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.