Director Lo Wei (Fist of Fury, The Big Boss) was characteristically busy in the late ’70s, specifically with a pair of martial arts films he was shooting back to back in 1978: Spiritual Kung Fu and Dragon Fist. Both films ended up being shelved due to lack of funds, but once star Jackie Chan and director Yuen Woo-Ping came through with the rousing success of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master, Lo Wei found a golden opportunity to finally release both belated projects.

The results are yet another showcase of Jackie Chan’s singular blend of exaggerated comedy and expert stunt coordination, and the dubbed version made its way to screens in the west in the ’80s under the not-so-subtle title of Karate Ghostbuster. Much like how other successful movies paved the way for Spiritual Kung Fu‘s release in Hong Kong, Ghostbusters mania led to the film’s catchy English tagline of “Who you gonna call? Jackie Chan!” 

Featuring Yuen Biao and an intense final fight that pits Jackie Chan against James Tien, Spiritual Kung Fu starts out like one of those martial arts movies that feels like a couple different films mashed together. Part of it hinges on the disappearance of a dangerous martial arts manual and the murders that occur as a result, while the other is pure Jackie Chan tomfoolery. As martial arts masters drop left and right, Jackie learns new fighting techniques from a quintet of ghosts who each represent different styles. This is, of course, where he spends an entire scene chasing them around and, eventually, peeing on them. 

When he’s not training with ghosts and begrudgingly battling invisible enemies—which is apparently something the action star found particularly difficult, and was an aspect of Lo Wei’s film he didn’t mesh well with during production—Jackie puts on a real show sparring with monks in order to pass his final tests before setting out to wrap up the murderous loose ends and avenge his masters. Outside of the finale, his staff and tonfa bouts are some true highlights. 

88 Films impresses with their Blu-ray release of yet another Jackie Chan classic. Sporting a new 2K remaster of the Hong Kong cut from the original 35mm negatives, the 2020 Spiritual Kung Fu home video release comes with Cantonese, English and Mandarin DTS-HD MA mono audio options, as well as an alternate Cantonese DTS-HD MA mono track with different music. As has come to be expected from 88, this one looks way better than most of us have ever seen it presented, and the feature is complemented by a mix of new and archival bonus features, from commentary by genre experts to Korean version excerpts to interviews and English, Japanese and Hong Kong trailers. 

Distributor: 88 Films
Format: Blu-ray
Region: B
Release Date: 10/26/2020

Five Pieces of Lore from the Super Mario Bros. 3 Cartoon That Must Be Canonized

Before Mario did triple-flips and shouted “Wahoo!” like he just sucked every last drop of helium from our planet, he was a surprisingly gruff, perpetually hungry, and somewhat idiotic cartoon plumber who lived with his brother Luigi in the Mushroom Kingdom by choice. Surrounded by what, according to my current count, adds up to roughly one million pipes that lead straight back to Brooklyn, the Mario Bros. held their hands up, pursed their lips, and shook their heads “NO!” like a kid shoving away a plate full of brussels sprouts.

Are you listening, Nintendo? Because you’re gonna have to work the following into your games as soon as this list goes live.

The Wizard King of the West

Super Mario Bros. 3 was full of kings, all of whom Bowser ruthlessly mutated before taking over their respective kingdoms. From what I can recall, though, there was never a giant-snail-riding Wizard King of the West. The lore implications are especially deep with this one. In “A Toadally Magical Adventure,” the Wizard King grows impatient after waiting 50 years for his magic wand to be crafted. He sets off from his castle atop his steed—a massive snail that looks like he just took the most righteous of bong rips—with the hurried and desperate exclamation of “Faster, Lightning Bolt, faster!” Unfortunately for the Wizard King, Toad ends up getting his pudgy little hands on the wand first, and he’s not exactly known for his impulse control.

From what we can gather in his limited appearance on Super Mario Bros. 3, this king can pretty much see all with his crystal ball and do all with his wand. Why, then, does he resort to such meandering means of transportation? Why does he continue to use the services of the Ace Magic Wand Factory if it takes them 50 years to make the type of wand literally every other ruler in the land seems to have within arm’s reach? Why isn’t he in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?

Toad Wrestling

Professional wrestling is an oft-neglected aspect of the Super Mario Bros. universe, but it’s definitely there. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door proved it 14 years ago with the introduction of Rawk Hawk, AKA the Feral Nuclear Reactor. But where are all the totally ripped inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom? The version of wrasslin’ in Super Mario Bros. 3 is even more enticing, serving up a pair of contenders that look like Toad had his genes spliced with the Bushwackers. Enter the Mushroom Wrestling Federation’s Mushroom Marauder and Jake “The Crusher” Thunder, a duo destined to be the stars of “Tag Team Trouble”—one of many episodes penned by my personal favorite SMB3 writer, Martha Moran—were it not for the infernal meddling of the Koopa Kids.

In another nefarious plan, Cheatsy Koopa—which is the cartoon’s switched-up name for Larry—wakes the duo up in the middle of the night, clips their eyelids open, and uses the power of hypnosis to put them right back to sleep for two whole days. Who could possibly take their place and hope to win the million coin prize up for grabs at tomorrow’s big match? Will Toad ever be able to face those poor orphan mushrooms when he thinks he lost their latest batch of donations? Why aren’t these guys in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?

Mafioso Prison Breaks

In Super Mario Bros. 3, pipes to the real world don’t just lead straight back to hot spots like Brooklyn or a Milli Vanilli concert. Toilets, doors, and even highway tunnels have infinite possibilities within them, even if your final destination happens to be a maximum security prison. That’s where Koopa and his constantly caterwauling kids go when everyone’s favorite baddie decides to break a convicted felon out of prison just to teach his whole fam a lesson. With the help of Crimewave Clyde, Koopa’s kids will become meaner, nastier, and just plain badder than ever before.

Best of all, the plan works so well the Koopa Kids get carried away. Before Crimewave Clyde knows it, they’re robbing each other and planning a billion-coin heist from the local treasury. Between this and the fact that they’re really annoying, it doesn’t take long for Clyde to happily turn to the Mario brothers for assistance. There’s no way he’s the first criminal Koopa has recruited, thought, right? How many historically significant badniks have come over to the Koop side in the past 30-plus years? Why isn’t Crimewave Clyde in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?

The Doom Dancer Music Box

A deep and twisted Mushroom Kingdom legend tells of a treasure said to possess great magical power: The Doom Dancer Music Box. As the Princess explains, cranking it fast makes everyone in the vicinity dance faster and faster. Crank it slow and it makes them slow down and stop. Mario chimes in right away, suggesting they use the music box to “keep King Koopa and his brat pack under control,” as if that wasn’t exactly what the Princess was about to say.

The act of obtaining the box is definitely a late-game Mario stage. The adventure takes them to the Temple of Gloom in Dark Land, home to what is without a doubt the most terrifying depiction of Dry Bones imaginable.

Did they stop to think what would happen if Koopa got his own hands on the Doom Dancer Music Box? No, of course not. Thanks to this unfortunate turn of events, the audience is introduced to the episode’s title track, “Do the Koopa,” to which the entire Mushroom Kingdom is soon in thrall. This is one of about twenty original songs sung by the voice actors behind the Koopa kids, all of which are certified bangers. Odd, then, that “Do the Koopa” isn’t included as one of over 850 music tracks in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Reverse Mermaids

Guillermo del Toro showed us what the shape of water was in 2017’s Academy Award-winning film Sex Fish, but Super Mario Bros. 3 had this covered nearly 30 years ago. In the rudely titled “The Ugly Mermaid,” Mario ends up getting trapped in a cement block while swimming around in his frog suit. It wasn’t even the handiwork of Crimewave Clyde, it was that dastardly King Koopa! Before he dies the type of grim death Nintendo loves showcasing whenever Mario drowns in one of his games, a mermaid comes to his rescue. But this isn’t just any mermaid, it’s a reverse mermaid named Holly Mackerel, which means—cue the chorus—she’s got leeeeeegs.

Because she can’t see so well in her air-filtering fishbowl helmet, she believes Mario to be a helluva hunky frog. Mario rebukes her advances, even when she brings up the possibility of a royal wedding, but Holly leaves an indelible impression on the audience nonetheless. Why is this the first time we’ve heard about reverse mermaids in the Mario universe? Is Holly technically a sub-species of Cheep Cheep, or does she fall into the Big Bertha family of Mushroom Kingdom sealife? Why isn’t she in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?

In My Frog Suit!

There are so many bonkers concepts in The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 it’s exhausting, but most of them just highlight how much ground the games themselves have already covered. There is one final item from the cartoon that will never, ever be topped on a Nintendo console today, tomorrow, or in a thousand years, so it’s not fair to sincerely suggest it. Try as Nintendo might to make a musical out of games like Super Mario Odyssey with Pauline’s excellent “Jump Up, Super Star!” song, nothing gets close to the chops of the Koopa Kids. And nothing in this cartoon could possibly soar higher than “In My Frog Suit,” a chart-topper from the “Mush Rumors” episode.

It begs the question: Why did this beautiful, stupid, absolutely canonical cartoon only last for 26 episodes? It’s not too late to right this wrong and make everything in the Mario 3 cartoon an integral part of the greater Mario universe, and it’s definitely not too late to dump it all in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You put in a Piranha Plant, Sakurai. You can put in a sex fish.

This article originally appeared on the VRV blog


track by track review: kirby’s dream band – the pink album


Back in 2016, I had a few drinks and decided to do a track-by-track review of one of the best albums ever, the 2013 insta-classic The Pink Album by Kirby’s Dream Band. Until now, it only existed on The Shizz, a forum dedicated to extremely influential video game cover band Minibosses. It must be preserved, though, so here’s all 1700 unedited words of it.

Whispy Woods

The opening to this song perfectly sums up the album, especially when the full band kicks in. The instruments are completely loaded, and when the guitars join it’s over. The album is absolutely over as soon as it starts. Call the match.

And then at the 1:00 mark it just gets disgusting, as far as first tracks are concerned. The understanding of what makes a Kirby song special is what really makes Kirby’s Dream Band special. If Kirby heard this opening track he would lose his mind.


This is the real stuff, though. The first few seconds of “Islands” are worth the price of the album alone. The way the guitars flow into the cascading keys and drums and transition to the more complex duet makes this a next-level VGM song.

Again, it’s the minute mark that makes this track an entirely different beast. It has a lot to do with how closely KDB conforms to the original flow of the tracks, but that’s part of their charm. The pick-up at 1:00 is beyond revolting. It’s the kind of song you’ll put on loop for that moment specifically, and then when it approaches the 90-second mark it turns every other cover into chop suey. 2:00? Forget about it, this album is done. By the time the last 30 seconds are rolling you might as well call it a day.

Mr Shine & Mr Bright

This has a tooty intro that leads into one of the best VGM grooves ever put down. The 12-second mark is a moment in time that doesn’t work without the seconds that preceded it. The same goes for the 24-second mark and the 41-second mark. It’s ghoulish, for real. Just some putrid wreckage that belongs in a time capsule.

The rest of the track is pretty remarkable, but the heights it ends up reaching around the 1:40 mark are so grandiose that it’s tough to fully appreciate them. The return to a more standard groove as we approach the 2-minute mark is similarly outrageous. The end of the song could be the end of a normal album.

Street Fighter II

I’m always kind of dubious going into this one. It comes off the high of some really incredible Kirby tracks, but it’s hard not to appreciate it by the time it really blasts off. The transition at 1:27 is sublime, and the momentum carries through until the last note, which screeches into the heavens like an unshackled harpy.

Go Kirby!

The brilliance of the album can truly be seen when going from the high end note of SFII to one of the most deviously nasty Kirby songs. “Go Kirby!” is a balls-blazing fast trip down a grass hill, rolling head over heels in a breakneck race to the finish. It has a dueling playfulness to its opening minute before it hits a pro-Kirby rally.

And then it gets seriously nasty. All bets are off at the 90-second mark. The final stretch of the race is loud, pulsing, and gross. The redemption at the end almost makes you think they won’t destroy you with the next track.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

But they do, of course. KDB’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 cover is transcendent. You can’t talk about the first leg of the medley without mentioning the steady, climbing bass line. The keys are something else, but it’s the transition at 1:35 that really makes me want to jump in a river. What follows might be the most successful two minutes in VGM history. The final 30 seconds of drumming belongs in a museum.

King Dedede

I’ve already mentioned a few unstoppable song intros, but this is another one. This is the track that checks anyone who got too comfortable during Sonic 2. The change-up to and from the particularly upbeat Kirby then back to the more pressing, time-limit-stressing Dedede music is tremendous.

2:15 is probably the most memorable transition on the whole album. Don’t listen to this shit unless you have somewhere to be and you’re trying to get there fast.


This is a beautifully inserted interstitial. It works perfectly as a swaying, mid-album mood swing. The heat of the previous tracks dissipates as the classic Kirby tunes serve up a soothing salve. The song may be called “Kracko,” but it doesn’t make me as wacko as the preceding tracko. That was a sentence I really hated typing but I refuse to change it. Anyway, despite the light fare the arrangement still manages to be full and hit hard.

The chill break around the 2:00 minute mark will actually bring your blood pressure down remarkably. The ending of the track manages to be hopeful, aggressive, and dreamy at once.

Chrono Trigger

My three favorite Chrono Trigger covers are by Super Guitar Bros., Battlecake, and Kirby’s Dream Band. If there’s anything that pushes KDB’s into the #1 spot it’s:

i) the thick, gutting opening bass
ii) the desperate notes around :30
iii) the serene keys that follow
iv) the harp-ass shit around 1:17
iv) the heartbreaking piano and bass combo at 1:43

This is a song that was clearly made with the utmost respect and admiration for its source material. Once the full jam kicks in at 2:27 you’re ready to go on a time-bending adventure, and the acoustic guitar is nothing but MUAH. The guitar harmonics at 3:10 are simply extra-terrestrial.

Cave Story

This is a surprising song, but the jovial Cave Story opening works pretty well following the epic finale to Chrono Trigger. I love the Cave Story soundtrack but sometimes I hate how corny the interplay between the notes is in the opening. It’s remarkably faithful, but the album is better for it once it hits the 2:22 mark.

This section could just as easily fit into the Street Fighter II song. It has that chugging immediacy that makes you want to throw your opponent through a gargantuan steel temple bell. The rest of the track continues to raise the stakes, with keyboard flutters that reverberate around the room, and by the time it ends you kind of forgot how cloyingly it opened. The final minute sounds more like a high-stress Kirby theme.

Dream Land Days

Speaking of Kirby, the carnivalistic opening of “Dream Land Days” is a fitting rebuttal to the proud, victorious closing of the Cave Story track. Most of this track rings familiar bells. Playful back and forth that marries guitars and keys seamlessly with effortless bass tracks and absurdly precise drums. There are plenty of open calls for obnoxious fills but they smartly keep it simple, even as the carnival rockets into the stratosphere.

Final Fantasy IV

There aren’t many first notes more accurate in the world of VGM. If you dig Final Fantasy battle themes the FFIV track is a colossal wonder. Every instrument is on point, and the transition at 1:38 makes me want to jump into my TV and never come back. Do not walk around at night and listen to this song because you will get into at least a dozen hard-fought random battles. By the time you hit 2:37 you’ll be a husk of a human, the rest of the track a wavering blur.

Pokémon Red and Blue

Even if you’ve never played Pokémon you’ll know the first seconds are an undeniable call to battle. It’s exceedingly dangerous to place this song immediately after Final Fantasy IV. I can only chalk this up to irresponsibility on the band’s behalf, but the fact remains that you won’t find a better medley based on fucking Pokémon Red and Blue. Give me a break. I was 17 when I played through that game in a hotel in Utah and I don’t think I could do it again today.

Nevertheless, the intensity of facing off in the tall grass courses through my veins when listening to KDB’s cover. The pristine perfection of the rolling drums and keys that will, for no obstacle or abomination, stop their incandescent jamming.

The Search for Heart Stars

The opening notes of this return to Kirby could be the closing of anyone’s life. One could hardly ask for more than to be escorted by the soft, graceful wings of death as it glides along this rapturous melody. The search for heart stars might as well be the knowing closure of every conscious door. To listen to this track is to abandon everything you know, lest you out yourself as anything less than a heavenly creature.

It’s around the 1:50 mark that we enter what some may crudely dub the “next plane of existence.” The Hey Dude-esque flourishes at 2:51 do not go unnoticed. The rest of the song is a caribbean daydream until it rocks you awake.

Revenge of Meta Knight

If anyone knows how to build to a finale it’s KDB. With “Revenge of Meta Knight” they mimic the progression of a video game, echoing previous achievements in a more accomplished flurry of melodic exchanges and rebuttals. The aural marriage that results at 0:55 is at that point a foregone conclusion.

There are so many instrumental fights in this song it’s like an entire pay-per-view in and of itself. The winner, of course, is you, dear listener. You remain privy to the kind of behind-the-scenes showcase of bravado few get to witness in their lifetime. The double-bass-drum bullying near the end is nothing but a puffing of the chest before it all comes to a comical collapse.

Milky Way Wishes

If KDB is a gala showcase, the final track is the moment when all the bands present get back together on stage and jam all at once. It opens with the kind of slick showmanship that makes you either want to clap or barf, depending on what mood you’re in. Once the rest of the track gets rolling the entirety of the album coalesces into one swirling mass. It would have been much easier to simply not bother attempting to close off such a tightly-crafted album, but KDB makes it seem a simple task. “Milky Way Wishes” incorporates rhythms and themes we’ve heard since the first track, and it does so without seeming corny. It simply does so.

monster boy and the cursed kingdom and me

monster boy and the cursed kingdom

I’ve been on a real kick lately, and hoo boy, watch out when I go on a kick! The latest kick is, as usual, something familiar that’s come back to the forefront, and it has to do with my enduring love for Metroidvania—or, if you’re nasty like my dude metalheadmike, Rygarmania—games. After playing through the excellent Momodora recently, I finally got a chance to dig into Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on Switch, and buddy, it slaps.

Clocking in at around 15 hours or so, Monster Boy serves up exactly what I want out of the genre. It has a pretty large map but there isn’t any wasted space. There’s just the right amount of fanfare whenever you pick up an important item. The sense of progression comes through clearly without the need for experience points or leveling up of any kind. The bosses tend to be pushovers for the most part, but their gimmicks are clever and the journey in between is fraught with legit platforming and enemy combat-related perils.

In other words, it’s the perfect side-scrolling stew. If the visuals are a full dessert platter, the fact that the soundtrack is excellent—featuring contributions from industry masters like Yuzo Koshiro, Motoi Sakuraba, Michiru Yamane, and many more—is very much the icing on the cake.

Just listen to this!

And this banger, which you’ll hear on loop a lot in The Lost Temples:

Throughout the adventure, you gradually acquire five forms on top of being a regular ol’ human—Pig, Snake, Frog, Lion, and Dragon—which is a mechanic the developers never forget to incorporate. This could have easily been a one-and-done device limited to the stages in which you acquire each form, but they all play a major role from beginning to end. I actually got a little overwhelmed thinking about how tough it is to pull off legitimately thoughtful level design while playing this. They all work together so perfectly that it’s clear the team spent a ton of time plotting out the progression of each individual stage.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a must-play game I’d recommend to pretty much anyone who likes colorful visuals, top-notch level design, and the level of personal TV game accomplishment that can only be accessed when someone actually does the genre justice.