1, 2, 3, kick it!
In 1986 Nintendo released the Famicom Disk System add-on for the Famicom in Japan. For some reason the company decided it wasn’t worth the time to sell it anywhere else in the world, but that didn’t stop game makers from releasing over 200 games for it. A few titles (like Zelda and Zelda II ) got slightly altered cartridge localizations on the NES, but due to the format, most of these games never made it over here. One of the lost gems in the bunch is VAP’s Kick Challenger – Air Foot, which came out in 1987.
In Kick Challenger, you control “Tomatobowerman”, a tomato with very large feet, on a quest to rescue Princess Niketa from the bug king Girabir. Most of the time you’re figuring out how to manipulate your feet to step on power-ups, avoid (or kick) bugs, and maneuver your way through the bright and colorful levels. Why the developer chose a footless, inanimate object to star in such a foot-centric game is beyond me, but it’s cute and it works. You have one button that moves your current foot and one button to kick with that foot. You switch feet automatically, but the buttons stay the same. It’s hard to explain, and feels a little strange until you get used to it, but it’s a big part of what makes the game so interesting.
There’s a variety of interesting power-ups to tread upon. A variety of Nike sneakers are available to alter your movement, but there’s no indication that they were officially licensed. I assume Air Master was a reference to these swap-meet Air Jordans. As with many of the games I highlight here, piles of feces make an appearance, as well. For some reason in this game stepping in it makes you temporarily invincible. There is even one item that turns you into a pesticide can which can shoot at the bugs (as you can see in my GIF at the top).
The game is not without its faults, though. The five levels included aren’t very long, but in a way this is good because it does get a bit repetitive. Also, the difficulty and frustration level can be a bit much. One of the main things that got me was the warp spots, which almost always take you back to an earlier point in the level. They spring up all over the place, and can be quite tricky (sometimes impossible) to avoid. The game also won’t let you backtrack; if you get stuck in front of a warp, you have to take it. This kind of trial-and-error stuff is just begging to be played on an emulator with save states.
Overall, if you’re forgiving and want to try something truly original, different, and (of course) challenging, I’d say Kick Challenger is worth checking out.