STAFF REVIEW of Karateka (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012.
by Stephen Cameron

Karateka Box art When I was a young gaming buck of 13 years old, I was a proud owner of a Commodore 64 straight from Canadian Tire (Google it!)! When this title came out, I had heard crazy mythical things, like “It looks real!” Even back then, that sounded pretty farfetched; none the less, the point is, that it captured our imagination just like Halo did. We look at Halo 1 today, and we say...”Seriously?”

Karateka, then published by Broderbund Software played an important role in my personal gaming soul! A few years ago, I reloaded the game via an old emulator, man, I remember saying, “I remembered this looking a lot better”. But did the game change? No, I did. Just goes to show we remember games better than they really were! Visually of course, even Halo (Anyone remember the anniversary edition?) can’t escape it, folks.

Our good friend, the creator of the game, Jordan Mechner is also famous for the original Prince of Persia and his writing on the Sands of time film. But, this time he’s brought back Karateka. Yay!

What drove Karateka into most people’s hearts was the simple story, its timing based combat system, and the crazy difficulty level. You had to kick some ass to save the princess, with one life!

This version of the game is basically the same as it was back then, with way better graphics, sound, and music. It’s still basically a 2D, on rails, side-scroller. This time though you have three different characters or chances. The point is that you have to try and make to the end with the original given character, which is the true love of the princess. Not the Monk nor the Brute, these guys are second chances, really.

The underlying challenge of the remake is getting the rhythm of the attacks down, and then earning your counter attacks, and trying to complete the game in one sitting. Just like the old days.

It took me roughly 40 minutes to get from start to finish, with five do-overs. Thus, the love of her life completion will have to be another day. The replayability will exist when you clear the game with the main character (the first one), then try and beat your friends via the leaderboard, which is sorted out by points and time.

This is where game differs from the original, back then you had one kick at the can, no extra lives. If your health ran out, that was it. No checkpoints, no saves. It sucked, in retrospect and the birds are still annoying, just like the old days. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a remake with a higher budget. A game more like Bruce Lee was, or could have been.

Overall, game is a nice trip down memory lane for those of us that even know what Karateka even was. However, I personally can’t see this appealing to the younger crowd unfortunately; maybe it’s not meant to, who knows. Mr. Mechner had an insane amount of hardcore fanboys emailing him to remake it! Karateka will forever be part of our youth.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.8 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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