July 23, 2007 - Long before Street Fighter II and Soul Calibur, there was another fighting game that had me captivated. Yie Ar Kung-Fu came to arcades in 1985 and was unlike anything before it. For the first time, women were showcased in a fighting game and almost every villain sported a unique weapon. With eight directions for attacks and past-paced action, Yie Ar Kung-Fu showed the possibilities for fighting games of the future. But while some games (such as Street Fighter II) prove to be timeless, Yie Ar hasn't aged well at all. In fact, it's a pretty awful arcade title, proving that not every piece of nostalgia needs to be brought to XBLA.
Yie Ar Kung-Fu is a 2D fighter that lacks competitive play. In place of competing directly against another player, gamers fight a series of colorful characters. Each character uses a different weapon to challenge and/or frustrate gamers. The characters have clever names, such as Star (she throws ninja stars), Club (guess what he fights with), and Chain (he's chunky). All of these names are superior to the main hero, Oolong, who is named for the tea he drinks before whoopin' ass.
Combat is very simple. Just press in any direction on the D-Pad and either punch or kick for single attacks. At the time of its release, the idea of having eight directions for an attack was pretty thrilling. More than 20 years later, the combat is slow and pedestrian. The predictable attacks from AI enemies that were once charming are now boring. The AI is meager and many battles can be one with a few lucky shots up close.
A new and inventive multiplayer could have saved Yie Ar Kung-Fu. Instead, developer Digital Eclipse decided to bring its B game to the table. Rather than opening up control of the different bosses for a competitive fight, the online multiplayer is instead a disappointing contest to see who can last longer in the arcade mode. Competitive play is just you and another player tackling the game at the same time and seeing who can score the most points and survive longest. It's pretty pointless. The co-operative mode is just an online hot potato attempt to beat a path through the AI opponents. That's good only for gamers not skilled enough to take on harder enemies and needing a competent friend to lend an assist. As a complement to a head-to-head online mode, that would be cool, but having it used instead of a true competitive mode is a copout.
I was thrilled to learn Yie Ar Kung-Fu was coming to XBLA. This is a game I treasured as a kid. I was certain it would stand the test of time. It turns out that sentimentality and nostalgia had clouded my memories. Yie Ar Kung-Fu is a game lost to time. It's outdated and no longer enjoyable. It's worth a few quarters in an arcade cabinet, but not worth $5 on Xbox Live Marketplace.