Console: NES Company: Hal America Release Date: February 1991 Genre: Action Number of Players: 1 Save Feature? No
When it comes to innovation, intrigue, and sheer weirdness, it's hard to top Kabuki: Quantum Fighter. After all, how often do you fight evil beings inside of a computer using your hair as your main weapon? Thought so. Whatever the case, Quantum Fighter is actually a surprisingly enjoyable NES platformer and is probably one of the Top 10 most underrated NES games of all-time. The story is engaging, the gameplay intuitive and fun, and the atmosphere ninja-esque.
Overview: Just when you thought you had played every type of NES game imaginable, along comes one of the more unique NES titles out there. Kabuki: Quantum Fighter truly gains points for innovation and creativity as it is unlike any NES game out there. The setting itself involves the main character known as the Colonel entering a mysterious world inside a deadly supercomputer. Within this complex world of countless mysteries and surprises are some of the most bizarre worlds ever seen in a video game. On top of that, the Colonel himself resembles a kabuki (a Japanese dancer) and attacks enemies with his fiery red hair of all things along with special computer chips that can be attained by progressing deeper into the game.
What amazes me about this game is that it actually works! Hal America was somehow able to incorporate an innovative atmosphere with intuitive gameplay without sacrificing the overall quality. It's a very unique game...that much is for certain, but it is still a very playable game with a relatively short learning curve which is a must for any NES game.
Speaking of gameplay, Kabuki: Quantum Fighter roughly resembles a mixture of Ninja Gaiden and Shadow of the Ninja. While jumping and attacking enemies with your hair and special weapons is the basic premise, climbing walls and leaping from suspended ledges is equally important. Quantum Fighter was one of the last NES games to include a time limit so timing and moving with purpose are more important than normal. There are even a few levels where you have to completely focus on jumping and leaping to reach the exit in time. This was quite unique for an action game.
Although it was intuitive and took a little testing to learn everything, the battle system was actually quite addictive. It's a blast to nail enemies with your fiery locks or duck and deal a few cheap shops without getting burned. I also liked how you could dish out powerful kicks while holding onto a ledge. This will save you on more than one occasion. However, the special weapons that you receive after beating each stage really cook! Basically, your weapon energy consists of computer chips that can be attained by defeating certain enemies and/or beating a level. Depending on the weapon you choose to use (you can scroll through your available weapons by pressing the select button x amount of times), a certain number of computer chips will be expended with each use. Naturally, the more powerful weapons require more computer chips. While the throwing chips you start the game with are pretty weak, the energy shots in Stage 2 and the Triple Shots you receive by Stage 3 can be very effective. However, my favorite weapons in the game are by far the Quantum Bombs you receive after defeating the Stage 3 boss and the Remote Control Bolo you can use in the game's final stage. The long-range Quantum Bombs were cool because they were powerful and allowed you to keep your distance in a fight. And the Bolo was simply a dream as four or five heat-seeking shots would seek out nearby enemies and thrash them relentlessly! I always use one of those weapons against the final boss.
Another cool aspect of Kabuki: Quantum Fighter are the cinema scenes that take place between levels. Although the overall quality/feel couldn't come close to Ninja Gaiden standards, it was a nice effort by Hal America to add an in-depth storyline and let the player know what the heck was going on between levels. As you will see, the story was actually pretty good too.
Lastly before we get into the main aspects of the game, I have to mention one of my favorite quirks found in Quantum Fighter. Whenever you fight a boss, you might notice that you have the option of trading your life for extra computer chips or vice-versa! Simply press the start button to pause the game and press up or down on the control to allocate life and computer chips! This was so unique for a game of this genre and added a unique strategic element to the boss battles. Do you give yourself more life and attack the enemy head-on or sacrifice some of your life to build up extra ammunition? The strange thing was that this feature only works against bosses. It doesn't work at any other time.
Graphics: For the martial arts style and unique environs, I thought that the graphics were very well done. Everything is very detailed for an NES game and the tone is slightly dark which makes sense considering you're inside of a computer. I liked some of the background graphics like the cascading waterfalls in Stage 2 and the pulsating walls found in just about every level. I also thought that the character animation was exceptional...some of the best that I have ever seen on the NES actually. I was amazed at the fluidity of the Colonel's motions such as flipping in the air and the various punches/kicks that he could execute. The bosses were well done too and virtually all of them resemble computer/alien beings which was appropriate.
The cinema scenes between levels, while nothing revolutionary, were nicely done. A little more detail would have been nice but who am I to complain?
Music: Kabuki: Quantum Fighter is one of those rare games that features a lousy stand-alone soundtrack that fits perfectly within the context of the game. You would have to play the game to truly understand this. Within the game itself, I felt that the music was very appropriate. It's not very melodic yet I can't really classify it as ambient. It's just kind of different (like the game actually). The first stage theme begins with your typical melody then suddenly changes to a whole host of beeps and bloops. I think that the composers were trying to create computer-like sounds because many strange sounds like this are found in the game. Given the very limited audio capabilities of the NES, I'd say that they did a solid job.
Although nothing really stands out as being "great," I found the upbeat Stage 3 track and the fitting final stage tune to be my favorites. The final boss theme was also very good as was the ending melody. I still can't figure it out but the music in this game is quite catchy even considering its lack of any real direction.
Lastly, I felt that the sound effects were varied and quite good for an NES release. The variety really is remarkable for a game of this era.
Play Control: The controls are very crisp and fluid which is always important in a game like this. For some reason, I found jumping from ledge to ledge to be the most enjoyable aspect of the game's controls. The ducking punch was a nice feature as well. Granted, the controls weren't quite up to Mario/Mega Man standards and I didn't care for the sudden drop feature (you could actually fall to the ground more quickly by pressing down on the control pad...a nice idea but it's usually executed by accident) but overall, I thought that the controls were both varied and intuitive.
Challenge: This game is probably middle of the road in terms of difficulty. It's not nearly as difficult as Ninja Gaiden but it's no walk in the park either. Like any great game, the final boss is definitely the toughest foe in the game. The various obstacles thrown throughout the game and even the timer can make you work extra hard at times. However, a veteran gamer shouldn't have too much trouble beating this game.
Storyline: Due to the unique characters and setting, I enjoyed this game's story more than normal. Venturing into a mysterious computer system through the Colonel's brainwaves and fighting bizarre villains isn't your everyday bedtime story now is it? I don't know; it was both different and captivating and the cinema scenes that took place between levels helped to create a more in-depth atmosphere than your normal background story. Some of the events towards the end of the game showed you the whole gravity of the situation as well (in other words, why the heck am I in a computer?) It could have been a little more detailed but overall, you couldn't ask for much more than this.
Funfactor: This game is definitely an above average platformer. With its unique atmosphere and varied gameplay, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good side-scroller. Replay value may be a little weak due to the game's brevity and lack of any real secrets but still, it's a lot of fun and is certainly one of the more underrated NES games out there. It's amazing that the same company who was (and is still!) involved with the Lolo and Kirby series could have released such an overlooked game. Anyhow, give the game a shot...it really is a worthy addition to your library!
Negatives: I have always felt that this game was way too short. It does contain five stages (with two levels each) but whenever I beat it, I'm always craving for more! I suppose that all great games are like that.
While I personally enjoyed the music, it may not appeal to everyone. And although the story is fun and engaging, I still wish that it would have been more detailed (i.e. more characters, more dialouge...something more).
Ratings: Graphics: 3.9 Music: 3.9 Play Control: 4.0 Challenge: 3.7 Storyline: 4.0 Funfactor: 4.0 Overall Score: 23.5 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Unsung Hero
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: May 21, 2006