Most of you have probably heard of the NES game ‘Kung Fu’, but did you know that Kung Fu was originally released in Japanese arcades under the title Spartan X? Why was it called Spartan X you ask? Spartan X was the Japanese title of a Hong Kong film better known around the world as Wheels on Meals. Directed by and starring Sammo Hung, along with Yuen Biao, and Jackie Chan. So what some of you may not have known is that Kung Fu aka Spartan X, is actually Wheels on Meals the game! Pretty cool no? Being that Wheels on Meals is one of my personal, all-time favourite films I was blown away when I learned this fact a few years ago. I have never been able to find a physical copy of the game since, but it’s not hard to find on any NES emulator.
Here is a little background on Wheels on Meals, and why they would make it into a game in Japan. Released in 1984, Wheels on Meals is a great example of 1980’s Hong Kong action cinema at its absolute very best! The film stars three of the ‘founding fathers’ of Hong Kong action Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Jackie Chan. Chan and Biao play two cousins living in Barcelona and running a fast food van. They soon find themselves tangled up with a beautiful Spanish pickpocket named Sylvia who is being pursued by a criminal gang to seize her sizable inheritance. In true action film fare she gets herself kidnapped. So our two hero’s, along with a bumbling detective wannabe played by the film’s director Sammo Hung team up to get Sylvia back! Not the most thought provoking plot, but it is carried out with some of the best martial arts action to date, and a landmark final showdown between our heroes and two of the best western martial artists to be displayed on screen Keith Vitali and Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez. Sammo Hung also uses Barcelona Spain to its full potential using many of the city's highlight architectural locations as a backdrop.
At this time Hong Kong action, and especially Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao were enormously famous in Japan. (factoid: Jackie Chan was contractually obligated at the time to include outtakes in every Japanese print of his films. So though many of his films released in other parts of the world that do not contain out takes, if you track down a Japanese copy they will!) So it comes by as no
surprise that they would have made an arcade game based on the hit film. Of course at the time nobody in America knew who Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung or Yuen Biao where, nor would they have cared. So it was generically titled Kung Fu and ported to the NES. So when Jackie Chan took the America by storm in the early 1990’s little did people know that they had been playing
him in an NES game all along. Then again there would eventually be an NES game called Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu released in 1991, 3 years before the release of Rumble in the Bronx and Chan’s North America success. But who remembers that?