Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu – NES
Developer: Now Production
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Release Date: December 1990
Reviewed by ChronoSloth
It’s April’s Foolish Games time at Nerd Bacon this month, and I’ve admittedly been seeking out games that sound like they suck to entertain our readers. I haven’t been searching based on review scores of the titles, I’ve been going on names alone (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes didn’t disappoint). So when I saw ” Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu “, I was sure I was about to play some unfinished, barely functioning, ugly game released in the hopes of selling on the world’s silliest kung fu stunt master. Damn, was I wrong. Like, falling from a clock tower, through two canopies and landing on my neck, wrong.
Jackie Chan is known for his physical conditioning, his sense of humor, his incredible bravery, and for going on adventures that require him to punch birds, roundhouse kick flying skulls, traverse crumbling platforms in volcanoes, taming tigers with his fists, and knocking ability granting orbs and health restoring bowls of noodles out of frogs. All of these real life exploits are present in the game, true to Jackie Chan’s daily activities. In the game, Jackie’s sister is kidnapped by the Prince of Sorcerers, and its up to the legendary stuntmaster to jump and punch through 5 levels and bosses to rescue her. I actually missed the intro the first time, as its only shown if you wait around on the title screen and I was ready to hurricane kick sorcerer ass. If you don’t yell “TATSUMAKI SEPPUKU” every time you use the spin kick power up, you’re not playing right.
Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu is a beautiful game. Detailed and varied backgrounds combined with sprites that range from amusing and cute to completely awesome. Jackie himself is hilariously expressive, with a stern determination when you walk, to eyes bugging out with limbs extended upon death. The animations for special attacks are also well done and feel great to land. Enemies may not look intimidating, but if they were, they wouldn’t fit the game’s cartoony aesthetic. Enemies are unique and memorable, from the guy with the staff trying to poke you from the bottom of the platforms, to the spider boss you fight while riding on a cloud, and that is what’s important.
Being a fairly difficult game, it’s vital that the game’s music isn’t grating, and luckily we’re looking at just the opposite. The game’s sound design is just incredible. I’ve never played a NES action platformer with music this catchy and pleasant. I enjoyed the Prologue, Stage 2 Theme, and Final Battle theme the most. There are sound effects for all of your punches and kicks that really give them weight, and enemies explode into nothingness with a satisfying noise as well. The “thump” of hitting an enemy in this game never gets old.
As an action platformer, or platformer/beat ’em up hybrid, Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu consists of jumping from platform to platform and destroying or avoiding enemies. You have the ability to jump, punch, crouch, low kick while crouching, fast-fall through the air using the down button, hold the attack button to charge a limited number of projectile attacks, and you can also collect orbs that allow you to use advanced techniques like roundhouse kicks, backflip kicks, and the TATSUMAKI SEPPUKU. You can execute all of the commands in rapid succession, and the game doesn’t give you any weird dedicated jumps like certain games where you’re locked into a certain trajectory. Jackie controls as fluidly as a character in a fighting game. The five levels all have different themes, and you’ll find yourself in a volcano, jumping from cloud to cloud and punching fish in bonus levels, riding on logs to travel down a river, and in dark ruins lit only by enemy torches (don’t kill them). The locales and enemies are varied and you’ll never get bored of a single one area in your playthrough.
Some may be frustrated by the game’s level of challenge. Of course, this is subjective and some players enjoy games that put them through their paces. I wouldn’t say the game is as hard as some on the NES, but you’ll definitely see the title screen quite a bit. You’re given six hit points at maximum, and losing them means game over. You’ll lose these hit points very quickly if you’re careless, as enemies don’t die when they hit you, you don’t fly back 50 feet as you do in Ninja Gaiden, and you only have a few frames of invincibility after being touched by a foe. This means if you’re hit by a bird almost at the spot where he turns around on the screen, you’re out two hit points when he does a u-turn and flies back through you. However, you’re given a fair number of continues that will start you back on the same part of the level you died on. More continues can be earned through bonus levels. So while you may have a hard time at first mastering the use of power ups, charge attacks, and attacking with precision, finding all the secret areas and doing well in them will have you ready to beat the game.
Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu is definitely a hidden gem in the NES library. I’d never even heard of the game before, and it’s instantly become one of my favorite in the system’s library. It achieves what few games to this day strive for with completely harmony in all aspects of design. The only negative thing I have to say about it is that the invincibility you’re given after being hit is a bit too short. The difficulty may run a few players away, but this is a game that is enjoyed more with practice. Unlike many hard NES games, the ending is worth playing towards as well. This game should be in every NES owner’s library. In looking up Jackie Chan quotes to have some kind of clever ending to this review, I’ve found that Jackie Chan’s love for puppies and caffeine make him and I kindred spirits. So I’ll leave you with this.
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