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Kung Fu Flash The Future Was 8bit model review

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In this video we are checking out the Kung Fu Flash cartridge. The Kung Fu Flash was created by Kim Jorgensen and released as an open project. The model I am reviewing is manufactured by the great The Future Was 8bit at https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/. Other versions exist, but TFW8b is a company I have bought from previously and I know they have excellent quality products.

The Kung Fu Flash essentially loads Commodore 64 and Commodore 128 software on your respective computer. The usable file formats are Cartridge (CRT), Program (PRG, P00) and Disk (D64, D71, D81).

Here’s a list of supported Cartridges: Normal cartridge (8k, 16k, Ultimax), Action Replay v4.x/v5/v6, KCS Power Cartridge, Final Cartridge III(+), Simons’ BASIC, Fun Play, Power Play, Ocean type 1, Epyx Fastload, C64 Game System, System 3, WarpSpeed, Dinamic, Zaxxon, Super Zaxxon, Magic Desk, Domark, HES Australia, Super Snapshot v5, Comal-80, EasyFlash, Freeze Frame and Freeze Machine

Kung Fu Flash Review Video

The Future Was 8bit Website (buy the Kung Fu Flash here) – https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/
KungFuFlash Homepage – https://github.com/
KimJorgensen/KungFuFlash Pi1541 Homepage – https://cbm-pi1541.firebaseapp.com/
Tape Cart SD – https://github.com/KimJorgensen/tapecart

Kung Fu Flash Review (Text)

The Kung Fu Flash was created by Kim Jorgensen and released as an open project. The model I am reviewing is manufactured by the great The Future Was 8bit website. Other versions exist, but TFW 8bit is a company I have bought from previously and I know they have excellent quality products.

The Kung Fu Flash essentially loads Commodore 64 and 128 software on your respective Commodore, we tried it on the standard Commodore 64 and a Commodore 64C. The usable file formats are Cartridge, Program and Disk. Check on screen for the full list as it’s quicker than reading them all out. It works on the Commodore 64 and 128, but one thing to note is that NTSC commodore support is in the experimental stages, so that’s something to be aware of. PAL commodores should not have any issues.

Before we get on to trying it, let’s take a closer look at the cartridge. The cartridge shell is an injection molded case, not 3D printed unlike some others. They  have gone with a lime green case as the main colour for this cartridge. There are some other colours available and you can order a random colour for £5 cheaper if you want to take a chance. Personally I like the lime green colour, it stands out!

The PCB connector is standard expansion sized and is gold edged for best connectivity and longevity. Towards the top are three buttons. Special is used for Cartridge functions such as the Action Replay Freeze feature. Menu will load the Kung Fu Flash menu. And Reset will reset the Commodore.

On the top is a Micro SD card slot. It comes with an 8GB card which contains some free software to get you started. 8GB is plenty of space as files typically range from 40 to 200k baring a handful of cartridge files which can be up to 1MB.

You can get straight into loading games but first I always update to the latest firmware. It is currently on v1.17. You can download the update file from Kim Jorgensen’s github page and copy it over to your Micro SD card.

Lets get it plugged in and booted up!

The first time you power on you will need to press the Menu button to load to load the Menu. After future power ons, it will automatically load the previously installed software. 

Pressing F1 will bring up the help menu. You can use the Commodore arrow keys or a Joystick in port 2  to navigate the menus.

Lets update the firmware to the latest version. You simply navigate to the .UPD file on the Micro SD Card and select it. A message will ask to upgrade or cancel, choose upgrade and within a few seconds your cartridge is bang up to date. Easy!

The menu software allows folders so you can nicely organise everything by category and letter if you wish to. 

You can browse files one by one with the up and down arrow keys, or left and right to skip a page. The page skipping is fast which is great! There is also a search function which is very useful.

To load some software you simply highlight and select a file, and depending on the format it will start to flash or run it.

We will start off with cartridge files as this was my main point of interest in this cartridge. Cartridge files are flashed to the Kung Fu Flash which depending on the size generally takes a few seconds. 

Once flashed, the software will automatically run. As mentioned future powering on will instantly boot to the software.

At any time you can access the Kung Fu menu by pressing the Menu button. Now we will try the largest cartridge file which is 1MB in size, it’s the classic Maniac Mansion. It will take a little longer to flash but don’t forget once it is flashed, it is instant loading with no disk loading wait times.

As well as games, there are many applications that are available on cartridges. So for example you can flash the Action Replay cartridge to the Kung Fu and use it as an action replay. With this you will be able to use the Special button on the cart which would be Freeze on an original action replay cart.

It is worth noting that the Kung Fu can only run one software at a time, so you would not be able to flash Action Replay, then afterwards load a game from the Kung Fu Flash and still have action replay functions. You can however use the cartridge in conjunction with other hardware such as a disk drive which we will come on to later.

Next up we have Program file loading. Like before you simply navigate to a PRG or P zero zero file extension, select it and it will automatically load and run, very fast!

Naturally it will take a little longer than instant flash cartridge loading, but the speeds are very impressive. 

Disk format files require a short extra step when loading. You select a D64, D71 or D81 file and it will then display the file contents of the disc image. You then highlight and select the PRG to load and run.

It is worth noting that not all disk files will work due to the way disk drive emulation is performed. This can be for a number of reasons such as direct hardware access. In some cases this may just be a case of using a different cracked version of the game to resolve it. 

Another note is that disk swapping is not supported. If your software requires loading from multiple discs it simply won’t be possible to swap. It is uncertain if support for this will be added in the future, so for now don’t expect it. 

Now on to some tests to see the performance of loading games.

I will be comparing the Tape Cart SD, Pi1541 Disk Drive Emulator and the Kung Fu Flash, with loading a PRG file as all three devices support this format. In addition we can also test the Kung Fu Flash running as a Epyx Fast Loader cartridge which increases file loading speeds.

The screen is split into four video captures. We have the Kung Fu Flash in top left, Tape Card SD top right and the Pi1541 Normal and with Epyx Fast Loader in bottom left and right respectively.

I have synced up the video to the point where the actual PRG file starts to load and the timer will stop when it stops loading. The Pi1541 emulates a real disc drive so it does not have the automatic run command like the Tape Cart and Kung Fu, so the timer will stop when the READY prompt displays.

Let’s set the scene… Alexa Play Kung Fu Fighting by Carl douglas. 

And let battle commence!

Blink and you miss it. Kung Fu Flash unleashes the fist of fury loading in just 3 seconds.

The Tape Cart SD follows up not long after, loading in 6 seconds.

The pi1541 and kung fu flash running epyx fast loader loads in a reasonable 21 seconds.

While we wait for the normal Pi1541, you can see that Kung Fu flash is extremely fast with the Tape Cart SD not long behind. And a fair bit longer for the Pi1541 with fast loader. Although the Pi1541 is slower, it is worth mentioning that the accuracy and compatibility with disk images is far higher. It emulates the 1541 disk drive at hardware level running on a Raspberry Pi 3 to do so.

And the fight is over, the pi1541 normal was found with a bloody nose limping away with the loading taking 1 minute 46.

So let’s sum everything up and you can get ordering a Kung Fu Flash for yourself. It’s a great addition to any Commodore 64 or 128. While the disk format compatibility is not as high as others, it does have support for Cartridge files which none of the others have. The instant loading is a massive bonus and there are many games and apps converted to cartridge format out there. 

The PRG and D64 loading speeds are also very impressive compared to the others. They won’t all be as fast as three seconds, but the difference in speed can be massive.

Overall I am very happy with the Kung Fu Flash. It will be a permanent resident in my C64 expansion port. I think when used in conjunction with a Pi1541 for example when software is not compatible it will be very handy to use as a fast loader.

If you are interested in the Kung Fu Flash you can find out more details and order one at the Future Was 8bit website.