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Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (NES) artwork

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (NES) review

"This isn't the port you're looking for."

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is a fantastic game. But this port isn’t. This NES version is still a good game; but I was spoiled by the Turbografx-16 version, which is one of Hudson Soft’s finest cutesy 2D platformers -- one of the era’s finest, really. Besides the expected shortcomings a head-to-head between the two reveals on the NES side of the ledger: comparatively washed out graphics, simplified music, and Jackie’s funny vocal outbursts wholly omitted -- this inferior iteration is quite a bit harder, for the wrong reasons, and harder to like.

But let's start from the beginning. Josephine, who is Jackie's twin sister and his equal in martial arts expertise, has been kidnapped by the sworn enemy of their master Gouken. The idea is that the twins won't be able to stand up to 'the Sorcerer's' power when separated, a la Tomax and Xamot. Jackie meditates at the master's feet before beginning his crucial undertaking to rescue Josephine. Oddly enough, the Turbografx version casts Josephine as Jackie's helpless girlfriend instead of as a badass in her own right. For shame.

Anyway, off you go through temples patrolled by whip-bearing hares, through firebird-guarded caves, navigating rock platforms that crumble precariously above scorching lava. We have an obligatory snow level, a level in the sky lorded over by a sickly pink giant cyclops. Luckily, in the midst of constant danger, your friendly neighbourhood frog will always be nearby to punch in the face for vitality-restoring fruit, or limited-use kick power ups, which run the gamut from the 180 or 360 degree spinning types, to the cannonball and up-kick varieties.

Hidden bonus rounds reveal themselves when you’re close by with a faint ringing sound, compelling you to frantically kick around where you heard the noise to uncover the bell that whisks you away. Once you've arrived safely in bonus round land, cloud bouncing, wood man bludgeoning, or fish punching beneath a waterfall, are all quirky tests available to you. Do well and earn back lost vitality and extra continues -- you'll need both, but especially the latter, as Jackie has only one life and a handful of continues to see his mission through.

It bears mentioning that in this NES version, the bonus rounds are harder to find; the aural cues are more difficult to pick up and the bells are less likely for you to simply stumble upon. It seems a small thing, but it isn't, when the spoils of a successful bonus round offer such crucial assistance. That said, what's considerably more damaging to your chances, is the duration of your invincibility window after taking damage: essentially zero seconds. In the Turbografx version of the game, you can take a hit and while Jackie is flashing to register the damage, negotiate yourself to safety. That's not the case here. Instead, the first hit will inevitably be followed by others in rapid succession until likely death. The message is: don’t get into trouble or you probably won’t recover.

Maybe the developers were aware of these unhelpful differences, because they saw fit to include a 99-continue not-so-secret-if-it's-in-your-operation-manual secret code. That's right -- you didn't even have to comb through your latest issue of GamePro magazine to come upon this challenge-compromising trick. Hudson gave it to you in the manual as a bandaid of sorts. Granted, the trick does its job, as it permits you more opportunities to work through the tougher, later stages, but an invincibility window tweak would have been much preferred.

And so, Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is not quite that story of an exceptional game compromised badly during its trip from more powerful system to weaker one. Not quite. It is compromised, and some of that is down to the inferior hardware, but some of it is down to some poor programming decisions, and the result isn't a bad game -- the game is still pretty good -- but with the existence of a definitive version, this competent NES port feels obsolete.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (September 30, 2018)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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EmP posted October 07, 2018:

I really need to sit down and remake that flying Jacky in the NES sprite rather than let you use the TG16 one. But work, urgh.

That banner's still killing it, though. Any more Jacky Chan games for you to abuse next year?

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