RETRO REBOOT - Jackie Chan Stuntmaster (Sony PlayStation)

Jackie Chan, a staple and pioneer of action movies who has a career that spans five decades. Known for his outrageous and life-endangering stunts all performed without doubles, Jackie Chan gained popularity in the United States with his smash hit Rumble In The Bronx in 1995 (filmed in Vancouver. It's actually amazing that I've seen so many movies shot in Vancouver that I began to recognize landmarks by the mid 2000's). At the peak of his popularity, Jackie would see himself as the star of a video game. It isn't his first foray into gaming. In 1990, Hudson Soft published the action platformer Jackie Chan's Action Kung-Fu for the NES and the 1995 release The Kung-Fu Master Jackie Chan, a bizarre arcade fighting game where Jackie Chan himself (as three playable fighters) was the most overpowered character.

In 2000, Jackie Chan Stuntmaster was developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Midway Home Entertainment. Not too surprising, Stuntmaster is a brawler game that follows the story of the titular hero looking to rescue his grandfather from mobsters (including a clown in boxing gloves. Wait, I reviewed Super Punch-Out!! last week...). Jackie must fight his way through New York City in order to get him back. 

Jackie Chan Stuntmaster aims to juggle up the street combat with some occasional platforming and quick time-ish events. Instead of his name just being attached to the product, Radical Entertainment consulted Jackie very heavily on the game's action to make it feel as unique and authentic to the action his films are known for, even providing the motion capturing. To the game's credit, the efforts of emulating Jackie Chan style comedy and presentation has a charm to it. A lot of the weapons he can pick up, ranging from bo staffs, cooking pots, even mackerel, each have a lot of unique animation. Tables and chairs can be flipped into enemies, as well as toppling over boxes and knocking down platforms. It had occurred to me that an alleged new age beat'em up on the soon to be launching The Bouncer on the PS2 later that year would be outshined by a late-in-the-tooth PS1 action game in an attempt at depth with player and environment. 

Well, when it comes to visuals, like most PlayStation games, the passage of time does more damage to them than UV rays on Sega Saturn longbox cases. My theory is I chalk this up to a lot of the development being tied to the combat mechanics so the character models lack in a lot of detail. It is fully rendered in 3D with only occasional pop-in with some drab textures in the environments. The character models are pretty simple in design, looking very chunky and blocky, Jackie himself has wacky proportions and his face is superimposed on his character model. "Uncanny valley" is a term that's used to describe CGI that bears a near disturbing life-like representation. This kind of stuff was just funny back then more than it was impressive.

Controls are not particularly fluid and takes a little bit getting used to. Attacking, defending, and parrying all feel a little delayed. Jackie has a handful of combos and air juggles he can execute. you can hold down the punch and kick for stronger follow-up strikes, but be careful. Some enemies will just punch through it and lay you out. By holding R2, Jackie can sort of lock on to enemies, but you can't switch targets without letting go of the button and letting it zone in on whomever is closer. I often spammed his grab. Because it stays locked into such a long animation cycle, it's very exploitable to get thugs off of you. There's portions where Jackie has to bounce off awnings for a higher jump and getting a hang of the timing is awkward. I'd often want to press jump just as he hits, but you gotta hit the button right before.

Maneuvering across platforms also showcases how incredibly slippery Jackie handles. Along with feeling like he has absolutely no weight to him while moving and boasting an even floatier jump than Gabe Logan from Syphon Filter, getting Jackie to land atop surfaces can prove to be a little fidgety as he slides all over the place. It's not so bad during portions like hopping from train to train. Stuntmaster can get a little repetitive, since the fighting peaks in appeal, and it doesn't help that parts of this game drags.

The sound is great. Jackie records a lot of the quips, so he's constantly talking throughout. a lot of the times he'll repeat the same lines over and over, but I'll take this over Dana Gould's remarkably unfunny one-liners in Gex 2: Enter the Gecko. The music may not be particularly memorable, I find it to be rather subdued and droning, but it gets drowned out by the crisp sound effects. Punches and kicks have that over exaggerated "WAP!" sound effect like kung-fu movies, and it makes the attacks feel that much more satisfying when you land them.

Overall, Jackie Chan Stuntmaster is a bit of an oddity. Despite the game being called "Stuntmaster", it spends most of its play time as a rather dry beat'em up game with the occasional annoying platform jumping. It's a little hard to be impressed by the feats performed by the in-game CGI Jackie Chan character. It's not a terrible game, just a little colorless. By this time, action games were going through a transitional period between the Legacy of Kain games and before Devil May Cry was created. Stuntmaster is playable, but it's hard to say it boasts a lot of pomp and circumstance. There's surprisingly little "Stunt" in the game. But if you do beat it, there are some fun outtakes from the making of it. decent, but it might not WOW you.

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