Saturday, 28 April 2012

Arcade Fighting Games #1

Yie Ar Kung-Fu (1985)
By: Konami Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 70,400
Also Available For: NES, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron

It's quite remarkable to think that I've been babbling on about retro games and stuff here for over two years now and I've still not taken a detailed look at a single one-on-one fighting game! Well, I think it's time to change that and what better place to start than with the first game of this type I ever got into. Konami's mid-80's classic was converted to quite a few systems of the day - it was the Spectrum version I played to death (and I was actually quite good at it too!) as it came on the ultra-spiffing Magnificent Seven compilation - but as was so often the case, I never got a chance to try the arcade original despite living in a coastal city which is (or was) the natural habitat of amusement arcades! Boo hoo! :( Oh well, never mind, and at least it gives me the pleasure of experiencing the original now, but will it be a pleasure, or was the good old Speccy conversion a good port of a smelly game?

Buchu must've been the direct inspiration for E. Honda!
Well, the sparsely decorated title screen doesn't give the greatest of first impressions and a fighting game with two attack buttons doesn't initially seem as though it will offer the broadest combat experience, but luckily I already know better thanks to my marvellous Speccy. What playing this original does do is give me a long-overdue chance to look into the game in more detail. The most unexpected revelation was that the forces of evil are seemingly absent from the world in which our hero, Oolong, lives. His quest is merely one of honour and respect and involves defeating a succession of martial arts masters for the right to be called Grand Master. There are eleven opponents in total, each unique in both appearance and fighting style and, unlike Oolong, most of them are armed! Fortunately, he does have an impressive number of moves available with which to defeat them. Control of him is quite intricate but performing his moves is a fairly simple process - in theory.

Chain prepares to attack with his... umm, chain...
The 'up' directions are used for jumping, down makes him squat, and the two attack buttons are for performing punches and kicks respectively. Each combination of a direction and button results in different move so there are sixteen moves in total, all punches or kicks of some sort. Your opponents generally have fewer attacks but they are increasingly challenging as you might expect, and are themed as well, usually around (and named after) the weapon they use. For example, your first opponent is Buchu who's a porky sumo wrestler. After him you'll face Star who attacks with shuriken or 'throwing stars', then it's on to Nuncha who uses nunchaku, and so on. The other opponents are named Pole, Feedle, Chain, Club, Fan, Sword, Tonfun, and Blues whose attacks are identical to Oolong's. All fighters have an energy meter which lasts for eight strikes, regardless of which move or weapon is used. Fluid movement and ease of performing moves are essential for the enjoyment of fighting games though, and it's here that Yie Ar falls down a little.

Feedle's weapon-less but there's more than one of him!
The characters look quite nice and are certainly varied in their appearance as well as their fighting styles, but they're all rather small which means pulling off a succession of moves can be a bit fiddly. More annoying than that though, is that when Oolong jumps sideways, he covers about three-quarters of the screen's width which makes jumping over Star's shurikens, for example, a rather frustrating experience - backwards and forwards you'll leap, trying, hoping, to land somewhere near her eventually! The controls are quite responsive though, so this is about the only flaw in this otherwise enjoyable, challenging, and addictive game. There aren't many backgrounds but the lure of seeing the next fighter is always strong and the music and sound effects (including a little speech) are of a suitably Eastern flavour and suit the game well which, along with the decent cast of fighters, make it quite an atmospheric game for its age. As one of the earliest releases of its type, it's certainly an important title, but it's also understandably rather basic in comparison to the later games it influenced. If you like them simple though, Yie Ar has aged quite well and still proves to be great fun.

RKS Score: 6/10


  1. I remember getting this game on an *ahem* 'unofficial' compilation tape from a friend. I think it was let down by being one player only. I much preferred Way of the Exploding Fist (which I did buy).

  2. Hi Wingnut :) Yeah, Konami gave the genre a pretty good start with this game but the omission of a two-player mode is a bit smelly - that's half their appeal, surely? Oh well, they can't do it all first time! I also recall enjoying WOTEF on my Speccy, I'll have to revisit it soon :)

  3. New here - but holy cow, those screenshots brought back memories. I remember seeing this in the arcade when I was a kid. I really stunk at it - I was probably around 9 or 10 if I recall correctly. Fun site you have here. I get the feeling I'm going to enjoy looking around - added it to my blog roll and links page on my site! :)

  4. Hi there, thanks for following and adding me to your links, I've returned the favour, nice looking blog you have yourself there :) And yes, Yie Ar is a pretty iconic game, huh? Simple but well-executed...

    1. Good afternoon - and thanks for the link backs! It's always appreciated, and I really enjoy doing what I can to expand the video game blogging circle wherever I can - and appreciate the compliment to boot.

      Very iconic game - that brought back some good memories. I honestly did not even recall what it was called from back then - but I saw the screenshots, read what you wrote and was like:

      I know that one!

  5. This seemed brilliant at the time! I particularly liked it's backgrounds.....

  6. Hi again Chalgyr :) You're more than welcome! I, too, am happy to further our cause :)

    Lukey - me too! The Speccy version replicated them well too :)