When you hear the name Jackie Chan you probably think about all of his crazy stunts and action sequences. You'll remember all those movies where he's dodging ballet-like martial arts moves, sliding over tables and attacking his enemies with little items he is able to find in his environments. You remember how funny those movies are, how exciting they are because you know he does all of his own stunts and looks like he has a good time doing it. This is a guy who has broken every bone in his body at least once, and he's coming back for more just to keep you entertained. Unfortunately that is not the Jackie Chan you get in Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu.
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is a side scrolling action game that was released on both the Nintendo Entertainment System and PC Engine (the Japanese TurboGrafx-16). This is not the kind of action game you would expect from a guy like Jackie Chan, all of the crazy stunts and ballet action sequences are replaced by boring locations and terrible combat. Fans going into this expecting something similar to Drunken Master or Crime Story are going to be disappointed, the only thing similar to those movies is that the main character kind of looks like a cartoon-y version of Jackie Chan. Kind of.
The game features this crazy story about Jackie Chan and his twin sister, Josephine. The two of them trained together to become a fighting force not to be reckoned with. One day their master's arch nemesis, a vampire-like sorcerer, put a spell on Josephine and made her disappear. As I'm sure you have already guessed, it's up to Jackie Chan to go save his twin sister and defeat this stupid looking sorcerer.
But wait a second ... Jackie Chan doesn't have a twin sister. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to compare this game to the movie Adaptation. But then again, this game is probably closer to Adaptation than a Jackie Chan movie. Let's face it; there is no way of accurately recreating the amazing stunts and acrobatics from his movies in a 16-bit video game.
But I digress; Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu plays like a lot of other 2D action games of the era. You don't have that many moves; you can punch and perform a flying jump kick. On top of that, you can hold down the attack button for a long period of time and let out a fireball (similar to Ryu and Ken in the Street Fighter series). Along the way you will pick up a few different special moves, which you perform by holding up and the attack button. Unfortunately you can count the amount of special attacks on one hand, which means that you will be using the same attacks over and over.
The game itself is actually pretty long; it has Jackie going through five different stages that take place in varying locations. Action Kung Fu manages to hit all of the traditional stage types, from an ice level to one filled with fire to an area where you're floating on clouds. Thankfully these levels are long; you'll be on the same stage for quite a while as you search for the level end boss battle.
The bosses are the highlight of Jack Chan's Action Kung Fu. While the game doesn't throw anything your way that you haven't seen before, it does do a pretty good job of offering large bad guys that require some thought in order to take down. You'll be fighting giant frogs, a pink Cyclops, a big statue and more. These bosses aren't enough to keep you wanting to get to the end, but they are more exciting than the other enemies this game throws at you.
The biggest sin with a game like this is that you expect it to be like a Jackie Chan movie. You want to see the acrobatic stunts and the amazing fights, but there's none of that here. Perhaps the problem is that you just can't do that in a video game, especially one that was released in the early 1990s. But when you have a name like Jackie Chan on your box you need to meet the expectations of the fan base, and I feel that Action Kung Fu doesn't even come close. It's a solid action game, but with a name like Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu I just expected more.