It’s kind of a mystery to me as to why the games starring Jackie Chan aren’t very popular. Not only is he one of the most bad ass action movie stars of all time but his goofy persona lends itself well to nearly any setting you can imagine. Even prior to his debut in American cinema those who traded tapes of Hong Kong Cinema knew, this guy is the truth. I’d have thought everyone would have scrambled for all things Jackie Chan at the height of his popularity but that simply isn’t the case when it comes to his games. Which is a shame as Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu is one of the best NES games you’ve never heard of.
Jackie Chan and his twin Josephine are the premier martial artists in China and have taken it upon themselves to protect the land, from robbers to evil magicians. Josephine is kidnapped by the Prince of Sorcerers, beginning the trek up the mountain to save here. That could easily have been the plot to one of his movies and you’d never bat an eye. There had been many games starring Jackie Chan for numerous Japanese PCs however this would be America’s first taste of what the action star had to offer.
Released in 1990 Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu is somewhat obscure even in this day and age. I remember seeing commercial’s for the game and wondering who the hell is Jackie Chan and why does he have his own game? Little did I know that it is without question one of the best NES games of all time and Hudson Soft’s best game for the system. Forget tripe like Adventure Island, this is the real deal.
The game’s greatest asset is its variety. The standard arsenal of punches, kicks, and sweep kicks are supplemented by a Hadoken (well, Psycho Wave) that can be used a limited number of times per level. Punching the frogs scattered throughout the levels will award you a number of power-ups including health and extra lives but more importantly one of four special moves. Most of these are different variations of spin kick but they do serve multiple purposes. While some like the Sky attack are highly situational its irrelevant as they also grant temporary invincibility while the move is performed. For the less coordinated gamers out there you can possibly spam them during boss fights. (*hint, hint*)
The level design keeps pace with the gameplay and thrusts you into many different situations to keep you on your toes. While the enemy list consists of mostly animals the random bandits and such exhibit a ton of variety in their attack patterns. Although the game is only 5 levels long each is the perfect length, not to long that it becomes tedious but not so short that you don’t have time to enjoy the mechanics.
There’s a ton of variety cram into each individual stage. At any given moment a normal march from point A to B will morph into a forced scrolling segment that will put your platforming skills to the test. There’s definitely a heavy emphasis on platforming and in conjunction with the pitch perfect controls are a Mario fans dream. Boss battles can be challenging but with the previously mentioned tactic of hoarding special moves can be completely cheesed through.
The graphics are highly stylized yet still exhibit a startling amount of detail. Jackie Chan’s sprite is one of the larger on the NES and has a ton of different animations, from burning his ass to his exaggerated death drop. Even something as simple as the change in facial expression from walking to standing still is noticeable. The overall graphic design is heavily Asian influenced, albeit jazzed up with modern accoutrements such as elevators and conveyor belts on the last level. It reminds me of Conquest of the Crystal Palace, another game you should run out and buy right now. The bosses are screen filling monsters that while an impressive feat do sometimes cause flickering. The music is also has the same influence and is fantastic. This is definitely a late era NES game and it shows
What more needs to be said? Criminally underrated and often overlooked Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu is a blast and should be purchased by any fan of action and platforming games. Don’t let the stylized anime look dissuade you and miss out on one of the NES’s finest games.