TBT REVIEW: Kabuki Quantum Fighter

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 Kabuki Quantum Fighter | oprainfall
Title Kabuki Quantum Fighter
Developer Human Entertainment
Publisher HAL America Inc.
Release Date January 1991
Genre Action Platformer
Platform Nintendo Entertainment System
Age Rating All Ages

It is the 90s, and there is time for Klax, but we couldn’t spend all our time Klax-ing around willy-nilly because we also had time for Kabuki Quantum Fighter. You see, Kabuki Quantum Fighter is something I like to regard as a very 90s game. A “90s game”, for me, consists of outrageous depictions of computers or electronics, a radical G.I. Joe hero against all odds, and this strange essence of  weirdness that just made sense so you would instinctively accept it as cool. That’s what this game was for me growing up.

Bowl Cut | oprainfall

We also thought bowl cuts were cool.

Most people might have seen this game in one place or another. You might have seen internet Let’s Players have a go at it, or just remember it as the game where a guy whips stuff with his hair. If you don’t fall into any of those categories then you really didn’t miss much because my rose-colored nostalgia glasses fell right off while revisiting this game for the first time in almost ten years. So let’s dust off our NES and see what Kabuki Quantum Fighter is all about!

Kabuki Quantum Fighter| Title Screen

Kabuki Quantum Fighter was released in Japan as Jigoku Gokuraku Maru on December 21, 1990 and was released in North America the following January. You might also know the developer, Human Entertainment, by some of their other titles like Monster Party, Clock Tower, and The Firemen. I love those games! Also, this game was published by HAL America which you probably know from Kirby, EarthBound, Smash Bros., and many others.

We start Kabuki Quantum Fighter with a brief cutscene giving us some backstory about a breach of a military computer mainframe. This mainframe is tied to national security and nuclear weapons which will prove disastrous if our antagonist’s antics are allowed to go on any longer. With military specialists unable to stop the threat from the outside, they choose to use an experimental process not yet tested on humans which will allow a person’s brain to be uploaded into a computer. Cue our hero, Scott  O’Connor, a high-class soldier and computer expert who will brave the strange new world of technology.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter | Our Hero

A blonde-haired, green-eyed, Irish American with a Japanese kabuki ancestor…

Scott straps himself in and connects his brain directly to the mainframe. After warping in, Scott’s avatar is transformed into a traditional kabuki actor with long, bushy red hair. Of course, logically, Scott questions why he’s a kabuki. The experts outside the mainframe transmit to Scott via radio and inform him that he has a long-lost ancestor. This ancestor happens to reside in his psyche and was a kabuki actor. That explains it, I guess?


Kabuki Quantum Fighter| Kabuki Form

This cracks me up because it’s such an honest reaction from the main character!

Yes, this game is weird, but the gameplay is familiar. Imagine a cross between both Batman and Ninja Gaiden, and you’ll somewhat get Kabuki Quantum Fighter. This isn’t a bad thing for the most part. It plays very smoothly and the animation is nice. There are some things that work against you at first, though. Scott uses his hair as his main weapon which has a long range. However, when ducking, Scott throws a punch. This punch is very short in range, and you’ll have to duck a lot to hit enemies crawling on the ground. This can be very disorienting and will result in a lot of damage until you train yourself to use it properly.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter | Stage

This game comes complete with Max Headroom enemies.

Scott can also climb walls, and swing from platforms. This is awkward because when you cling to a platform you swing from it almost instantly until you learn how to hold your position. It’s really frustrating and just does not feel intuitive. You really need to master this technique quickly because it will be your main lifeline in the game.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter gives you two stages to get a grip with the mechanics of attacking and swinging before giving you the third stage. I hate Stage Three of this game because it is a straight-up vertical platfomer. In Stage Three you must properly swing to higher platforms while dodging enemy attacks and timed obstacles like fire-breathing machinery and treadmills. Expect to die here a lot and start over from the beginning a few times before you make it to the boss. However, once you master this level, you will really have an understanding of the entire game, and you will know that you’ve progressed with your electronic soldier kabuki skills enough to make it to the end.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter | Vertical Stage

These vertical stages are the bane of my existence.

Speaking of bosses, each stage has a boss at the end. Much like a Mega Man game, after defeating the boss you obtain a new power up to use in the next stage. The bosses are quite easy, and this is really disappointing. Each boss follows a specific pattern and, if you keep enough of your power-up weapons in reserve, they will go down easily. Making it through the stages to get to these bosses is much more difficult than actually fighting them. Too bad it’s not the other way around.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter | Powerup

I can’t NOT hear Mega Man music during these scenes.

The music of Kabuki Quantum Fighter is right up my alley. It fits the tone of the game perfectly, and gives you wonderful bleeps and bloops from the NES sound chip. I really do enjoy the music! The stages themselves look strange, though. At first, it’s kind of cool to see the background of the stages because it feels less like a computer and more like you’re in an organic environment. The walls in the background will have veins, and pulsating organs, as opposed to computer chips or components you’d think being inside a computer would display. Although after a while the background fades into a mush of  “OK, I get it” and just becomes uninteresting. There could definitely be more variety.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter| Oragnic Stage

The red kabuki hair determines that most stage backgrounds will be red too. It gets old after awhile.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter is a very short game. There are six stages to progress through, and, once you’ve got the skill you need, they blow by very quickly. The end boss is unimaginative and I would’ve had no clue it was the last boss unless the cutscene beforehand told me that it was. It was just a really disappointing build-up to a very simple end boss. After defeating the final boss Scott returns back to his body and the day is saved. Cue the credits. At the end, you’re given a short congratulations message and a sound test to play with.

Kabuki Quantum Fighter | Boss

The bosses are pretty rad even though they are so easy to defeat.

So, is Kabuki Quantum Fighter a bad game? Well, no, I guess it isn’t. The best way I could explain Kabuki’s overall quality is that it’s aged very poorly. In the 90s, it was really cool to see a game like this on your television screen and it just made sense. Now, however, the game is boring, short, uneventful, and will test your patience with no payoff. Kabuki Quantum Fighter is like watching a Schwarzenegger film in the 90s compared to now. (Not a good Schwarzenegger movie — one of the poopy ones.)

So, with that final thought, I give Kabuki Quantum Fighter 2.5 stars. A game with great animation and music, but with boring and frustrating gameplay. Now excuse me, it’s time for Klax.
Kabuki Quantum Fighter | End Screen

Review Score


About Andy Kidwell

Andy has been a gamer for most of his life. He began to fall in love with RPGs at a young age, which turned into a major obsession to hunt for the most obscure titles. Andy gets the most joy out of life when finding a rare niche game out in the wild. He also collects classic consoles and computer hardware. Some of his favorites include: PC98, PC Engine, Wonderswan, and the glorious Dreamcast. Although, he'll play anything really...