Believe it or not, Jackie Chan is the perfect metaphor for what is wrong with gaming. Despite decades of technological improvements, motion sensing controllers, internet multiplayer, blast processing and every other buzz term you can think of, nobody has yet to recreate Jackie Chan's athletic abilities. Even today, gamers are limited to only a few moves and very little interaction with the backgrounds.
That's not what happens when you watch a classic Jackie Chan movie. Here's a guy that would run up a wall, grab onto the railing, swing over to a moving car, bust out a multi-hit combo, backflip to the sidewalk, pick up a broom and spend the next ten minutes creating the most beautiful choreography imaginable. Yet most of those amazing feats are impossible using modern video game technology. Fact: Jackie Chan is way more impressive than my Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Given how modern games can't touch the City Hunter's amazing choreography, it shouldn't surprise you that Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu for the 8-bit NES is a bit lacking. Like most games of that era, you're given only a few moves to work with. Outside of the normal punches and flying kicks, there's nothing in this game that is a Jackie Chan signature. This could have just as easily been called Master Ryu's Action Kung Fu, because all of the amazing choreography and slapstick humor you expect from a Jackie Chan movie is completely missing from this NES game.
While the game may lack substance, it does manage to be a half-way decent action/platformer. The cartoon Jackie Chan is endearing, even if he doesn't know 99% of the moves of the real Jackie Chan. His adventure takes him through lava caves, lush forests, spike pits and even into a cloudy sky kingdom. All along the way you use your punches and kicks to batter bad guys and save his sister from the even Sorcerer.
It might not be the most original action game, but Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu has good controls and a nice presentation. The game's bosses are large and detailed, and even the smaller enemies have a distinct look. Plus, the game is good about throwing new backgrounds and challenges your way. Although it's a little easy, this early Hudson game is incredibly likeable.
Unfortunately there just isn't enough to do. Kicking your way across Asia sounds like fun, but the limited mechanics get old by the second level. There are only a few special attacks, all of which players pick up by beating up a frog. These moves can be pulled off at any time by holding up and pushing the attack button, but keep in mind that you only have a limited amount of these power moves.
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu doesn't strive to be much more than a middle-tier action game. But at the same time, it does an excellent job of giving our hero plenty of bad guys to beat up and backgrounds to see. Even the anticlimactic ending (which involves two people just staring at each other for an uncomfortable length of time) isn't enough to keep me from recommending this NES cartridge. It's a solid action game, but with a name like Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu I just expected more.