Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (Hudson Soft/NowPro, 1990)
Any fan of film or martial arts will undoubtedly be familiar with Jackie Chan. His affable, smiling face is synonymous with both modern day action and classic kung-fu mayhem. He was the Fearless Hyena. He fought like 30 dudes with a ladder... accidentally. He does all his own stunts, which is something worth being proud of.
You remember that time he beat up the Prince of Sorcerers?
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu was developed for Hudson Soft by a firm called Now Production in 1990. Now had previously done some work for Bandai and other companies, notably producing a Splatterhouse parody for the Famicom. They would later go on to develop 2 sequels to the popular Adventure Island NES game for Hudson. Now Production (also known as NowPro) also produced the game Yo! Noid, one of the more unfortunate licensed games late in the NES's history.
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is by far NowPro's best effort of the time period. It was released for the NES and for the PC Engine, known as the TurboGrafx-16 here in the West. Both versions are similar in terms of overall appearance and construction; players will note that the Turbo-Grafx 16's version requires a bit more from them, but also has slightly better production value. The TG-16 game offers a decidedly more arcade-like experience, but then, the TG-16 was a bit more advanced than the NES hardware-wise.
Box art for the TG-16 (left) and NES versions.
In either game, you play the role of Chan himself, reigning undisputed kung-fu champion along with your sister Josephine. The story begins when some jerk calling himself the Prince of Sorcerers (who looks oddly like a wing chun style Dracula) zaps you silly and takes off with Josephine. Your quest will lead you through many obstacles and to the Prince's fortress, where you must put a stop to his wicked reign and free your sister.
Luckily, Jackie isn't the kung fu champ for nothing. He's both a prodigious leaper and a skillful combatant, whose normal array of punches and kicks can be supplemented with powerups. These grant limited uses of special moves, usually whirlwind-style kicks or some other acrobatic maneuver. Jackie can also charge up energy in his fist for use as a projectile, not unlike Ryu or Ken from Street Fighter II. Jackie can do it more easily, though; all you have to do is hold the attack button down for a second or two.
Below are some of the scenes of mayhem one can expect when entering the mythical world of Jackie Chan's digital adventure.
Did I mention you get the powerups, as well as rice bowls to refill health, by beating the shit out of cute little frogs?
Despite your wanton cruelty to animals yielding such bounty, the way ahead is still thick with danger. There are five levels in total, although the later levels get quite long. The latter half of each is a sort of fortress or shrine, which contains a boss. Some of the lesser enemies include evil warriors and monks, dragons made of lava, little creatures that hide under massive bowls and throw darts at you, and an assortment of bats, rats, and snakes. The challenge isn't too over the top, but it's appreciable; it bears mentioning that you are straight-up fighting wild tigers in the first level.
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu was fairly well-received by critics of the time, but both versions received higher scores from modern critics looking back. The graphics are obviously nicer on the TG-16, but even the NES cart has good visuals and a great cartoony look. The music for both versions is about the same, and while it's far from classic, it's catchy. I couldn't find a complete rip of the slightly better TG-16 soundtrack to link here, but the NES version's pretty good for 8 bit.
I give Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu 8 out of 10. It's a lot of fun to bounce around and throw moves like a kung fu superstar, and the game is very well thought-out. It was perhaps underrated in 1990, but still holds up well as a fun action title.