30 Days of Xbox: Kung Fu Chaos

Is Kung Fu Chaos harmless satire or deeply racist?
Tonight’s Xbox game is one that troubles me.
It kicks off with Carl Douglas’ classic Kung Fu Fighting, a song I have a long history of adoring entirely for its cheesy aesthetic.
At one point, I’d start my working day (back when I was reviews editor at Australian Personal Computer… and checking that link made me realise just how out of date that site now is, which makes me sad…) with a hearty rendition of Kung Fu Fighting.

This is so 1970s that it hurts, but in the good way.
So much so, that when I left, I was presented not with a gold watch or envelope full of unmarked notes*, but a soft toy hamster with nunchuks that played Kung Fu Fighting when you squeezed his paw. I’ve still got him, and it was only last year (16 years after I left APC) that his battery finally gave out!
But I digress.
Kung Fu Chaos a basic comedy brawler set around the B-movies that I adore. Challenges range from simple combat to dodging contests, all with the challenge of making the “best” B-Movie ever. All so far, so good, and exactly why I like similar satire-fests such as the Destroy All Humans! games.

And then there’s the character choice, and this is where it gets difficult. As the name suggests, Kung Fu Chaos satirises the Hong Kong movie scene, and it does so with characters who are very broad stereotypes, often painfully so. The game’s essential narrator (and end boss) is a disgraced director called “Shou Ting”. There’s a Ninja called “Ninja Fu Hiya”, a lady warrior called “Xui Tan Sour” or an ancient master called “Master Sho Yu”. These are the jokes, folks, and they’re compounded by Shou Ting cracking gags in very broken English, quite deliberately.
To be fair to the creators, they are on the record as stating that they meant no racist intent, and to an extent, I believe them. There can be a line between intentionally doing something and doing something that’s tone deaf to its wider implications and underlying messages.
It’s just that satire should, generally speaking, punch upwards. Mock the powerful, take them down a peg and that’s acceptable satire. Punching down is far more problematic, because that’s usually the tool of folks wanting to perpetuate the status quo and the assumptions of folks about different cultures and beliefs. It’s cheap and lazy writing at best, and racist at worst, depending on your interpretation.
I’ve written about confrontational games before (such as, for example, this piece at PC & Tech Authority), and Kung Fu Chaos isn’t exactly Custer’s Revenge in terms of problematic content. But it is problematic, I think, and that’s a pity, because beyond that it’s quite a fun little romp of a game that, with just a little tweaking, could remove its issues and still pass the critical stereotype sniff test.

Fat Duck Tech Retro Xbox Game Rankings

  1. Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time
  2. Taito Legends 2
  3. Sid Meier’s Pirates!
  4. Panzer Dragoon Orta
  5. Burnout 3: Takedown
  6. Outrun 2
  7. Ninja Gaiden
  8. Black
  9. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  10. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
  11. Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb
  12. Godzilla: Save The Earth
  13. The Punisher
  14. The Hulk
  15. SSX Tricky
  16. ToeJam & Earl III
  17. Dungeons & Dragons Heroes
  18. NFL Street
  19. Disney Extreme Skate Adventure
  20. Kung Fu Chaos
  21. FIFA 2004
  22. NHL Rivals 2004
  23. Rocky
  24. Spy vs Spy
  25. Combat Elite: WWII Paratroopers
  26. Rugby League
  27. Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death
  28. Wrestlemania 21
  29. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

This was a really hard one to place, because I do think the core game here is pretty solid for a party brawler type title, but I can’t ignore its wider setting and context, which pulls it down the rankings by a considerable margin in my viewpoint. You may have your own, and naturally, if you do your own 30 day challenge, you’re more than welcome to place it higher.
Next time: End, this 30 day challenge must.
*Side story: First thing I was ever told as a neophyte journalist was “You have to love writing to do this job. You’ll never get rich doing it.” This was literally in the job interview, before any questions were asked. And it was absolutely, resolutely correct.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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