Today I'll be taking a brief look at the sheer awesome that is Kick Master, an action/rpg put out by Taito in 1991 for the good ole NES.
Kick Master starts out with a backstory screen. I LOVE Nintendo adventure games that give you the back story before you play! Kick Master is one of those long ago in a faraway land sorta things, and the first image you get is of a winged demon flying off with a human girl. That's pretty much all you need to know when it comes to a video game; if something took a girl, you have to go get her back. Heck, that's all Double Dragon gives you, and the sight of that girl getting punched in the stomach and carried off fills you with enough rage to beat the snot out of gangbangers for the next several hours. But I predictably digress.
Kick Master opens with an evil wizard (or was it a sorcerer? I don't remember) named Belzed storming the castle, killing the king and queen, and kidnapping Princess Silphee. The King's guards go after Belzed but unfortunately, they all die except for one, the mighty knight known as Macren. So it's up to Macren to rescue the princess and kill the evil Belzed. Or is it? As Macren rides out on his quest with his younger brother (an aspiring martial artist, according to the prologue), what should they run across but a cut scene??
"There's one of the scummy living skeletons that attacked the king!" Macren cries to his brother Thonalon. "Let's get him!" The scummy living skeleton attacks, and suddenly the great knight Macren is dying. With his last gasping breaths, he tells Thonalon, "My steel is no match for these beasts! Only with your great kicking skills can we hope for victory!" Thonalon implores his falling sibling, "Macren, don't die!!" But of course, Macren does die, and it's all up to kick master Thonalon, with his great kicking skills, to fell the scummy living skeleton that just killed his brother.
Then you get to start playing.
The game play is pretty easy to figure out, and fortunately scummy living skeletons are far more vulnerable to great kicking skills than they are to mighty knights, because they go down pretty easily. I was actually pretty impressed with the number of different kicks you can do in this game. Also, the side-scroller employs some RPG elements. Every time you defeat an enemy, it explodes into three different icons that disappear fairly quickly, so you have to decide which one or two you want to go after. You can collect life, you can collect MP, you can collect EXP, and you can collect...other stuff. I didn't quite figure out what everything was. (I also didn't figure out how to use the magic spells that you pick up, and there was no instruction book. I may come back to this game after I figure that out, because something tells me that'd be crazy helpful) The EXP is valuable, because your HP increases when you level up. You also unlock new kicking maneuvers with each level. It's actually a pretty well thought-out battle system.
The game has just enough variety to keep it from becoming monotonous (fun fact: I accidentally typed "monogamous" the first time) and the music is fairly catchy and adventurous. I could see myself renting this game as a kid and playing it for quite a few hours over the weekend. I mean really, who doesn't want to kick the crap out of living skeletons with swords, grim reapers, bipedal armadillos of doom, and, of course, frogs.
Why are frogs always enemies in this type of game?
Further, I'm always of the opinion that, regardless of how much damage you may have already taken from demons, gunfire, chains, beer bottles, lasers, or whatever, a frog jumping into your midsection should never be the killing blow. Reality fail, Nintendo. Sword-slinging skeletons I can buy. Frog hop of doom? Not so much. And don't give me this "Some frogs are poisonous!" nonsense, either, because A) the coloration of the 8-bit frogs that kill you is almost never right to be a true poisonous frog, and B) if it were really THAT toxic, then punching it in mid-air should kill you, too.
Where was I? Ah, Kick Master. Kick Master Thonalon is pretty hard core. How many people that you know can kick directly over their head with enough force to shatter a boulder that is mysteriously suspended above them while jumping on one leg? I mean, I know a LOT of people, and I can only think of two, MAYBE three who could accomplish that feat. This game is a pretty fun blending of elements from other, better games, so while the outcome isn't necessarily the most original thing that ever hit the NES, it's still a heck of a lot better than some of the things you'll find on RNGOTM.