Kung-Fu Master

aka: Karate Champ, Kung Fu, Seiken Achō, Spartan X, Taekwon-Do
Moby ID: 7511

Description official descriptions

Loosely based on a movie, Kung-Fu Master is a side scrolling action game for one or two players, who alternate turns.

Mr. X has captured the pickpocket Sylvia and it is up to Thomas, a kung-fu master who owns a restaurant, to get her back. She is located on the top floor of Mr. X's castle and Thomas will need to fight his way to the top. Of course, this won't be easy as each floor has many opponents to get past and a floor boss at the end of each level.

Thomas is able to move left and right, jump, duck, and punch and kick. Enemy projectiles such as knives can be kicked in the air to rebound them towards the enemy. On the top floor resides Mr. X himself.


  • Kung Fu Master - Alternate in-game spelling
  • スパルタンX - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Commodore 64 version)




Average score: 64% (based on 29 ratings)


Average score: 3.1 out of 5 (based on 89 ratings with 4 reviews)

Please, sir, can I have a hug?

The Good
Kung-Fu Master is a side-scrolling action game released in the arcades in 1984 by Irem, running on the M-62 hardware. It was originally released as Spartan X in Japan as a tie-in based on the Jackie Chan film Wheels on Meals when it was released in the west. It received ports on popular 8-bit platforms such as the Apple II, Nintendo NES, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, and MSX.

The game is housed in a black arcade cabinet with artwork showing Thomas defeating an enemy with a low-kick plastered on the left side. The marquee features all the main characters from the game, with Mr. X preventing Silvia from shouting out to Thomas. It’s strange how Silvia resembles Annie from the movies based on a musical, but with blonde hair and a bow-tie. The CRT monitor is surrounded by images of characters from the game, and a dragon, as well as Silvia and Mr. X, looking down at them.

In Kung-Fu Master, you play Thomas trying to rescue his love Silvia who is kidnapped under your watch and held somewhere on the fifth floor. Mr. X, her captor, challenges you to defeat the “five sons of the devil” blocking access to the next floor. To get her back, Thomas must punch and kick his way to the other side of the floor where he encounters one son. Once he does so, he climbs the stairs to the next floor ready to face the next boss.

The enemies come in different varieties. You will first encounter men wearing pink vests, who have their arms up ready to give you a hug. Once they do, the only way to break free of their grip is to wiggle the joystick left and right. I find it amusing that it can be a “threesome” or “foursome”. There are also midgets and men wearing bandanas. What’s common about all the enemies is that they approach you from both sides, so it is important to stay alert. From the second floor onward, there are also vases that drop on you as you pass. When they break, they will release dragons that either scurry past you or breathe fire at you.

The graphics are quite colorful, and the animations of the different characters are excellent. I find it quite amusing that Thomas is the only one walking as if he’s on drugs. The backgrounds are basically the same with Japanese lettering on posts and murals in between them. Kung-Fu Master features cut-scenes in between some of the levels.

The game’s AY-3-8910A sound chip provides the digitized sound effects, while the MSM5205 provides the music. The music is done by Kōji Kondō, who also worked on the Mario and Zelda games. He composed three pieces for the game, with the most notable one being the background music while you are fighting your way through each floor. I love the echoes Thomas makes when he runs out of energy, and also Mr. X’s laugh in the cut-scenes.

The Bad
There is no continue feature, which means if you run out of all your lives, you are jettisoned back to the start.

The Bottom Line
In Kung-Fu Master, punch and kick your way to the end of each floor using the variety of moves available to you, defeat the boss, and climb up the stairs to get to the next floor. That’s about it really. The graphics and sound are very good, and there is always the opportunity to have “just one more go”.

Arcade · by Katakis | カタキス (43051) · 2019

Sideways view arcade beat em up that is quite fun to master!

The Good
Mmm,.. maybe it's intense action, the fact that it always keeps you trying to beat enemies or jump over them. I am not sure if I would recommend this game to other people because the gameplay is annoying but it's one of my most favorites on the CPC because I have mastered it so that I can do wild things like jumping over the tiny enemies or a throwing knife while delivering a flying kick to the tall guys, then ducking to avoid another knife while low punching the little dwarfs. And I can play through all the levels and the beginning, where enemies appear randomly and I can make funny moves and beat all the stuff out of them. It's one of those annoying in gameplay, controls and animation, CPC games which if you master they become classic in your eyes! Maybe compared to the other versions from the coin-ops or consoles, this one sucks, but I do like it!

The Bad
Controls: Low key response and collision detection problems at times. Sometimes I have to duck and tip on the fire button, still if the enemy is few pixels more close than allowed, he grabs the player and the attack fails. Annoying if you play the game for the first time. Not, if you've mastered it.

Annoying bugs that can freeze the game: Fortunately these are rare. In the 4th level you can freeze it easily if you try to hit the gorilla boss with any other way rather than the low punch. It's in the gameplay (as seen in other versions) that this boss paralyzes the player in this case. It happens here too, though if you try it many times, bugs or even a freeze may appear. Other kinds of bugs appear more rarely during the game..

The last boss: I never ever understood what is the trick to beat him. When I succeeded into that, it was random! At most cases, I have to tip on the fire button like a maniac for ten minutes or so. Once in a hundred I may see his energy bar loosing a tiny piece. During some plays the possibilities to reduce his energy are extremely less than other times. After loosing for several times and playing the 5th level from start, a lucky possibility might arise. This happens on the CPC version. I don't know the rules in the other versions..

Jerky scrolling: However this is an issue that haunts most CPC games, one that doesn't annoy me much personally. Some people may hate this though, so I decided to mention it.

The Bottom Line
Annoying but if you've mastered it on your CPC you might find it fun and play it several times from the beginning! I believe that if you come from the console world or have played the original in the coin-op, you might find the CPC version crappy and bad. Though, I love it!

Amstrad CPC · by Optimus (75) · 2006

Judo Chop!

The Good
Kung-fu was certainly an interesting game, if not odd. The storyline was quite the same as a dubbed Japanese kung-fu movie, with the fighting styles of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the graphics of Excite Bike.

The basic drive of the game was that you were a kung-fu master, determined to rescue your girlfriend. You must reach the top-most level of the pagoda, while facing enemies and bosses along the way.

The moves you have at your disposal are finely crafted. It has a total of six moves, combining A, B, and the up and down buttons on the D-pad. This is a nice refresher from Ice Climber and Mario, both of which had very limited ways of defeating your foes.

The graphics you do have to give a hand to. As soon as you see then you will be instantly reminded of Excite Bike, Ice Climber, Clu-clu Land, Pinball, etc. To put it simply, the graphics are no more remarkable than any other graphics at the time.

The Bad
The game has some flaws which really bring it down.

The game play, you will discover, is quite repetitive and hard. The only strategy which seems to work is trial and error, accompanied with luck. It took me at least ten tries to figure out how to successfully beat the first level, only to die on the even harder second level and have to restart. Even when you finally get up to the top level and beat the ending boss, there is very little replay value in it. Enemies do not change, they only get faster, and the game will get very old.

The sound is not magnificent for the time. This game, like Excite-Bike, Clu-clu Land, and Pinball, did not bring us catchy tunes that stick as icons even today, like the Super Mario Bros. and Zelda theme. Most of it is NES midis (do not get me wrong, a lot of NES midis sound great!) and are typical of cheesy kung-fu movies back in the 80’s. SFX is not notable here either.

Lastly, the two player mode is not much of two-player mode. Players take turns, which makes it fairly easy for the person not playing to lose interest and wait until you are gone to play one-player. I am fairly impressed at the nice number of co-op games such as Clu-clu Land, and Ice Climber, but I am disappointed at the lack of co-op in other games such as this. Truly two players is not an incentive to get this game

The Bottom Line
The game, while it does entertain you for a while, will slowly frustrate you with its hard, repetitive game play and cheesy music and sounds. Unfortunately, it adds to this with a very bad replay value and a bland two player mode. The game is probably best for those who like to collect NES games, or for someone who had it as a childhood favorite. Otherwise, this game might just collect dust.

NES · by Matt Neuteboom (975) · 2005

[ View all 4 player reviews ]


1001 Video Games

The Arcade version of Kung-Fu Master appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


The original coin-op of this game is based on the Jackie Chan movie Kwai tsan tseh. In Japan, the movie was shown under the name "Spartan X" and indeed the original Japanese name for this game is "Spartan X". In North America, the movie's name is "Wheels on Meals" and the game's name is "Kung-Fu Master" or simply "Kung-Fu".


This game is often mentioned as one of the first beat 'em up's inspiring successful arcade brawlers like Renegade, Double Dragon, and Final Fight.

Windows release

The game was one of the eighteen arcade games included in the compilation Irem Arcade Hits.

Information also contributed by BurningStickMan

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Servo.

Commodore 64, Apple II added by PCGamer77. MSX added by firefang9212. Atari 7800 added by RKL. Blacknut added by Sciere. Amstrad CPC added by Kabushi. ZX Spectrum added by Martin Smith. Arcade added by LepricahnsGold.

Additional contributors: RKL, Shoddyan, formercontrib, LepricahnsGold, FatherJack, Flapco, firefang9212, robMSX, Kayburt.

Game added October 17th, 2002. Last modified August 29th, 2023.