For as much as I lament the Turbo Grafx-16’s library for its overabundance of shooters it’s not because of a lack of games in other genres, it’s because they were terrible. Fans of platformers were especially screwed as they had to watch Sega and Nintendo practically reinvent the genre every year with new Sonic and Mario sequels. Sure Bonk’s Adventure and Revenge were good games but after that pickings were slim. You sure as hell don’t see anyone clamoring for a Bravoman remake. Hudson’s Jackie Chan Action Kung-Fu was an excellent game on the NES and was given a makeover when ported and although it stumbles in a few spots it’s still an excellent game.
The first thing you’ll notice is the huge graphical upgrade. Thanks to its cartoony art style the game worked well within the NES’s limitations to produce one of the system’s better looking games. That same style remains but is now full of detail. The animation has been overhauled and now all characters sport multiple facial expressions aside from Jackie Chan. To facilitate the improved animation the sprites are much larger with some undergoing a heavy redesign now that it’s on more powerful hardware. The sprites in the NES version were pretty large as is but now they’re bigger and better animated.
The backgrounds more so than the sprites have seen the largest upgrade. As much as I liked the NES game’s look it couldn’t avoid the occasional flat background or garish color scheme. Now the game literally bursts with color and the back drops have an almost painterly quality to them. There’s the occasional layer of parallax scrolling which wasn’t too common on the Turbo which is nice but it does make the ones that are flat seem lacking I comparison.
From a mechanics perspective the same great gameplay applies here. Jackie Chan is armed with a few basic punch and jump kick and has access to a multitude of other martial moves that are limited in supply. These moves are incredibly powerful and though limited in stock you can usually find a frog who will cough up more or even new items at a steady rate. Aside from the various kicking techniques you can actually perform a Hadoken for a ranged attack although these are even more supply constrained.
It’s once you get to the actual level design that things have changed. The game is still comprised of five levels except each level is significantly longer and not in a good way. On the plus side there are a few new bosses to fight which is excellent as the boss encounters are one of the highlights of the game. Rather than create new extensions for each level most of the time the designers simply repeat the same stretches of scenery and stage elements, a fact that is very evident. The pacing of the NES game was near perfect in my opinion and this change really hurts the game. The levels are heavily padded and only serve to highlight the lack of interesting enemies to fight in most cases. If they were set on increasing the game’s length they would have been better served creating new stages rather than extending the current ones. On the plus side there are a few new bosses to fight which is excellent as the boss encounters are one of the highlights of the game.
A few more gameplay tweaks make this a much more difficult game than its NES counterpart. Most enemies now take a few hits to kill and there are more populating each level. In the NES game collecting fifty orbs would instantly replenish your health but now that number has doubled. It’s a stupid change since it will take you nearly two levels to gain 100 orbs; some enemies won’t drop any while the more powerful enemies like the tigers and dragons drop several. Refiling the life bar through orbs made up for the scarcity of life restoring soup and now you can’t even rely on that. You only have one life and four continues and gaining more will require you to excel at the various bonus games.
I can appreciate Hudson’s attempt at adding some new elements to the game rather than simply producing a straight port. But most of the changes made were not for the better. Luckily the game is still strong enough to overcome that and is one of the best pure platformers for the system.