An enhanced update to Jackie Chan: The Kung-Fu Master (released earlier that year), Fists of Fire updates the combo system (introducing juggle combos and character-specific strings) while including a special downed state (reminiscent of some 3D fighting games, complete with pursuit attacks and wake-up attacks), a dedicated super meter, and all three boss variations of Jackie Chan playable from the start.
While Fists of Fire is nearly identical to The Kung-Fu Master in most aspects, it includes various differences and additions to its core game mechanics:
- The game now includes a dedicated one-level super meter for performing powerful super special moves (which expend the gauge and no longer requires low vitality). While it fills automatically by attacking, blocking damage, or receiving damage, it can be filled manually through a charging animation (by holding HP+HK) that leaves them vulnerable. Players can also drain some of their opponent's super meter by taunting.
- The game's chain combo system has been updated, with each character now having dedicated combo strings. Players can also juggle opponents that are in the air for increased combo potential, making jump-ins riskier.
- Players who are knocked down are now in a special knockdown stun state where they mash buttons and wiggle the joystick to recover (similar to the dizzy state). The opposing player can now perform attacks against a downed opponent, either through some low attacks ("on-the-ground attack") or a dedicated strike ("pursuit attack"), the latter of which can be counter-attacked ("pursuit counter"). Players who are downed can also recover either with a forwards or backwards roll (by tapping the joystick in either direction during recovery) or with a dedicated wake-up attack (using either kick button during recovery).
- Each character now has a universal overhead attack (using forward + HK, with some using forward + HP instead) that hits blocking opponents if they crouch.
- Special moves and super special moves that require holding a direction ("charging") or tapping a button repeatedly ("mashing") are changed to basic joystick and button inputs.
- Finishers are no longer dealt post-round, and are instead based on the finishing blow dealt. Due to this, the humiliation finishers by taunting are removed. Jackie Chan is still unaffected by finishers and his finishing blows do not leave the opponent bloodied.
- Due to the increased damage output, the round timer is shortened to 30 seconds.
All six playable characters from the original game, as well as the three boss variations of Jackie Chan (who are now playable), make a return. All characters (other than Mysterious Lion and Jackie Chan) have new default outfit colors, with some characters now having unusual skin tones (such as Lau having a blue skin tone and Thorsten having green or purple skin tones).
The game now progresses through all characters in a random order, with a random version of Jackie at stages 3, 6, and 9. In Stage 10, players fight a special mirror match boss fight against a more powerful version of themselves (who can perform additional juggling capabilities). Players can play as this version by pressing both the Start Button while selecting their character.
All of the original six playable characters have updated movelists, including new special moves and/or modified special moves.
- Thorsten (Thorsten Nickel) - Uses street fighting techniques. His boss version is "Demon Thorsten".
- Kim-Maree (Kim-Maree Penn) - Uses professional wrestling techniques. Her boss version is "Dirty Maree".
- Jackie Chan (Jackie Chan) - Has three variations: Zuì Quán ("Drunken Fist", based on his appearance in the film Drunken Master II), Wǔ Xíng Quán ("Five Form Fist", based on his appearance in the film Spiritual Kung Fu), and Bā Guà Zhǎng ("Eight Trigram Palm", based on his appearance in the film Project A). His boss version is "Hyper Jackie".