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Monday, March 24, 2014

NES Replay: Karate Champ

Developer: Technos Japan
Publisher: Data East
Karate Champ is either frustrating or hilarious. There is no in-between.

The point of Karate Champ is that you're in a one-on-one fight against another karate master. There are different arenas: On top of a cliff, in the trees, in the desert, etc. You throw a variety of punches and kicks at your opponent, and the first one to land a blow wins the match. Win a few matches in a row, and you move on to the next karate master.

So what makes it frustrating? Well, when you're throwing kicks and punches in the direction of your opponent and you can't tell whether or not they're going to land, that's frustrating. For example, if both players throw a punch at the same time, does either one land? If I'm kicking, and they're punching, does either one land? What if I'm kicking low and he's punching high? There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to them landing. This leads to less of a karate fight and more of a flailing competition.

The controls are fantastically borked too. Press B, and you'll attack to the left. Press A and you'll attack to the right. This is stupid, right? Shouldn't your attacks always be aimed in the direction of your opponent? Is there ever a good tactical reason to attack the air behind you?

To be fair, this was a minor evolutionary misstep in fighting games that took a while to resolve. Developers had trouble figuring out what to do with both buttons. One button worked as an attack button, but the other one could be used for... ? This was a problem that took a while to sort out, but as the fighting game genre grew developers realized that they could use that extra button for something else, like a punch, kicking or even blocking. Technos Japan made a different choice, and that's a big reason that Karate Champ is so terrible.

Even if they would have sorted out the controls, though, Karate Champ would still be bad. The collision detection is so awful that none of your attacks matter at all. Attacks appear to overlap each other, blocking is a chore (although the computer player can block anything it wants to) and doing a jump kick never, ever works. While some other fighting games we've touched on could conceivably be better in two-player, the collision detection would undoubtedly lead to both parties frustratedly throwing down the controllers and going off to play something more fun, like "let's pull our eyes out with fishhooks."

However, I'm about to make your day. Remember when I said that Karate Champ can be hilarious? I discovered something glorious about Karate Champ, and I would like to share it with all of you.

When each round starts, the computer player will walk toward you at the same pace, never stopping. Press the attack button at the right time, and you will hit your opponent in the face every single time. It's tricky to find that sweet spot, but if you start getting it right, it makes Karate Champ a great "Got your nose" simulator.

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present to you the following video. It's the only good thing to come out of Karate Champ, I assure you.


Final Rating: