Wednesday 1 January 2020

Kabuki Quantum Fighter (NES review)

Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: HAL America
Released: 1991

Kabuki Quantum Fighter is an action-platformer that's exclusive to the NES.

As Colonel Scott O'Connor, you've been converted to raw data and transported into the circuits of an Earth defense computer in an attempt to stop a mutating virus. There's six levels and while your main weapon is a hair flip, power-ups such as Bombs and Dynamite can be obtained and used as long as you have enough memory chips. You can also hang onto certain platforms and swing to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. The level design is strong and while it starts off simple to get you accustomed to the controls / mechanics, it gradually opens up and introduces hazards (such as water tides) and horizontal grappling hooks. Another great feature is how certain sections allow you to choose between two paths on your way to the exit; this comes in handy once you're familiar with the stage layouts, as you can avoid some enemies by selecting the path of least resistance! It's not all roses though, as the game can be unfairly challenging; this is no more apparent than in Stage 2 with its blind leaps of faith. Things pick up in the inspired Stage 3 though, which ditches enemies almost entirely in favour of vertical, obstacle-based platforming; it's here that you fully realise how tight the controls are and there's a real joy to ploughing through the level in a style that resembles parkour. While the game is short, it does have an ace up its sleeve in that you gain a new projectile weapon after each completed level (an excellent idea for replayability). The narrative is held together by between level cut-scenes and while they're not as impressive as Ninja Gaiden (1988, NES) they do keep you invested in the overall goal.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a legit alternative to Ninja Gaiden and while it does draw heavy inspiration from Tecmo's classic series it has a few of its own ideas that blend in seamlessly with its high-octane gameplay. In particular, its unique power-ups and flowing level design are key features that push this into the upper echelon of NES titles.

Random trivia: If you manage to beat the game, a sound test is unlocked after the final credits.

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