So I don’t know about you but I love the martial arts. I do not practice any myself (grew up more a brawler than anything else when it came to fighting) but the spiritualism, history, athleticism and potential mystery of the martial arts is something that I love and respect. The fact that I grew up watching the Kung Fu tv series, and first encountered Chinese Wuxia films at a young age may have something to do with it, but needless to say that love has even crept into my gaming. Any time I can build a skilled empty hand fighter, I appreciate.
So lets fall back to 1987. By now my parents had figured out that I was into these games and it held no suprise for them when I put two that I had seen in a Dragon magazine add on my list. Teenagers from Outer Space and Ninjas and Superspies. (Yeah I was in highschool and doing a christmas list for my family, hells we still do it more for the tradition than anything else.) I got both games and my first copy of Akira for christmas that year. And in loving the martial arts I dove right in. Having played Palladium games before I was not surprised to see how the engine worked, what did surprise me was the number of martial arts in the book. I had heard of a few of them, and a couple more had popped up in movies, but the fact that there were over forty in the book, just blew my mind.
I took some time to make up my first character, and not wanting to spoil the moment too badly instead of using the published villains I grabbed some bad guys out of some other Palladium games (Rick Hunter from Robotech, a super out of Heroes Unlimited, and Casey Jones from the TMNT rpg) and proceeded to see just who’s butt a martial artist could kick. I took into account bad rolls later but this first level character walked through them all. A Dedicated Martial Artist with Thai Kickboxing and Tiger style Kung Fu, at level one, walked through a 5th level supervillian, a fifth level turtle ally, and a fighter pilot with guns. Blew, my, mind. I was actually in college before I got to play an actual game session with just the Ninjas and Superspies rules, but I did manage to sneak a couple into Heroes Unlimited and Rifts games along the way. And I can honestly say that until the Revised edition of N&S came out those characters were about as over powered as you could get. In their own setting, by themselves, they needed every bit of the power they could get. But as nearly every other game Palladium put out had very limited martial arts, and no defense against Chi powers, if you payed attention you could mow down just about anything with a well min maxed martial artist.
So with all that in mind lets get to the ratings…
Fluff – Overall there is really very little fluff in the original book. More got added later when Palladium started publishing the Rifter magazine, and they added more when they put out the supplementary book Mystic China, but really when you look at the book there is very little that gives you setting fluff. The martial arts have brief descriptions but not really enough to give you a sense of style. And the material about being a super spy just comes across as something you will need to back up your crunch.
Overall Fluff Score – 1 It has color but it is weak on style.
Crunch – Ok so this is not a really big book. Not even 200 pages, and it is fluff lite. So you know what that means right? CRUNCHY. Rules and mechanics for just about anything. Character classes that are organized well by type and broken down to the last detail. Chi rules that dont feel like they are going to break the bank, and really they dont (unless you are playing Rifts then they break everything). The rules are solid and for a level based system that does not allow for multi classing it has good options that you can play with and not get stuck with only one type of any character class.
Overall Crunch Score – 4 Detailed and usable but only just so many options.
Mod – So in my experience there is very little you can do to directly mod any Palladium game. You can add more material, giving you more options. But actually changing stuff around in the rules to make something new or strange out of what is already there, not all that easy. However with the number of options that they have published over the years, if you cannot figure out how to make what you want within the rules, you need a little better imagination.
Overall Mod Score – 2 You can create new things but altering the existing is a pain.
Fun – So in case you have not figured it out modding the hell out of a game is one of my big fun points. However in this game you get martial arts, lots of them. You get a lot of ways to use them. You can go mystical or you can go James Bondish and everything inbetween. The rules are done in a way that you can put the martial arts in any other game system that Palladium does (Oh yeah its a hoot to have to face off against zombies with Drunken Monkey Kung Fu in Beyond the Supernatural or to see if your Veritech can keep up when you are going all out with Karate in the pilots seat.) So really on its own, if you like martial arts movies or kung fu cop movies or the lower end supers movies (and books dont forget the books) and you like level based game engines, yeah this is a lot of fun.
Overall Fun Score – 4 You can do a lot and have a lot of fun with this game. Just enough that you cant though…
Total Score 11/20
Personally I thought that I was going to rate this one higher considering it is still on my shelves and I still reference it, but as I did the review I realized that I was using it more to add martial arts to other Palladium games than I was to play it on its own… so the score reflects that reality.
Ok end of review 2…
Gimme the dice I need to make an ax kick to a Buick.