Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Spartan X 2 (NES)

The original Spartan X (also known as Kung Fu Master and just Kung Fu) was an iconic and highly influential game early in the mid-80s. Though it spawned many imitators on pretty much every system popular in Japan at the time (including an old Lunatic Obscurity subject, Dragon Wang), though oddly, it never got a sequel until more than half a decade later, and that sequel never got released outside Japan, nor did it even come close to becoming as iconic as its predecessor.

There's a few reasons for this: Spartan X, while not the first beat em up, was a fairly early entry into the genre, and brought with it simple, fun mechanics and beautifully simple graphics that made great use of chunky sprites and limited colour palletes to depict a classic kung fu cinema-inspired setting. Where Spartan X 2 falls short is that it keeps the simple mechanics, despite the fact that 6 years had passed, and in those six years, the likes of Final Fight and Nekketsu Kunio Kouha-kun (among others) had totally revolutionised the genre, making Spartan X 2's single plane stages and one-hit enemies look old hat by comparision. That's not to say that the single plane beat em up was totally obsolete: 1988's Altered Beast, for example became an icon of its era by adding all kinds of new gimmicks and mechanics onto the idea (and by being a prominent Mega Drive launch title too, no doubt).

Mechanics aside, Spartan X 2 also suffers through its setting and graphics. Gone are the simple, bright sprites of the original, as well as its chinese setting. It's hard to blame the devs for making things look more detailed and up-to-date, but the real sticker is the new setting, having the game take place in a modern-day world filled with crime and violence, just like dozens of other beat em ups and other action games that had been released in the interim years since the original game.

So, if we overlook the ways in which it fails to be a "worthy" sequel to the original, is Spartan X 2 a good game? I can honestly say it's not a bad game, at least. It's decently fun to play, it looks and sounds al right, and it doesn't feel unfair or annoying at any point. The problem is it's not particularly anything special, either. It really is just another one of many, many beat em ups that's not particularly remarkable in any way. It also has the problem that it's far too easy: you can take a lot of beatings and strangulation before losing a life, and extra lives are given out at every 20,000 points (which happens at least once per stage). There's also the bizarre fact that you gain points while enemies are strangling you, which makes no sense to me at all, either thematically or mechanically.

If you happen find a copy of the Famicom cartridge for a (very) low price, Spartan X 2 is a fun game to add to your collection, but otherwise, it's not really good or interesting enough to go out of your way to acquire.

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