...Okay, maybe that tagline was a little harsh...
Though brought to us by the publishing gurus at HAL America Inc., Kabuki Quantum Fighter was developed by Human Entertainment, a company more widely known for such titles as Clock Tower, Monster Party, the Fire Pro Wrestling series, and, indeed, The Adventures of Gilligan's Island on NES. In Japan, Kabuki Quantum Fighter is known as "Jigoku Gokuraku Maru", the name of the main samurai character in the 1990 Japanese film "Zipang". Audiences overseas surely wouldn't get that reference for sure. Human could have kept the game in Japan, but the bright-eyed suits over at HAL America must have seen something special in this game, so they retooled it, relocalized it, and released it here as Kabuki Quantum Fighter. We get a slightly different story here, and it's a tad bizarre, to say the least.
It is the year 2056. It is a dismal future, with plenty of unfortunate explosions, desecrated lands, and parachute pants having become en vogue again. The entire world's defenses — all nuclear weapons included — are now controlled by a single computer. But that computer must have been running McAfee Antivirus 2056, because a new virus has infiltrated the mainframe, potentially causing severe havoc on a grand scale. If its full effects are made a reality, the Earth shall become an overbaked carbon fish nugget of despair.
Our only hope is Colonel Scott O'Connor — or "O'Conner", as the game can't even be consistent on the same SCREEN:
Through the magic of technology available at the time, the human mind can actually be converted into binary computer data and inserted into a network to combat viruses. And I mean LITERALLY. As in, the data can bust up those nasty viruses in the face! With a brave front, Scott gets converted into data, which, due to his surprising ancestry many generations earlier, is a kabuki actor capable of trouncing enemies with a sharp jab of his pointy red hairstyle and the residual fright of seeing all that horrible makeup.
Yes, you read that right: your main attack is your hair. Your character whips his hair forward and gives all those mechanical enemies a piercing in the digital heart. Scott O'Connor is the 90s version of Willow Smith, basically. This is strange, and it doesn't make much more sense in the Japanese version, as Scott's movie counterpart never attacked with his hair either. His other moves include crouching, where he uses a kick instead of a hair flip, although the kick has a much shorter range; he can also jump and grasp certain platforms, then flip himself on top of it. The controls overall are fair, but Scott's limited range does cause some problems.
As you succeed through stages, you also unlock new subweapons that can be used at any time, provided you have collected enough memory chips to activate it (similar to magic points in an RPG). These subweapons include quantum bombs, a fusion gun, and, yes, a remote control bolo. No, not one of those thin Texas ties — it's a thrown weapon with balls on the end of a long cord or chain! Well, how ‘bout that? More powerful weapons gradually end up costing more chips to use, and they're not exactly abundant.
Is there a ninja in your laptop? Better get out the compressed air...
As I mentioned earlier, Scott's overall range for attack is very short, and this, combined with the game inundating us with so many tough jumps and slightly nasty enemy placement, Kabuki Quantum Fighter will challenge even the most gristled of players. Round 3 alone, a vertical ascent filled with more jumps, conveyor belts, and fire-breathing heads than I ever wanted to see, will probably turn off most casual players at that point, especially when they respawn right at the bottom. Enemies are hardly forthcoming with health when you need it. So how can anyone succeed? Probably by cheating; entering a code with the second controller allows you to choose your level at the beginning of the game. But it was programmed a little funny: the game's stage count goes up to "Round B", so you can select Round 1 through 9, then on to A or B. But you can keep going past B to C, D, E, and onward. Choosing to play from Round C onward crashes the game. So much for me playing Round Q.
Aside from the gameplay, Kabuki Quantum Fighter has an interesting presentation style. Its musical soundtrack, attempting to sound modern, is pretty funky, though some of the more unusual technical sounds give it a slightly off-putting technical feel. The graphical style is far more infused with darkness than light, accurately complementing the tone set by the game's lengthy dystopian introduction. I guess there aren't too many lights inside a computer.
Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a decent platformer, but elements of its design do cause it to be a rather daunting experience and not one you'll likely be playing over and over once you've given it an honest try. I did enjoy how the storyline tried to be a little different, and the game certainly has its own style. But the game's high difficulty and attack style may prove a bit taxing for those who don't feel like sitting and practicing for 20 hours a day. Not bad, but not great.