The Dragon (Bruce Lee) for 8-bit NES/Famicom


You know, Mortal Kombat’s always been inspired by classic martial arts films. But if there’s one martial arts star in particular who’s inspired Mortal Kombat, it would have to be Bruce Lee.

If you look at Liu Kang in the original Mortal Kombat, everything about him screams Bruce Lee. From his background as a Chinese man, to his outfit—no shirt and plain black pants—to his fighting stance. Even the way he holds his hands is inspired by Bruce Lee.

You can see that better in HD thanks to the work of some very dedicated fans.

That iconic pose came from a classic scene from Enter the Dragon.

Here’s another scene from that film that actually provided the background to the first part of his ending sequence in the original Mortal Kombat. That’s actually Bruce Lee’s hand. So technically, Bruce Lee was in the first Mortal Kombat game!

This next scene, also from Enter the Dragon, is where the second part of Liu Kang’s ending comes from.

Strategy guides from that era even named Liu Kang’s dragon fatality from Mortal Kombat II “Enter the Dragon” in tribute to this film.

Malibu Comics, who published the Mortal Kombat comics, also published a six-part series about Bruce Lee. And, since they were publishing the Mortal Kombat and the Bruce Lee comics at the same time, they even co-promoted the Mortal Kombat comics in some of the Bruce Lee issues.

And in Italy, the Mortal Kombat and Bruce Lee comics were published together under one title: Mortal Kombat & Bruce Lee.

Even Liu Kang’s yells—Wataah!—which fans have lovingly referred to as “turkey noises”—came from Bruce Lee.

Even his special moves were inspired by Bruce Lee. The “flying kick” was practically a Bruce Lee trademark.

In the opening of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Liu Kang was shown using the martial arts style Jeet Kune Do, which was invented by Bruce Lee.

I guess what’s I’m saying is, Mortal Kombat and Bruce Lee go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’re like two peas in a pod. Why am I bringing all this up, you ask? The reason is because today, we’re going to be doing a review of a game called The Dragon, which is about Bruce Lee, but which actually relies on the Mortal Kombat series to supply the graphics. But that’s enough backstory. Let’s get right into this game.

So this is the title screen. See how fast the “Push Start” letters are flickering? Stuff like this is the reason that video games started carrying seizure warnings.

The language options are practically unheard of in the video game world. English you see everywhere, but Arabic? That’s not something you see very often in games. Especially when you consider that the company that made this is from Taiwan. I’m assuming their primary market was the Middle East. Must be a lot of Bruce Lee fans there, I’m guessing.

I’ll go over the Battle Mode and the Options later on. But for now, let’s go right into the game.

About The Bruce Lee

Mr. Lee tears through the world, he believes that his job is how to save the people from those criminal gangs.
Battle Between Dragon and Tiger

Mr. Lee observed the instruction of his professor to eliminate his tavarish trashery Mr. Tat.

Looks like my first opponent is a ninja named Suzuki. But everybody and their pet scorpion knows who that really is.

The controls are pretty bad, but that’s not the worst of it. With just a couple of hits, they can take out like half of my life bar! He’s not supposed to be that strong. I don’t get it. And his weapon is a ninja star? I guess that’s alright, since he’s a ninja, but they should’ve given him his spear! That’s all right, I’ll... GET OVER IT!

It’s kind of cool how it fades out to black and white when you die, though.

Realistically speaking, if you die in the first fight like that, you’re usually better off just resetting the game and starting over from square one. By continuing from this point, I’ll be going through the game at such a disadvantage. So like you saw in the first round, he can be pretty cheap. But I’ll use a move here called the “Skill of Fighting” which takes away so much of his health that it basically makes me the automatic winner of the fight.

You won’t get away, I’ll come back soon.

I’m confused, who’s supposed to be saying that to whom?

The Game of Death

Lee strike the core of the criminal organization and straggled with the rivals broke through checkpoints of Ram.

Wait, what?

At this point, it becomes a very different kind of game. It may have started out looking like a fighting game, but a lot of it is really more of a side-scroller. And the nameless grunts that you fight against aren’t from Mortal Kombat. Actually, I don’t think these graphics are lifted from another game at all. I think they’re original creations.

Hmm, wonder what’s in this box? AGHH! It’s a bomb! Oh, God, why?

Oh, what’s in this box? Looks like a piece of food, gives you some energy. Okay, I’ll take it!

Hmm, wonder what’s in this next box? Oh, God, it’s another bomb! Why?

One thing about this game which is really interesting is the way it handles the items. Every time you play through the level, the items that are in these boxes change. In that way, it really is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get.

So you can open up a box, and there might be nothing inside. It might be completely empty.

The next time you go through the level, and you go through the same box, there might be some turkey inside. Actually, I don’t know what that is. I think it’s turkey. Probably some kind of food. Whatever it is, you pick it up, you get some of your energy back.

The next time you go through the level and open up the same box, there could be a time bomb inside.

There’s two exceptions:

The first one is the nunchuku. Wherever the nunchuku are, that’s where they are—every time.

Same thing with the extra life. You open up a box and you get an extra life, it’s always going to be there.

You know what? At this point, I’m just going to skip all the boxes. I don’t need ’em, I don’t want ’em. Opening up random boxes can be hazardous to your health. Then again, getting into random fights can also be hazardous to your health. Now these guys aren’t very tough; not on their own. But it’s the fact that there’s so many of them that makes this tricky. There’s a different that you could use for each one of them. The problem is when you’ve got three different guys on the screen at the same time, it can be hard to take each one out the way you need to. So they start getting hits on you here and there.

When all the bad guys that come at you are of the same variety, it’s a lot easier. You can just do the same thing over and over again, and they’ll keep falling for it! You can kind of get into a good pattern.

Before my next fight, I just got to point out how awesome this music is!

I guess you could say this is a “Cage Match.” Eh? Eh?

Man, Johnny Cage is really cheap! That’s alright—I can be just as cheap back by doing the “Skill of Fighting.” Yeah, nothing beats the “Skill of Fighting.”

Come and fight me if you dare.

What could he possibly mean by that? We literally just finished a fight! Oh, well.

The Way of Dragon

Mr. Lee leaves to Italy to assist his relative and save him from being killed.

Alright, so we’re here in Italy. Looking for Bruce Lee’s relative, I guess.

You know what I’m realizing? That you can pretty much beat all these guys with a Foot Sweep. Until you get to these villains. These guys are short and fast, and they’re hard to hit. And you’d think that aiming low with a Foot Sweep would help... but no. It doesn’t. It’s about time the game throws a new bad guy at you, but these guys aren’t easy.

They’re going to make things pretty tough. And they keep piling them on. It wasn’t enough to just have a pink one, but now they’re throwing red and blue ones at me, too. I don’t know where this game got the idea to use cheap palette-swaps. As a Mortal Kombat fan, I’ve never heard of anything like that before.

I guess I might as well take a chance and open these boxes. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

Ooh, some food energy! Don’t mind if I do!

Oh, there goes another bomb. Fire in the hole!

And another bomb. But as long as you can get to a safe distance, it’s all good.

And now I just lucked out ’cause I got a pair of nunchuku! You know, Bruce Lee used nunchuku all the time in his movies. And now that I’ve got them, I don’t want to open any boxes. So I’m just going to skip past all these. I mean, why take a chance, right?

Pow! Right in the kisser. Yeah! Take that, and that, and that!

Oh. If you get hit, you lose your nunchuku.


And it had to be those little guys, too! I knew it.

I’m trying to open these boxes to see if they’re anything, but it turns out, they’re just part of the background. And I’m trying to jump up and down on these bigger boxes, but they’re also just part of the background.

Hey, look, it’s Little Mac! From Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! You know, Mortal Kombat never really had a boxer-type character. Street Fighter had Balrog, Killer Instinct had T. J. Combo. Not Mortal Kombat, though. Mortal Kombat always thought outside the box.

If you pay attention to the background, like the lighting rig at the top of the screen, the electric wiring... you might have pieced together that this background is actually the set of a movie. I know, right? That’s so meta! And you know what clinches it? That director’s chair in the background.

Ever since I saw a picture of a Mortal Kombat director’s chair in an old issue of EGM2, I’ve always wanted one.

Oh yeah! And actually, I have one. It kicks ass! Well, except I’m afraid to sit in it ’cause I don’t want to break it. Still cool to have, though. Oh yeah, where were we? The game. That’s right.

Finally, we come face to face with Mr. Tat. Or Kano—one or the other. If you’ll recall, Mr. Tat is the one that Bruce Lee’s professor wants Bruce to kill. And this guy looks pretty serious, too. I mean, he has two “Skills of Fighting.” Most people who I know of only have one “Skill of Fighting,” so that’s saying something. This Mr. Tat is the leader of the world’s criminal gangs, so it’s up to Bruce to stop him.

He doesn’t seem to be doing very well, which is kind of funny since he’s the only character in the entire game that they’ve bothered to hype up. Heh, they gave him his knife toss. I’m doing pretty well... but I think I’d do even better if I used to the “Skill of Fighting!” Why am I fighting Kano in a movie set, anyway? This should be where you fight Johnny Cage.

I’m strongest man in the world.

You know, I can’t figure out who’s supposed to be talking—Liu Kang or Kano. But, either way that’s wrong.

If you look at the official Mortal Kombat II comic book by John Tobias, you’ll see that Jax is actually the strongest man in the world.

Sorry, Kano. Sorry, Liu Kang. You may have other skills, but when it comes to raw strength, Jax is #1.

The Big Boss

Leave for Thailand working in a factory unfortunately the factory is a base of drug pusher virtually. After he knew, he angrily went to the cottage of Mr. Samit.

Looks like the new enemy for this level is a sumo wrestler. That’s another thing that Mortal Kombat never really had. Street Fighter, of course, had E. Honda. Wait, I thought we were in Thailand. Sumo wrestling is pretty much only in Japan. Looks like the Sumo wrestler got me with his Hundred Hand Slap.

Now I’m noticing all this Greco-Roman architecture in the background. I mean, look at these columns. Are we still in Thailand? Or are we back in Italy, where we were a couple of levels ago? I can’t seem to get a fix on the location.

The more you keep playing this game, the easier it gets to deal with all these bad guys. I mean, having to have the Little People and the boxers all on the screen at the same time—that was really difficult when I first came across them, but now? Not so much.

Looks like the next part of this level opens up with the same columns in the background, so we haven’t gotten far.

Hey, cool! It gives you a pair of nunchuku right away. Those should come in handy.

I jumped away just in case that was a bomb. Luckily, it wasn’t!

And I jumped away again, and this time it was. It can be a smart idea just to jump away from the box as soon as you open it.

Cool, got an extra life.

Okay, now how am I supposed to get down from here? Not sure if I should jump over to the left and then back down to the right. Should I stay on the right and go straight down? One wrong move and I’ll land on that bed of spikes and become a shish kebab.

Whew! That was a close call. Thought I was a goner there for a sec.

I just can’t tell you how satisfying it is to be able to use weapons like nunchuku in an old-school Mortal Kombat-type game like this. Just smacking these bad guys in the face and messing ’em up is awesome! Having the extended reach that the nunchuku give you really helps you get through this part a lot easier. You just got to try not getting hit; that way you can hang on to them.

Alice Yang. Pussycat? This sounds like the kind of name they’d give a girl in a James Bond movie. And they’re saying she’s French. But her real name is Alice Yang, that doesn’t sound like a French name to me.

I’ve got to admit, I like her projectile. That actually looks more like a Ring Toss than it does in the actual Mortal Kombat games. Nice work, pirates. If you look closely, you can see that they gave Sonya green hair. Whoops. I know the 8-bit hardware had a pretty restrictive palette, but there are ways around that. Still, there’s no mistaking that’s Sonya. This may look like a classic Mortal Kombat fight, and it’s hard to explain unless you play it for yourself, but it really doesn’t feel like one. There’s no way to go directly after her. Instead we’re both kind of flipping around, hoping to hit each other.

This time you win but next time you will not.

Okay, so it’s been the loser of the fights talking.

But why?

Fist of Fury

He was suspicious with the reason of the death of his teacher. He decided to revenge for his teacher...

All of a sudden, they’re playing the worst music in the entire game. Scratch that, this has got to be the worst music in the entire NES library. Also, apparently we’re now in the jungle for no reason. This level starts out by bringing back a lot of the bad guys who we’re used to seeing. And they also introduce a new one.

Then we get to the very end of the game, right before the final boss. They still have the crappy music from before, but this is probably the most Mortal Kombat-like arena that this game has to offer. That temple that you see in the background pretty much looks exactly like how Liu Kang’s Shaolin temple looks in the Mortal Kombat film.

Since it is the last level, they pretty much throw every single bad guy at you that they’ve had. The sumo wrestlers, the little guys, everybody’s here. It’s kind of like the grand finale. And it’s not easy, but once you’re done, you’re done.

The final boss is Fatek. Also known as Iron Mask Man. It’s weird; they say that his nationality is Middle Eastern, yet he’s clearly wearing a Chinese coolie hat. Well, let’s see what they do with Raiden! Nice to see he’s got his lightning attack. Even though he’s not supposed to be the Thunder God in this game, he still pretty much is. And when I do the “Skill of Fighting” it doesn’t even hurt him that much.

Now that I think about it, I really wish I could do a fireball. Everybody else can do one. It kinda puts you at a disadvantage when everyone else can do projectile attacks, but not you.

And he can do the Torpedo apparently. So he’s got two special moves. That’s all right, because for the rest of the match, I can just use basic moves and I’ll still win.

It’s best for you to stop bothering me.

And then it takes us back to the main menu.

Like I said earlier, we’ll go over the options now.

You can set your number of lives to three, five, or seven.

If we go to Menu, it’ll show us the different moves we can do.

There’s really not much to it. If you press B, you punch. If you press A, you jump. If you press ↓ + B you do a foot sweep. And when you press B + A at the same time, you do the “Skill of Fighting.”

And finally, there’s a Battle Mode. This lets you go straight to the bosses. You can go straight to the fight with Scorpion, Johnny Cage, Kano, Sonya, or Raiden.

So that’s pretty much it for this game. But it’s worth pointing out that there was a hack released one year later.

The hackers altered the name of the company, RINCO, so that it just contains the letters IC. As in, “I see what you did there.”

At the title screen, they let you know that they released this in 1996. We wouldn’t want our customers to be confused and pick up the 1995 version.

There’s some subtle changes. Like the word “Option” has been deleted from the options screen, and they use a different font here.

They messed up the border around the character portraits in the Battle Mode.

And there’s some slight graphical changes to the backgrounds that you wouldn’t even notice unless you’re looking at them side-by-side. But that’s basically all they changed. It’s the same gameplay, the same level design, same everything else.

In general, it’s not a bad game. It’s worth playing through once or twice. I’ve got to say that Liu Kang makes a pretty good stand-in for Bruce Lee. But one thing that does get to me is that the graphics are pretty small. If you look at the Ultimate History of Video Games, by Steven Kent, you’ll read that, “In designing their game, Boon and Tobias wanted to make their combatants as large as possible, while still being small enough to move around the screen freely.” The sprites in this game, on the other hand, were really small.

The musical choices were all over the place, with some of it being really good, and some of it being really crappy.

The plot was also all over the place. It seemed like there was a story, and that they were building up to something. But I have no idea what it was, because there was no ending. There was no payoff. It’s like I fought so hard, and got so far, but in the end it doesn’t even matter. But it’s all right, because I had fun doing it.

I liked being Liu Kang. I think he was a good stand-in for Bruce Lee. I especially liked grabbing nunchuku and smacking people in the face with it. You know, Bruce Lee and Mortal Kombat—they go together like love and marriage. Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but they go together like a horse and carriage.

Anyway, this has been tabmok99 with another video game review. I’ll see you next time!