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Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (NES) artwork

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (NES) review

"Itís entirely possible that this game isnít based on the real life of Jackie Chan."

I really donít understand how Jackie Chanís Action Kung Fu for the NES even exists. Sure, Chan was a household name overseas, and it stands to reason that young Japanese gamers would have been familiar enough with the martial arts action star to warrant a Famicom game. However, this game was brought to America in 1990, a full five years before the movie ďRumble in the BronxĒ would be released and catapult Chan into the North American mainstream. I donít know why or how this game made it to the United States, but I sure am glad it did.

Jackie and his twin sister Josephine were the best kung fu fighters in China. They protected the land with their martial arts mastery, under the watchful eye of their master. One day, their masterís arch-nemesis decided to take revenge by abducting Josephine. With one half of Chinaís heroic protectors missing, it falls to Jackie to defeat the evil sorcerer and restore balance to the land.

Itís entirely possible that this game isnít based on the real life of Jackie Chan.

Jackie Chanís Action Kung Fu is your typical action/platform game, but it looks unlike anything Iíve seen on the NES. Simply put, the characters on-screen are huge, and Jackie himself dwarfs most NES video game stars of the time. Just as the man steals the show in his movies, the virtual version of Jackie Chan radiates charm and personality. The game has a decidedly anime-influenced art style, and Chan sports a cocky grin that turns into frowny determination when he navigates the tricky jumps during his adventure. Even dying has a certain degree of finesse to it; instead of falling off of the screen, Chan falls on his back, as if he messed up one of his legendary movie stunts.

As one would expect, Jackie Chanís attacks have just a bit of flash to them. While his basic moves are typical punches and jump kicks, various power-ups give him techniques that would require liberal use of movie magic to pull off. These extra moves have a finite amount of uses, but most of the enemies in the game only require a couple hits to take down, so these special attacks (like a wicked whirlwind kick) can be saved for the big bosses. Additionally, Jackie can throw a fireball by holding the attack button down to charge, which can be replenished through mini-games or by collecting enough of the orbs that drop from fallen enemies. Oh, and when it comes time to sweep the leg, Jackie does so with style.

I have to take a moment to highlight the bonus stages in the game. When Jackie comes across a bell (which usually requires being in the correct spot in a level), he will be transported to a bonus area where he can perform a special task to earn points. These points are then traded in for items at the end of the level, and succeeding in these stages is crucial to completing the game. I was impressed with the fact that each bonus stage was unique, instead of being recycled for every level. One stage may task Jackie with hopping along a series of clouds, while my favorite one involved playing a reverse game of Breakout, where Jackie needed to deflect balls that would chip away at his platform if he didnít take them out. These inventive levels added a lot of flavor to an already fun game.

The variety seen in the bonus stages can also be found throughout each level. Although the game only spans five stages, each one is lengthy. Jackie only has one life, but can earn continues in the bonus levels, which is why playing them well is so important. Each level of Action Kung Fu can traverse a multitude of different environments, and even though the enemies pose little threat to Jackie, utilizing precise jumping skills is a must. It was nice to see the levels switch from horizontal to vertical traversal on the fly, and some sections actually play like an early ancestor to the popular ďrunnerĒ games seen on iOS and Android mobile platforms. Combine the lengthy levels with the inventive bonus stages and some screen-filling boss battles and you have a game that stays fresh and never wears out its welcome.

My real problem was that I found myself wanting more from Jackie Chanís Action Kung Fu. Yes, the levels are long, but I would have loved to have about twice as many of them. This game is seldom challenging, to the point of being a breezy affair thatís over too soon. The first time I played this game I nearly got to the final boss battle, and I can easily imagine a scenario where I finish the adventure without even dying. It wouldnít take much practice, and as fun and delightful as this game is, I can finish it in less time than it takes to view one of Jackieís movies.

Jackie Chanís Action Kung Fu is a fun diversion for the brief time that it lasts. The game is bright and full of personality, the platforming is spot on, and the levels are inventive.I wish it was a little longer and more challenging, but that doesn't stop me from replaying some of my other cherished NES games, and I will surely play this one again.


AlphaNerd's avatar
Freelance review by Julian Titus (June 20, 2013)

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