because kung fu fighting is complex, and the fighters are seemingly immortal at times.
So has any game ever really replicated the feel of a good kung fu movie? Not really. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Therefore, the rest of this article is a list of elements that if applied to a game, in theory, should help make games feel more Kung fu-like.
1. Enemies should attack only a few at a time.
What’s the main problem with one-versus-the-masses battles in games? They’re too overwhelming. Gamers have a hard time keeping track of all the enemies, and therefore get really frustrated during the battles. There’s two ways to remedy this: One, totally give up on making the mass fighting levels all together, or Two. Make enemies only come a few at a time. Since you’re trying to make the game feel like a kung fu movie, you can’t take the mass battles out, as they are a staple of kung fu movies, so you have to go with option 2. This may seem like it wouldn’t be that fun, but games like Max Payne have already proven that this works remarkably well.
2. Everything in the fighting environment should be able to be turned into a fighting tool
Jackie Chan’s movies are some of the best kung fu has to offer, and many times during these fine flicks we’ll witness Jackie Chan turn pretty much anything into a tool of warfare. In Armour of God it was a huge totem pole that he swung wildly to keep hundreds of men from killing him. In Young Master Jackie Chan used a dress to distract the enemy, right before he gave them a swift kick in the crotch (ouch.) These sequences are fascinating to watch, and likely would transfer well to a game. Imagine, walking into a warehouse in a kung fu fighting game and being able to drive the abandoned forklift at your enemies, or use the hanging cables as ropes to swing from one side of the room to another. The possibilities would be endless, and so would the replayability. This should be implemented into fighting games today, as the hardware can support it, and it would make any fight interesting.
3. The games need more style.
What kung fu movies are to Asia, Arnold Schwarzenegger are to America. The difference between the two is that kung fu movies have style, as interesting camera shots blend marvelously with the fast-paced action. This has never really been applied to a video game though. Whenever you play fighting games all the action takes place from the same angle the entire time. While this works well, as constant camera changes often confuse the gamer, it does feel a little. So what I propose we do is add a little flourish to these camera shots. Maybe after a really swift and deadly move the game could do a 360-shot around the fighters, ala The Matrix. Or perhaps put the super cool move into slow motion, and add shots on the victims face, as his figure is changed dramatically over the course of a second. There’s tons of options in this department, and many can be found in the thousands of kung fu movies that exist, so why don’t we implement them.
Also, the actual fighting has to look cool as well. Maybe if your character is on a roll a sudden new, never-before-seen super move should pop up. Added with camera touches, this could really give the game zest and flavor, and encourage the gamer to game longer in order to open up new super-moves. Maybe enemies should all have different styles, and no I’m not talking about one guy has a bat, another has a hubcap, etc. I’m talking about how one group could be really weapon-savvy, turning everything around them into a weapon, but can’t fight really well hand to hand. This has been implemented in games before, but there’s always only a few groups of different styles. Kung fu games should have HUNDREDS, as real kung fu movies do. This isn’t implausible, the DVD’s got a ton of storage space (especially when dual-layered), so why don’t we use it?
Now here’s the big one.
4. The fights have to EVOLVE.
Kung fu movies fights always are cool to watch, but after a while they get stale. How do Kung fu directors remedy this? They make the fights change as they go along. The ending battle to Yuen Wo Ping’s Fist of Legend is great evidence of this. At the end of the movie, Jet Li, his buddy, and his archrival meet at a dojo for the final duel. In the twenty minutes during the ending brawl, the fight changes circumstances, areas, weapons, and numerous other things. The ending result is a fight scene that makes you just say “wow” at the end. Fighting games should follow suit.
Implementing changing fight scenarios would keep everything interesting, and that equals to more exhilarating gameplay. Plus, since this would be a direct rip-off of a Kung fu, chances are it would likely feel like a kung fu movie.
Anyways, these are just ramblings from a Kung Fu movie veteran who is displeased with today’s current Kung Fu games. So readers, hope you enjoyed reading these ramblings as much as I enjoyed writing about them, and developers——just remember, it’s going to be people like me who are going to be reviewing your games.