Review – Kung Fury: Street Rage – ULTIMATE EDITION
It’s incredibly weird to try and take the temperature of the world around me when something like Kung Fury: Street Rage – ULTIMATE EDITION comes across my desk. There are so many questions I have, such as “why?” and “why now?” Playing through this game has answered none of my questions, so now I’m left with three things: a decent review, a curiosity, and a playlist full of synthwave music because you can’t not get into it after a few rounds of Street Rage.
For those unaware, Kung Fury is a short film from 2015 that is a massive homage to the movies and aesthetics of the 80s, specifically the more bizarre nature of action films and B-movie moments. It’s a half hour long, it’s on YouTube, and it’s worth watching for several things, most notably Jorma Taccone as a martial arts Hitler and an indisputably amazing song from David Hasselhoff. The movie, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign, became the subject of many a meme and plenty of pop culture saturation…for a minute. It’s not as if the 80s wave wasn’t already underway and still persists to this day. I personally recommend watching Turbo Kid if you want to see a bit more theatrically-lengthed mayhem, and a shockingly good performance from Monroe Chambers (of Degrassi fame).
Kung Fury: Street Rage is a video game adaptation of sorts. It serves almost like a sequel, picking up the adventures of Kung Fury, Barbarianna, Hackerman, and Triceracops from where the film ended. With ULTIMATE EDITION, you get two additional game modes, which are sorely needed in order for this to be any sort of enjoyable romp. The core Street Rage game is a decent, if simple premise, in which you just keep fighting ever advancing waves of Ninja Nazis. Kung Fury (or one of the other characters) doesn’t move at all, and you simply need to time your reactions in striking the baddies as they come into range. It has different kinds of enemies who require more or less hits, and they can change up their positions and timing to cause you to need to react faster or slower.
If you’ve ever played One Finger Death Punch, this may sound familiar, and that’s because it’s the exact same approach. You realize rather quickly that you just need to figure out your own sense of timing and how fast you can twitch play this, because that’s all there is to it. Naturally, like anything simple and a little too straightforward, it can be fun, but only as long as you have patience and enjoy the graphical fidelity. Everything is properly pixel crafted to look like Sega Genesis era, complete with slightly blocky sprites and a heavier dark tone on how streets and buildings are rendered. It definitely evokes the Streets of Rage motif they’re nodding towards, and, as a result, the visuals are pleasant, if somewhat repetitive.
If that’s all there was to it, I’d be properly pissed that players were receiving such a paltry game, but Kung Fury: Street Rage – ULTIMATE EDITION makes sure to have the two additional game modes, where you also get a ton of extra characters. The best of the three gameplay modes, called The Arcade Strikes Back, is clearly where most of the love came in. With a storyline of being abducted by a sentient arcade cabinet and needing to fight to get back motherboard pieces for Hackerman to hack back to reality, it’s where the game trio hits its stride. The characters are actually voiced, and, more importantly, you can change between the aforementioned posse who all have different attacks. Barbarianna, for example, charges up her gatling gun and really cleans the screen after several hits, which makes for a more fun experience.
I appreciated The Arcade Strikes Back the most out of everything because it felt like the appropriate middle ground (which we’ll talk about in a second). It’s far more robust than the original Street Rage, but still managed to preserve the gameplay while improving upon it. Granted, it takes away the arcade feeling by having lives and plot (ironic, I realize), but these little, dumb moments actually helped keep the action moving along.
I also really enjoyed that each of the five stages puts you in the shoes of a different character, forcing you to explore different techniques and fighting styles. It allowed me to feel like I was at a buffet of sorts, and just got to try everything as it came in a “might as well sample this” motif. Also, it was a more satisfying balance than Street Rage because there was a finite point to it. Sometimes I enjoy endless arcade action, but knowing I have a goal in sight was a bit more gratifying.
Lastly, the oddly titled A Day at the Beach felt like it was tilting too far into self aware territory. The plotline of “our car broke down and now there’s a bunch of Nazis” was too convenient, even for a fourth wall breaking video game. The inclusion of David Hasselhoff as a playable character is fun, but he is terribly overpowered with a room clearing attack. It’s no longer a stationary twitch brawler, but a side scrolling beat ’em up, which both works and doesn’t work. I had a little bit of umbrage with trying to take abilities and combat tactics that were meant for standing still and transitioning them into animated fights. You traverse a variety of stages (which added a bit more in terms of “enemies” and visuals) before fighting a single boss, and, like the rest of the package, this adventure felt very limiting.
It’s interesting, because you can almost feel the creators leaning more into the absurdity of Kung Fury as you play through these titles. With Street Rage, it’s so straightforward it’s almost serious, with some good combat and effortless ideas. The Arcade Strikes Back feels incredibly high effort to mimic the movie, capturing a Dada-esque plotline, mixing in other characters, and then unbalancing the approach (who brings a gun to a kung fu fight?). A Day at the Beach purposely goes too far, with brand new mechanics, serious nods to other video games (transitioning stages is deliberate Super Mario Bros. 3) and just poking fun at video games in general (A giant crab? Seriously?). It never apologizes for what it is, though, and I have a certain amount of admiration on that front.
The problem is that you can only enjoy it as much as you enjoy the overall package, not the individual titles. When all is said and done, it’s a movie tie in game, and I doubt there’s enough here to sway the attention of someone who has no idea what Kung Fury is. The combat is decent but very repetitive, and the visual are muddy, but completely encapsulate what they’re trying to sell and say. There’s a couple of hours of enjoyment therein, but I don’t feel like I’m going to point at this as a fantastic experiment in existing IPs. This isn’t Shredder’s Revenge or Goonies 2, this is a bobble head on my Nintendo Switch. I like it, it makes me smile, but it doesn’t occupy space in my mind any longer than it takes me to look at it.
What I’m hoping the most is that the errant release date means we’ll have something to look forward to soon. David Sanberg has been quiet since the sequel was wrapped for shooting a couple years back, so this auspicious release of Kung Fury: Street Rage – ULTIMATE EDITION might mean we have an announcement soon. In any case, this is fun, this is dumb, this is a great distraction for exactly as long as you want to give it. Don’t expect to dedicate your life to this game, but have a few chuckles and maybe get inspired to watch the movie again. It is, after all, the only way to make it like a true survivor.
While the filters and color palette capture the effects of an older brawler well, the lack of variety in sprites outside A Day at the Beach can create some very boring moments.
There’s something to be said for simplicity, and I sincerely appreciate that a basic concept is elevated and held together as the trio of games advance. Surprisingly competent, even if not especially challenging.
Excellent music throughout, and fantastic voice work during The Arcade Strikes Back. I get the impression David Hasselhoff isn’t a cheap voice to obtain.
Fun Factor: 7.0
When you get into a good rhythm, there’s plenty of joy to be had in simply punching along and racking up points and combos. When you step back, though, you sort of wish there had been more to it than what you did, but I never regretted my time once.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Kung Fury: Street Rage – ULTIMATE EDITION is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Kung Fury: Street Rage – ULTIMATE EDITION was provided by the publisher.