I think we often tend to romanticize things from our past, as evident when we try to go back and watch a TV show or movie we used to love or play a game that was once the “best game ever.” Such is the case with Karateka Classic ($0.99). Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it again, especially since I don’t recall ever beating it the first time around. But games have advanced so much since then, I have a feeling someone not fueled by nostalgia wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Still, it’s a nice example of a game that has clearly influenced many developers since its inception.
Your mission is to infiltrate the fortress of a vicious warlord, kick some minion tail and rescue the fair princess. You have at your disposal the ability to kick and punch, both of which can be accomplished in high, middle, and low positions. You also have a “relaxed” stance, which lets you move more quickly while not fighting, and a “combat” stance that makes you creep along but always keeps you on your guard. Be careful when running, because if you meet up with an enemy and make contact while not in combat stance, it will mean instant death for you. Switching stances and moving left and right are controlled by buttons on the left side of the screen, while all of your combat moves appear on the right. They don’t really get in the way of the action while you’re playing, but they are definitely hard to see if you're trying to engage in some karate action while out in the sunlight.
The game basically consists of several underlying fights followed by the warlord’s hawk and the warlord himself. There’s probably some sort of magic pattern to beating all of these bad guys, but to be perfectly honest brute force worked for me in all but two cases, one of which was the warlord. Fortunately, once you enter the fortress, you can rewind to the beginning of any fight should you happen to lose. Between that feature and what appears to be a toned down difficulty level, I was able to beat the entire game in about 40 minutes. Of course, that doesn’t sound like much, but the game does not save between sessions, so you will have to beat the game all at once. Because this is meant to mimic the original experience as much as possible, there are no leaderboards (which actually works out because there is no score) and no Game Center achievements. The net result is that there is not much replay value unless you want to try and get a better completion time.
While I appreciate what they were trying to accomplish here and have actually enjoyed playing it a couple of times through, I think a few options would be nice. First off, it could have a true “retro” option with the difficulty set like the original game without any perks at all. Then it could give the option to do things like enable rewind, adjust the difficulty setting, and even save the game. Then it could offer an option to enable Game Center achievements. Purists could still enjoy the game for what it is, and folks that like a little more bang for their buck can have their way as well. Then again, that might be what the remake is for.
Graphically the game mirrors the original perfectly, from the cheesy shadows that don’t realistically reflect anything to the 60s Batman-style highlights that pop up when you strike an effective blow. There are even options to select a green or amber display instead of the “boring” color visuals. The sound effects are spot on as well, right down to the noise that emulates the disk drive spinning. There isn’t really any music per se, though there is a bit of fanfare when you enter and complete a battle.
This one is a tough call for me. I definitely enjoyed it, but then I at least vaguely remember what it was like playing the game the first time around. With all the bells and whistles that gamers have come to expect from entertainment today, I think modern hardcore gamers will be left disappointed. Then again, they probably aren’t the ones that will try it in the first place. Still, I try to rate my games on a general basis, so in this case I’m going to actually give the game two ratings.
Fans Of The Original: 8/10
General Populace: 6/10