Sedentary kung-fu isn’t really Jackie’s style.
PUBLISHER: Hudson Soft
DEVELOPER: Now Production
RELEASE DATE: December 1990
Jackie Chan’s a fighting machine. So many bones broken, so many stunts performed. The guy’s still going in his early 60s. Yup, Jackie Chan is awesome, and surprisingly, so is his NES game. With such a generic title as Action Kung-Fu and Hudson Soft’s reputation as a solid, if not spectacular developer, I was expecting mediocre poo-doo, like “The Karate Kid” (2010). Instead, I’m treated with solid gold, like “The Legend of the Drunken Master” or “Police Story 2.” Yes, the game really is as fun as his classics.
Ok, maybe Action Kung-Fu isn’t as great as the old Jackie Chan films where everyone speaks Cantonese and kicks insane amounts of butt, BUT it’s one of the best platformers I’ve played in a fortnight, thanks to the variety in level design, incredible controls, and one of the best soundtracks never mentioned on a “best soundtrack” list.
- Let’s start with the latter and work our way forward. Action Kung Fu‘s music deserves to be up there with the Castlevania and Mega Man series. Here’s why:
I couldn’t write about music theory to save my life, but there are some complex rhythms and melodies being laid down in a mere two minutes. Or not. Either way, it’s a thrilling composition. Sometimes I forget why I appreciate 8-bit music as much as I do. I wonder why every soundtrack can’t be as fantastic as Contra‘s or Mega Man 2. This is why I’m grateful to have heard this. It was truly a pleasure to dismantle flying fish and angry monks to these tunes.
As for the controls, Jackie Chan controls nearly as tightly as our friend Mario. Mario games, for the record, have the tightest controls out of any platformer, so this is a huge compliment to Hudson Soft’s programmers. Any time Mr. Chan flailed about and got hit, it was almost always my fault. Another plus: when Jackie does get hit, he doesn’t fly backwards a few feet like the Belmonts or Mega Man.
- There are only five levels, but each one is a fairly decent length and filled with things to do. One section in Level 2 has the screen closing in on Jackie, while he jumps from platform to platform avoiding spikes, enemies, and the like. Another has Jackie racing down a log on a river whilst killing more enemies and avoiding falling off. Others are just straightforward platforming goodness, like ascending a cave, bouncing from crumbling platform to platform while lava rushes up from below. Jackie handles it all with his trademark humor and penchant for snapping necks. Perhaps the game’s one true flaw is its difficulty, as you could easily finish it in an afternoon. Still, an afternoon with Jackie Chan is one well spent or so I’ve been told.