Return of the 8-bit classic
At first, I didn’t know what to expect when I downloaded the remake of Karateka from the Playstation Store. I’ve never heard of Karateka, other than it was originally released in 1984 by John Mechner and sold pretty well.
This remake, also created by Mr. Mechner, honors a 2D playing field with 3D characters. I don’t consider Karateka a fighting game like Street Fighter, for example. Karateka is a rhythm-based fighter. From slow to fast, you have to be on your toes and match the rhythm of your opponent’s movements when blocking their attacks. Failure to block means death and points.
The game is about three suitors who attempt to rescue the helpless Mariko from the evil clutches of Akuma, the warlord. You start with fighting just a few of the many guards you’ll encounter on your way to the Akuma’s palace. By doing this, the game teaches the player the basic mechanics: punching, kicking, and blocking. After defeating your opponents, you continue to travel along the path, fighting more opponents along the way. By fighting well, you have the ability to build up your “chi” and unleash a flurry of attacks by stunning your opponents. You can also regain your strength from flowers left by the Mariko along the path.
You’re given three chances with three separate characters to rescue Mariko. You’re first character is her “true love.” Lose, and you assume the role of the Monk and you begin where you left off. Lose again, and you’re left with the Brute. If you’ve used up all three of your characters, the game charges you 3,000 points to resurrect the last character. However, beat the game with your first character and you get the proper ending.
Beat the game with your other two characters and you get an alternate ending. If you’re down to your last character, the Brute, and you lose, you can only resurrect the last character. I personally wanted to resurrect the Monk because his fighting moves made the game more interesting, but I was unable to.
When you finally reach the palace gates, all hell breaks loose. If you’re used to fighting your opponents at a certain speed, these new opponents definitely change it up. I had a bit of difficulty beating the three palace guards and the bird that seemed to never die before beating the final boss, Akuma. In my opinion, Akuma’s bird felt like the main boss. Several times the bird was easy to block but hard to hit, and the fight lasted for what felt like forever.
I guess I shouldn’t complain though. The original 1984 classic was known for its difficulty (like many games from my youth that I enjoyed.) Maybe I’m spoiled with the easy game play of modern games.
Overall, this remake of Karateka is a fun, short game with a beautiful soundtrack. Its attempt to capture ancient Japan and the way of the warrior fighting to reach their lost love proves that not only can a simple game continue to entertain, but also it doesn’t take hours of game play to make a game memorable.