Sunday, December 22, 2013

Level Up: Karate Champ

We’ve once again arrived at the Holiday season, and as always I like discussing games I’ve gotten as a gift. However, in the past, I’ve always talked about good games and expressed how I probably wouldn’t have taken the chance with some of them (like B.O.B. or Maximum Carnage). However, with that risk of getting a good game, you also run the risk of getting a bad one, especially when it’s gifted from people who have no gaming knowledge and just pick something that looks interesting. Well here’s a game that I got, and if you know about it, you know what a lump of coal it is; here’s Karate Champ for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The game quickly disappoints you with its poor graphics. The cover doesn’t promise anything great, with two poorly drawn fighters attacking the air in different direction, but the graphics are STILL a let down. They’re big, blocky and undefined, even worse than Renegade, the other Technos Japan developed game I’ve reviewed (though Data East are the publishers here). The characters just look like box people with big noses and while some of the backgrounds might be good (with shading and details added), they can be lack luster and are all at different angles, so I don’t know how in the hell we’re looking at the fighters.
The sounds are a little better, as the music is alright: it’s obvious they tried a sort of oriental influence, like something out of a kung-fu movie, and it’s decent. They also have digitized voices and I’ll admit for the time it was pretty good. However, every other sound effect is pretty grating, and they’re a lot more common. I’d suggest playing this game on mute, but that doesn’t help you with the graphics, or the fact that you’re playing Karate Champ.
Unlike what you’d expect from a fighting game, Karate Champ actually tries to stay true to the sport. Instead of just beating your opponent unconscious, you just need to be the first to reach 2 points. You earn points by making contact with your opponent and after every contact you go back to your corners. Some moves are naturally worth more than others, and there are multiple button combinations you can press to pull off different moves.
And that is where this game falls apart. Some of these moves have vague controls so I’m not sure if I’m doing it right, but I’m convinced that it just might not be programed correctly, as I’ve gotten two different moves from the same buttons. There is also the problem of DIRECTION. In GOOD games like Street Fighter, your character turns around to face the enemy. Here they decided to make turning around into a move! But, it’s maybe unfair to compare this game to one that came out almost a decade later… Is it fair to ask that the buttons respond when I press them? There’s honestly like a 1 second delay, and since most moves feature a painfully slow 2 frames of animation, it takes even longer. Plus with all of this, you have to have the hope that the contact counts. You can repeatedly punch with your fist going THROUGH your enemy, but it’ll never count as a hit for some reason. Everything about how this game controls makes me feel like I’m playing with boxing gloves on.
The really perplexing thing about Karate Champ is that, despite how awful it is, most NES game collections I’ve seen have it. Sure, it’s not a rare game, but people don’t seek it, they just tend to “have it” (maybe they all get it like gifts as I did). I’m sure that the timing with the Karate Kid movies helped produce an abundance or cartridges (as the second one came out right before this port), but I have one honest question; with the reputation that this game has gathered, WHY WAS THIS RELEASED FOR THE VIRTUAL CONSOLE? I am serious, you can buy it there. It was a neat idea to make something closer to the sport of karate, but every single aspect of this game failed in execution. This is not only the worst game I’ve reviewed so far, but among the worst games I’ve ever played. I give Karate Champ for the NES 1 level out 10.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Level Up: Digimon Battle Spirit

Back in Cheap Dam-month, I talked about Digimon Digital Card Battle and today I realized… This is somehow the only other Digimon game I own. The Digimon World games are quite rare and expensive, and the other games that have been released in North America and are at a decent price just haven’t interested me enough yet. I really do like Digimon, but I had an N64 instead of a PlayStation growing up, so I missed out on the games when I could have gotten them reasonably priced. Today we have a game that is for a Nintendo system: here’s Digimon Battle Spirit for the Game Boy Advance.
This game has references to the show, but it really doesn’t make any sense because it’s a fighting game so you got good guys fighting good guys. Well, maybe they’re under the control of black gears or a similar device? Well no, cause the enemy is Milleniummon, so how and why? Well, maybe despite being iconic Digimon, they’re just other ones without trainers? No, cause they’re seen with the trainers on the select screen, and Digimon like Wormmon reference their partner with their attacks. Well maybe they don't all know each other so they just assumed they’re enemies? Well I know for certain that Henry and Rika know each other. Whatever, the Digimon just come together and fight each other in order to get to Milleniummon and beat him before he destroys the Digital World. Doesn’t make sense, but again, this is a fighting game, they gotta fight for some reason.
Digimon Battle Spirit is a much different game than your typical Street Fighter type of stuff. As a matter of fact, despite being full 2D, I’d put it closer to Super Smash Bros. or Power Stone, as this is more of a platforming-fighter: you can move freely about huge stage, make big jumps, attack combos are simple and there are even items that you may use to attack. However, there are no health bars, damage meters or any way to ring out an opponent, so how do you win a match? Well, as you fight, you’ll notice that colored orbs (called D-spirits, so the title makes sense) fly out of a Digimon after it has taken damage. Your goal is to damage your opponent and then collect these D-spirits, and whoever has the most when the timer runs out wins. So is this a good or bad fighting system? I can’t really tell. At some times I really enjoy the different play style, and appreciate that it’s so unique. Other times, I feel it makes the game too stiff and slow, and that chasing after the orbs after damaging was a pointless step. I guess it really depends on your gaming preferences and mood.
However, there is one aspect I could always count on to make the game fun, and that was Calumon. As you should know, Digimon are famous for their Digivolutions, which transforms the Digimon into a more powerful monster. Touching Calumon will trigger this and turn your Digimon into a much bigger and more powerful one for a short time while also making you invincible, meaning you have a great chance to take the lead. Think of this like the Power Stones or the Smash Ball from the Super Smash Bros, but you only got one shot at it each round, so make it count.
Digimon Battle Spirit is a pretty unique fighting game based off of Digimon, and at the end of the day, I like it. It was good enough to warrant a sequel (which I’m probably never going to buy, since it has LESS Digimon, all based on the 4th season I didn’t like), but that seems to be as far as its popularity goes, as I never really hear anyone raving about it. The graphics are actually among my favorites on the Game Boy Advance, which is a bold statement since it never started a trend like Mario & Luigi or Sonic Advance (which is a shame, cause I would love to see Pokemon done in its style). The music is pretty good too, so over all it’s a good quality game. The game play is pretty mixed, as I can see why it would be easy to hate this game, get frustrated with it or get bored of it quickly after unlocking everyone. It’s probably best you only get this game if you really like alternative fighting games and if you can find it cheaply, but if you want something to just experiment with and like Digimon, I say try it out. I give Digimon Battle Spirit for the Game Boy Advance 7 levels out of 10.