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AVS › Reviews › Video Games › Karateka HD › Reviews › _Michaelangelo_'s Review

A HD remake of an old classic that fails to deliver anything innovative.

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Pros: Nice cartoon graphics.

Cons: Bland fighting.

For the longest time I always thought the name was pronounced Kaw-raw-tuh-ka until John Romero corrected me one evening: "Did you know it is actually pronounced: Kara-Tea-Ka?" I've been a big fan of the original and always had a fascination learning all sorts of its secrets and trivia such as inserting the original floppy upside down and the game was flipped vertically.

Before Jordan Mechner because famous with his Prince of Persia series, which eventually spawned an action movie, his original Karateka on the Apple ][ set the gold standard for interactive digital Art on the new medium of the day: 8-bit home computers.

Karateka was one of the *first* games to

* use cutscenes
* use minimal UI
* use the undocumented V-Sync on the Apple ][ for silky smooth flicker-free animation, (and!)
* use motion capture

That is how old it is! The original is fondly remembered as a true work of *Art*.

Sadly I can't same the same for the HD remake. frown.gif

= Graphics =
The cartoon graphics, while nice to look at, really change the atmosphere from the original version IMHO slightly for the worse.

This opening shot set an ominous, mysterious "mood":

Gone is the original introduction screen which had beautiful old English calligraphy text slowly scrolling up -- this added *style* to the game. Instead it has been replaced it is a boring generic font -- the game has lost its charm.

The original Karateka was also one of the first games to use minimalism in art. It set the perfect style.

The cartoon nature of the remake clashes and almost trivializes the violet combat nature of the rescue.

There are minor shadowing artifacts on the main character. It is hard to tell if this is self-shadowing artifacts or a lighting issue. I found it distracting from the clean cartoon look.

= Gameplay =
It was fun to see that the game payed homage to the original in that you can still bow to your opponent. A nice touch.

Unfortunately combat is bland. Where as in the iOS Infinity Blade when an opponent attacks you have the option of dodging (left or right), of blocking with your shield, or trying to parry the attack, Karateka HD offers only waiting for your opponent to attack and then attack. I found it to be quite boring. Jordan Mechner would do well to talk to Sid Meier and learn his mantra of:

Give the gamer interesting choices!

I found the timing of the attacks to be frustrating to get right and ended up button mashing. The fundamental problem is that the visual cues happen to fast and don't last long enough to properly react -- unlike the slowed down Infinity Blade attacks. For fight games perfection is reached in Soul Calibur with its zen-like state for timing -- Karateka was a bad implementation of 60 Hz timing. frown.gif

The original gave the player 2 types of attack: kicks and punches -- each with 3 possible elevation: high, medium, low attacks for a total of 6 possible attacks. The remake controls feel dumbed down.

Worse, is that you are not allowed to move back. In the original you would end up faking moving forward then back to try to bait your opponent into attacking. That option is sadly lacking in the remake.

= Music =
Back in the day the Apple focused "Nibble" magazine published an article called "Nibble Duet" demonstrating how to fake 2-voice music out of the Apple's "squeaker". I loved the Karateka end music so much that with the technical information in the article I was able to "reverse engineer" the music notation and produced a .MIDI file in Cakewalk years later.

I found the music in Karateka HD to be neither memorable nor catchy. Sound effects were OK.

= Conclusion =
Sadly the Karateka HD remake doesn't bring any new to the beat-em up table. There are other games such as "Castle Crashers" that do a better job.

Graphics: 4/5
Gameplay: 1/5
Sound: 3/5
Multiplayer: n/a

Overall: 2/5

Genre: Beat-em up side scroller
Similar side scroller games: Limbo
Similar beat-em up games: Castle Crashers
Platforms available on (alphabetical): iOS, PC (Steam), PS3, Xbox 360
Platform(s) reviewed: Apple ][ and PS3

Bottom Line: Thumbs Down! Go play the original on iOS for $2.99. It is better value.

Interesting collection of screenshots of the original:

1 Comment:

Wow! What a great review! Too bad the remake is no good, but I really enjoyed reading this. I spent a lot of time with the original and I learned a lot about it from your review. Thanks!!
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