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Old 06-01-2010, 12:03 PM   #10
Havoc2049
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All screen captures and game clips in this review were done by yours truely

Karateka
Atari ST

High atop a craggy cliff, guarded by an army of fierce warriors, stands the fortress of the evil Samurai Warlord, Akuma. Deep in the darkest dungeon of the fortress, Akuma gloats over his lovely captive, the Princess Mariko. Hope is not lost, as you are one trained in the ways of karate: a Karateka! Alone and unarmed, you must defeat the evil Akuma and rescue the beautiful Mariko. Put fear and self-concern behind you. Focus your will on your objective, accepting death as a possibility. This is the way of the Karateka!

Karateka, by the great Jordan Mechner, was first published in 1984 for the Apple II and Atari 800/XL/XE, by Broderbund Software. Over the next several years, Broderbund ported Karateka to the C64, NES, DOS, Atari ST and several other platforms. The Atari ST is the only 16-bit platform to receive a port of Karateka. Because of this, the Atari ST version of Karateka has the best graphics out of all the ports and arguably the best sound effects and music. Although an argument could be made in the sound and music department for the Commodore 64 version, with its excellent SID sound chip. Several years after Karateka was released, Mechner went on to develop the even more popular, Prince of Persia.

Karateka is a side scrolling beat-‘em-up, action-adventure game. What set Karateka apart from other early side scrolling beat-‘em-ups of the day, was its cinematic presentation and realistic graphics. I first played Karateka on my Commodore 64 and I was amazed how much emotion Mechner was able to convey to the gamer with his awesome use of cinematic cut scenes and stirring well placed movie-like music that faded in and out. This was the first game that I remember playing that had lifelike animation. Mechner gave us a glimpse of what realistic computer animation could be like in a game and would later be seen in games such as Prince of Persia and Another World (Out of This World).

While Karateka’s simplified, but tight gameplay mechanics and level design don’t hold up as well as Prince of Persia, it is still amusing and somewhat fun to play to this day. Karateka is a pretty strait forward beat-‘em-up, with a few environmental puzzles to solve along the way, several types of enemy warriors, Akuma’s fighting falcon and finally Akuma himself to defeat, who is quite a challenge. Even if you never played Karateka before, you could probably finish the game in two to three hours of continuous gaming. And like many games of the day, once you master the fighting and figure out what to do, Karateka can be beat from start to finish in 20 to 30 minutes.


The final battle with the evil Akuma, outside of the dungeon where the lovely Mariko is held captive

Karateka is a worthy game to seek out and play, as it's a classic from gaming’s past and to also see how far we have come. If you check it out on an emulator, stick with superior Atari ST version or the excellent Commodore 64, Apple II or Atari 800 XL/XE versions. Stay away from the gawd awful NES and Atari 7800 versions, with the NES version being especially craptastic. What a shame that so many great 80’s 8-bit computer games were given beyond horrible ports to the NES, which was a more than capable machine, with equal and sometimes even superior hardware specs to the 8-bit computers of the day.

And so this review ends, but beware: for the true Karateka there is always a next time…

Final Score: Then- 9/10, Now-7.5/10

For comparison:

The Commodore 64 version and the garish NES version. (Nintendo Seal of Quality included) heh.. ;-P
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Last edited by Havoc2049; 02-19-2013 at 10:21 PM.
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