Now, this is a review long-time coming. Spurred by a recent Who Wins Wednesday? (as of writing; Kung Fu (NES) Vs. Kung Fu Kid (SMS), for clarification), it was about damn time I got on it, in complete truth. It's a game I didn't have the opportunity as a kid to own, but one I would have surely adored – on a console that was equally out of reach. At least, in terms of the port that's up for review.
Of course, as the header gives away; I'm chatting about Jackie Chan's Action Kung-Fu on the PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16. Originally released in 1990 for the NES in North America, come 1991 it hit the shelves in Japan for those lucky PCE owners (1992 in the States). Developed by Now Production (the folks responsible for Bravoman and the bulk of the Splatterhouse series; among a host of porting duties) and of course published by the wonderful people at Hudson Soft.
For some clarification on as to why exactly a Who Wins.. would inspire this review, that is simple: Kung Fu on the NES (also known as Kung Fu Master) was Spartan X in Japan, working as a tie-in to the Jackie Chan film classic Wheels on Meals. See, it all makes sense! This also shows that ol' Jackie (at least in pixel form) wasn't any sort of stranger to the video game format. He would later appear in further games, too! These would come to include the likes of The Kung-Fu Master: Jackie Chan by Kaneko (which he produced) and Jackie Chan Stuntmaster on the PS1. But those are for another review or two. Alas, back to Action Kung-Fu – or, the review…
The story is an original one, at least in the sense it's not directly tied to any of Chan's flicks, but certainly not in the sense of being horrendously unique. As the game is ultimately an action-platformer, the story serves as the typical fodder for the genre. Jackie's sister is taken by the big bad (the Prince of Sorcerers), thus China's most popular hero must seek blessing from the Abbott and spring into action, literally feet first, to get her back and restore the game-worlds equilibrium. Now, I'm pretty sure Jackie Chan doesn't have a real life twin sister, so the universe of the game is instantly as fictional as the plot itself. Yet screw realism, this be a vidya game, dammit!!
The game itself functions very well, at least for my personal tastes. Controls are tight and responsive, which is a necessity for the genre as there's nowt worth than feeling cheated on a poor jump. The overall level design is decent, but nothing truly spectacular and admittedly a tad repetitive at times. Must be noted however that there are moments (however slight) of MegaMan-itis – that is with enemy placement – which can damage a good run of form every now and then, yet nothing muscle-memory can't fix. The 'world' is shown via an old scroll between levels which is a nice touch, in my opinion. Apparently level design is where this (the PCE) version and that on the NES differ significantly, but I honestly haven't played that version at least not for any true length of time, so take it as you will. Beyond the 5 main levels, there's also bonus stages; these help tremendously in having a chance to rack up more lives. You're going to need them!
Enemies are rather varied, but differ only slightly (bar ones like the bloomin' tigers) in terms of amount of hits needed before defeat. Attack patterns outside the bosses are mostly: “Hey, let's run at 'im”. It's like they're rushing to receive a fist and foot of excruciating pain. You as the player can only oblige. It wouldn't be polite not to, after all. Whether you're kicking frogs in the face for super move orbs, or mowing down gangs of weapon wielding twins; it sure is satisfying to bring the pain in this one. Well, it was for me. Maybe I'm a sadist when it comes to cartoon violence? Whatever the case, it's perfect pick up and play material here.
The bosses are all rather unique and pretty darn cool. Often huge, other times just plain evil. Whether it's riding the hands of a giant statue thing to smack it in the head, or a giant spider which creeps me out even in sprite-form; you can tell the devs were having a bit of fun.
I'd argue that there should be more combo's in the Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu, if only to set it more a part from the competition in the gameplay department at least. The super moves that are available are pretty cool and the screen-clearing (almost) attacks do the dirty with ease, so again; it's no complaints in the department of functionality. Just...I dunno. May leave you wanting even more. Everything's pretty much in orb form, too – in terms of garnering the various spinning kicks of death and destruction, etc. from the froggies (Big The Cat wouldn’t approve). Collect other orbs from (the majority of) fallen foes which'll help you out in other ways and they're all in abundance here.
It's far from the hardest game on the system, not even of its genre on the PCE, but; you will be seeing that twitching Jackie Chan animation a fair few times. It took me a good few attempts before I got anywhere of note, to be honest. I could just suck at the game, as that's about right with a great many titles. Although, I do feel it's safe to say you wont be getting deep into it on a first run. As with others of the genre, though: time, patience and practice, young grasshopper. You'll be beating baddies in no time. It kicks you off with just the one life, but there is a lifebar that can be replenished via the orbs. You also get handed five continues from the off, which is nice; but fear not if you need more – again, them sassy cloud-jumping bonus stages will sort you out.
Technically speaking, there are no real boundaries being bulldozed down with Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu. But what NOW and Hudson give us is a vibrant, cartoonish world befitting of the title character and his martial arts-comedy roots. The sprite work and animations are wonderfully anime like, with Chan really looking like a spot-on caricature of him at the time. I love it! Every little thing is distinguishable and most of all fun, really hitting home on what you're getting yourself into from the off. I love it! True enough, the backgrounds at times can be a little sparse and I'd even go to say it could do with a little “Genesis Does”-like scrolling at points. But overall its an admirable effort, on par with Bonk or Adventure Island at the very least.
The music for this little gem was scored by the man responsible for the likes of Adventure Island 3 (on the NES), which should give you a good idea of what it sounds like. The music is downright awesomely catchy and will have you humming along in no time at all. Much like the cartoon appearance of the graphical styling, the music matches just as well to complete the atmosphere. There's also speech samples woven within the game, which has Chan shouting and screaming like a mad man as he flies into battle.
All in all, Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is a game well worth your time if you fancy something familiar feeling without being a downright clone on the PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16. As far as licenses go, this is one that does the subject proud and should satisfy the majority of retrobates out there, too; making it somewhat of a home run. There's far worse out there and while it's not the best example of pushing the limits of the system, it does the job and does it well. I like it. You should, too. End of, really.
Verdict:- If you love the PC-Engine (or TurboGrafx-16) and Jackie Chan - well, that's a unique enough combo that this game exists to cater to! I mean, there's very little else on offer in that very specific regard.
So, yes. This gets two thumbs up and a full Olly023 approval. Now, you may look at the above number score and be all: "ya but it aint 10/10"... Not everything needs to be, doofus. Plus, I rarely ever (if ever at all) rate things that darn high. Yes, it's a mostly average affair, but knocks it out the park with how it carries itself.
I say go give Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu a play. As Bubsy would say: "what could possibly go wrong?"
Second Opinion:- Transbot would obviously Type D the heck out of this fleshy wannabe in real life, let alone in a video game!!!
Alas, Transbot approves of the game nonetheless. Transbot also approves of Jackie Chan and the PC-Engine. Slightly less whacky than Bonk, a smidgen more interesting than Adventure Island (WAR WONDER BOY!)...
Yeah, we'll let Olly slide on this one. For now. Bzzt.
Transbot Scores:- 7 out of 10
Name: JC's Action Kung Fu
Format: NES/PCE (Reviewed)
Region Reviewed: J-NTSC
Year of Release: 1990/1