NES Review – Kick Master

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The first time I played Kick Master was when I was about 7 or 8. My friend Amanda had a copy of it and I traded her one of my games with her for a week. I though the game was cool and had amazing cover art, but I couldn’t get past the second boss! I soon came to the conclusion that the game was the problem – not me, and I just gave up. I picked this game up a few months ago now, and have sat down to play it numerous times. Suffice to say, I am enjoying it much more now!

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The story is pretty simple. The princess has been kidnaped by Belzed and you and your brother Macren are  sent to save her. The only problem is that your brother (who is fully clad in armour and sword and looks badd ass) is pathetically weak and gets killed within 5 seconds into the intro of the game by a lowly skeleton minion. In his dying breath he tells you – only your kicks can save the day! And thus the kicking adventure begins…

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This game is a platform action game – you run from left to right jumping over pits and kicking enemies to a pulp through seven or eight levels. Levels range from a forests, caves, ships, mountains, swamps, and a scary castle tower! The game is so much more than this though – it has a really unique experience system, magic, branching paths in levels, and tons of bosses that keep the levels fresh and challenging!

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At the start of the game, your character is level and has one block of heath, a small amount of MP,  and a few simple kicks. As you defeat enemies, three icons explore from the corpse – some of it is extra life, some of it extra magic,  some of it experience, and some of it poison! The player needs to strategically jump and collect the good ones and avoid the bad ones before the icons fall off the screen! As more experience is collected, more health blocks and MP is added, and tons of new kicks are unlocked which allow the player to do slide kicks, double and triple kicks,  awesome knee drops, among other.

I found that the addition of experience icons made killing enemies way more engaging. Instead of just blowing through enemies, you needed to kill them strategically and pay attention so that you collected the most experience as possible. It kept more really engaged!

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The game also has a ton of different magic powers ranging from simple health spells, to shields, projectiles, to gaining the ability to fly! There are two new magic spells in each level – one if obtained by killing the boss, while the other one is hidden somewhere in the level among a hidden path (see pictures above for examples). I really liked the addition of having the magic spells scattered among hidden paths as it was really rewarding to seek them all out!

While the spells are definitely not overpowered as you are limited by how much MP you have (and spells are expensive to cast), I really only found myself using 2-3 spells regularly out of the 10 to 15 available. I stuck to healing spells, the odd projective spell, and the flying spell in the 2nd last level. I would have liked the game to have made the spells more useful so that I felt the need to use them more often, but it was still a fun addition!

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The bosses in this game are the last addition to this game that make it stand out. These bosses are challenging (but not frustratingly so), oftentimes humongous (see the sea monster below), and plentiful! Each level has a main boss at the end and oftentimes a mini boss that is just as interesting. Some memorable enemies is the 2nd stage boss (the one that stopped me in my tracks as a kid) where you face off against a witch who has wolves jumping all over the screen, the sea monster, a giant spider, and even a clone of yourself a-la dark link!

The graphics in this game are superb – the colours are extremely pleasing and all the levels have a very distinct look. While the main character might be small, he is expertly animated and has tons of cool looking kicks. There are tons of grotesque looking minion enemies, and the bosses look fantastic. I think this is one of the best NES games I have ever seen. In terms of sound, the game has some great music in some stages and less so in other stages. As you can hear in the video below, the first stage is rocking, but the second stage is much less interesting. Sounds effects are fine and get the job done.

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This game is challenging – I still have not beat it but got to the last level. In total it takes probably  1-2 hours to get through the whole game from start to finish. It would be frustrating if the game had limited continues because of the challenge but luckily the game gives you infinite, which allows the player to develop the skill to get through the later stages and bosses.

Overall, this is a uniquely fun and challenging NES game which brings together the action platforming genre with RPG elements. I have played this game numerous times over the month and always had a blast playing it. My only really complaint is that the designers could have spent more time making magic feel more important so I felt obliged to use them. Overall I give this game an 8/10.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

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