Gang Wars Review—Rumble in the Bronx, 1980s Style


Although Jackie Chan starred in the blockbuster ensemble comedy The Cannonball Run, it wasn’t until the mid ’90s and Rumble in the Bronx that he became a household name in the U.S. Yet what if he had been a big star in the U.S. in the ’80s? He might very well have been teamed up with Joe Piscopo or Eddie Murphy instead of Owen Wilson or Chris Tucker. Gang Wars, an old arcade game published by SNK, gives us a glimpse of what a Jackie Chan-Joe Piscopo team up might have been like, with the villain played by a fedora-wearing Robert Patrick.

While Gang Wars might not officially be a Jackie Chan game, the cabinet art sure looks like him (except perhaps the nose), the character’s name is Jackie, and, well, the story seems like something out of one of his movies. An innocent woman has been kidnapped by an organized crime figure, and the only way to get her back is to defeat all his henchmen by kicking, punching, and jumping on them. Unfortunately, though, you are forced to play his goofy partner, Mike.

Jackie Chan and . . . Martin Kove? Dolph Lundgren? Mike Nelson?

Jackie Chan and Mike, played by . . . Martin Kove? Dolph Lundgren? Mike Nelson?

The game has five different stages. Each one is a different area of New York (or at least, a big city), and you must navigate it all the while beating up waves of enemies that attack. You don’t have a lot of different moves, just kick, punch, and jump, but there are a lot of different animations for your attacks. In between levels, you are given a chance to improve three different aspects of your fighting ability. It’s not exactly RPG-ish, but it’s nice to customize your guy a little.

What I also found very interesting is how you defeat your opponents—sometimes you just hit or kick them a lot, but you also can do a finishing move, in which you grab them by the neck and body slam them. It’s done automatically as part of your attack routine, but you can tell when it’s going to happen because your opponent looks a bit dazed.

Actual game is much sharper than this; for some reason, SNK's PR firm supplied undersized screenshots.

Actual game is much sharper than this; for some reason, SNK's PR firm supplied undersized screenshots.

While Gang Wars is mostly a beat ‘em up, you can pick up weapons from opponents, including a gun. Most of the weapons are rather hard to use, as you have to hit the opponent just right, or otherwise it gets kicked out of your hand. But the gun is quite powerful, killing most enemies in one hit. It’s only available on one stage though.

That’s one of the areas where Gang Wars shines—the stages are all very different. You start off fighting street gang members, then some sort of paramilitary guys that look suspiciously like Cobra, and then there is a level in Chinatown where Jackie must confront his former master and his disciples. Or in this case, Mike does for him, though Jackie is the one that gets addressed. And the last stage is just kind of weird. In between each pair of stages, there is something of a cinematic, the villain throwing insults at you.

Take that, Cobra lookalike!

Take that, Cobra lookalike!

At the end of most stages, you have to defeat a boss. And here is one of the problems with the game. I literally spent nearly five minutes on one boss where I’d kick him, he’d fall down, then get up, and I’d kick him again. Over and over and over. That’s not much fun. He wasn’t difficult, just had a lot of health. Another boss didn’t take as much to kill, but he would kill me virtually instantly. I used more quarters to beat him than for the rest of the game.

The other problem is the length of the game. It only took me about half an hour to forty-five minutes to beat it. The stages are just plain short. The last one is also really a letdown in a lot of ways, being essentially a series of short fights with a cinematic after each one, but most of the fights aren’t that hard.

He might dress like the Leatherman from The Village People, but he's the toughest boss in the game.

He might dress like the Leatherman from The Village People, but he's the toughest boss in the game.

Graphically, it’s one of the best looking old arcade games we’ve seen in the Minis program. I’ll go as far as saying it could be a PSP game in terms of graphics. It might not have millions of colors in its palette, but it’s got thousands, and the resolution (256×224) doesn’t seem to be too much less than the PSP’s own native one (480×272), just not widescreen.

The sound, though, is one of the game’s weak parts. The villains mock your efforts at fighting them by laughing at you. Over and over and over. They do have different laughs for the female opponents, though, so at least they put some effort into being annoying.

This is closer to what it looks like on the PSP. Very sharp as the native resolution is only slightly less than the PSP's.

This is closer to what it looks like on the PSP. Very sharp as the native resolution is only slightly less than the PSP's.

While Gang Wars is generally fun to play and looks great, it’s just really short, and the bosses are simply not very much fun. It also would have been nice if they could have figured out a way to play Jackie instead of just Mike. Apparently he has a different fighting style, so it would give the game more replay value.

When you consider that only 23 years ago it would have cost a quarter just to play this game once, it’s hard to say that it’s overpriced, but compared to other games today, it is. If you like beat ‘em ups, it’s worth buying, but you’d probably want to wait for a sale to do it, unless you simply must have a new one.


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5 Responses to “Gang Wars Review—Rumble in the Bronx, 1980s Style”
  1. sniper712 says:

    i’m sure the score would’ve been a bit higher if we can select the characters we want to use…mostly ending up being Jackie…(probably)

  2. Huicho says:

    Man, I thought you were exaggerating when it looked like Jackie.

  3. onmode-ky says:

    “with the villain played by a fedora wearing Robert Patrick.”

    That’s nasty, hats that wear human beings. :P I inserted a hyphen for you. Hats are also rather poor actors.

    Additionally, I removed an ‘i’ so that poor Mike, who I think bears a small resemblance to Christopher Reeve, wasn’t stuck with a small collection of films.

    By the way, this is definitely a G1M2 emulation production, right?

  4. Ron says:

    You forgot to mention how much this game has stolen from Double Dragon: everything from the style of the graphics to the storyline (i.e. Going after the thugs who kidnapped your girl). It’s all very much the same, except that this game feels a whole lot less polished.

  5. readytorelease says:

    @sniper712: Definitly Jackie dude(lol)

    @Ron: Very much the same game when you look at it but all games seems to follow the same plots. New ones would be nice but people seem to pick up on other’s ideas and build off of that sometimes changing nothing (lol). All jokes aside the game could have came a whole lot better, resolution could have used the max so we would have the entire screen with no eye strain (on the vita), sound of foolish mocking noises from dum tauntings also I got use to them all. Improve the game for the fans so it sells better and everyone wins.

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