Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu Online
Release year: 1990 | Players: 1 player | Developed by Now Production
Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu (NES)
Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu (AKA ジャッキー・チェン Jakkī Chen, Jackie Chan in Japan) is a 2D side-scrolling action platform video game developed by Now Production and released for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) in 1990 by Hudson Soft.
Wait, a Jackie Chan game for the 8-bit NES? And a genuine, honest-to-goodness Hudson Soft one at that, released in the US to boot? It may have taken 1995’s Rumble in the Bronx for good old Jackie to establish a fanbase in the US, but he has already made a name for himself elsewhere. That, plus his penchant for impressive martial arts and stunts, would make him a good platformer hero – all there is now is for someone to step up to the challenge.
Good thing the bee has what it takes, then – the game is one of those buried gems, hidden underneath both obscurity and a relatively late release date. Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu is a video game injected with some of the artist’s famed slapstick style, an attempt at porting over his fighting prowess to gamers everywhere. And if that is what the developers aimed for, then they have succeeded in a way.
The plot of Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu is told with exactly zero words in the game’s intro, and it involves a sorcerer snatching Jackie’s martial arts partner Josephine, hoping to force China to submit through the loss of one of their mightiest warriors. Unfortunately for him, Jackie wanted no trouble – and now he’s going to set off to prove exactly why giving him some trouble is a terrible idea.
Not that any of that happened in any of his movies, much less his actual life. Minus the last part, that is.
First things first: the art of Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu for the NES is charming, to say the least. Jackie Chan himself has a large and expressive sprite, complete with anime facial expressions. From his grim determination as he trudges onward to his charming smile while standing still – and yes, his every punch, kick, and stylized move – whoever designed his sprite must have considered it a labor of love. Even dying is a bit of a treat; whether he messes up an encounter versus an enemy or burns his butt in lava, the death animation associated with the error is always reminiscent of his outtakes.
This extends to the rest of Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, too; the sprites in general are just that large. The artstyle feels sufficiently Chinese-inspired, though the choice of enemy sometimes breaks that immersion (seriously, kappas?). The variety of environments keeps the experience fresh, ranging from cloudy plains to snowy mountains to fiery caverns and icy caves.
The gameplay, meanwhile, is fairly simple, yet at the same time straightforward. You have a punch, a kick, and a jump, plus a limited number of special moves and fireb… no, Psycho Waves. The former you get more of by punching frogs, while the latter can only be refilled normally by collecting 30 of the occasionally-dropped orbs. Jackie has but a single life to give, but six hit points and the ability to recover all of them by picking up soup from punched frogs is more than enough.
The five (lengthy) levels are quite varied in layout, and though the game rarely deviates from “head to the right or upward and kick anyone who disagrees”, the game finds ways to keep that interesting. What may have been simple vertical platform-hopping, for instance, is made into a race to the top with the addition of rising lava, and directions do change mid-level. Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu could stand to gain a couple more levels, however; as it is, it just falls short of feeling like a complete adventure.
Furthermore, bonus levels help break up Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu a bit, with each main level having a different one. From cloud-hopping to inverse Breakout, each one has a different condition for earning points – points that may be spent to buy more Psycho Waves, a health refill, or even extra continues from the initial five.
That much help may not be all that useful, however, as Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu for the NES is on the easy side of things. Enemies pose little threat to Jackie, taking maybe three kicks at most to defeat. The platforming can be fairly tricky, but patience and a deft hand can keep you well ahead of the spikes and pits. Even the boss fights are fairly easy, especially with a full stock of special moves and Psycho Waves. About the only actual challenge is, fittingly, the final boss – starting off as essentially a fight against a copy of yourself and ending with a freefall fight against a magic-spewing spider. A shame, as said boss is fairly well-executed if a little lacking arena-wise.
The upbeat music does help alleviate the bit of tedium that may have creeped in, however. Nearly every area has its own music, though there are shared tracks – particularly those for the auto-scrolling sections. The composition is fresh, and the tracks fairly good. Nothing quite sticks to mind, however, and the final area suffers a bit for deviating from the hopeful tone the rest of the game follows.
What’s the verdict on this piece of obscurity? Well, as easy, somewhat repetitive, and fairly short as it is, it definitely has its fundamentals down to pat. You’re not getting the whole Jackie Chan action film deal, but that in itself is a monumental task – and in spite of that, Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu manages to capture at least a bit of his charm.
Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu game has been ported to the NES (this version), and NEC PC Engine.