Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Arcade Fighting Games #3

Karate Champ a.k.a. Karate Dou (1984)
By: Technos / Data East Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 26,100
Also Available For: NES, Commodore 64, Apple II
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Not quite sure why a bull is here...
Considering how popular video games have been since... pretty much always, it's surprising they haven't featured in more movies. Perhaps it's a copyright or royalties issue or something but a few do make appearances here and there. One of the most memorable examples for me was Karate Champ which was featured in a favourite film of mine as a teenager - Bloodsport (1988) - where Frank Dux (Jean Claude Van Damme) was invited to challenge Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) to a digital bout. It was a short sequence but it's always stuck in my mind, perhaps due to its similarities with the film itself. Both consist of a series of one-on-one contests, both employ fairly technical martial arts, and neither feature much in the way of story or exposition.

Class - this is how to miss with a leg-sweep...
Strangely for such a game Karate Champ uses a vertical display but other than that it looks much like any other early fighting game at first glance. However, rather than using energy meters, the combatants in Karate Champ - white for player one, red for player two or CPU - are engaged in points-based contests. The game uses dual-joystick controls where movements of one or both sticks together force your fighter to perform a variety of punches, kicks, blocks, or jumps. Landing a strike on your opponent will score you either a half-point or full point depending on the move, with the first fighter to reach two points winning! If you manage to win two successive bouts in your dojo you get the chance to 'go for the National Title'.

Think you can sneak up from behind, huh?
This is exactly the same besides the background though - win two more fights against the evil fighter clad in red (or your friend) and... you get the chance to do so again, and again, and again, perhaps forever, whilst slowly improving your rank from Beginner to Grand Master and beyond! The controls needed to achieve this seem a bit unresponsive now and then, and the impact-detection can seem a little inconsistent, but with some practise it's still not unreasonable to expect a long session from this game. The audio consists only of effects and a little speech (including the 'combat' sounds that I recall from Bloodsport) but the graphics aren't too bad - there are only the two backgrounds shown here but the fighters look okay.

Haaaa-yaaaa! Very good, but brick not hit back!

They're probably about as authentic as they could be and they're well animated too. Despite the few minor flaws here though, the game itself is pretty good and is especially enjoyable once you start to do well. The range of moves is impressive for the day, and is most welcome too, and there's an attempt to break up the action a little with a short practice session prior to the first match (where you have to match a succession of moves performed by Mr. Red) and bonus rounds between each subsequent contest which involve dodging objects flying across the screen, smashing piles of bricks, or... umm, stopping a charging bull. There was actually a semi-sequel to Karate Champ which apparently includes improved computer AI, controls, and impact-detection, as well as lots of different backgrounds; since these are about the only things wrong with this game, the result could be a corker! This original is itself assured of awesomeness thanks to its movie appearance but it's pretty good fun too. After all, not much beats the satisfaction of landing a roundhouse kick to the face! Frank Dux would be proud.

RKS Score: 7/10

**Special Bonus!** Look! It's the scene from Bloodsport I was talking about!



  1. OK USA! A few years back the BBC commissioned a series about Japan hosted by Jonathan Ross. There were many episodes, each featuring a particular aspect of their culture. Amusingly, no episode made any reference to either anime or video games, arguably two of the greatest influences of Japanese Culture. As you said, their omission from films in general is baffling... :(

  2. You're right there buddy, that does sound ridiculous! They're two of the first things I think of when I think of Japan! (>.<) Oh well, that's mainstream TV for you I guess!