187. Karate Champ

Karate Champ (1986, NES) by Data East

Current 1 Loop Leaderboard (speedrun.com)

Karate Champ (NES)
-Combat (Atari 2600)

NOTE: Since this episode focused on Combat, which is a 2-player only game that I’m (fairly) sure cannot be speedrun, I decided to go with Karate Champ, the only other game in this episode (besides, the Nerd mentions it often)

Some games have all the luck.  Games such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Dragon Warrior, or Resident Evil.  The games that help to establish or popularize a new genre.  And, although Karate Champ is not the first fighting game ever (it isn’t even the first on the NES, with Urban Champion getting that title unless I’m mistaken), it is certainly a game that helped to make the fighting genre mainstream.  With the original iteration of the game being an arcade game, this port was highly anticipated… and sadly, it didn’t translate to the NES as well as Data East had hoped.  Despite this games’ importance in gaming history, it has not aged well, and unlike the games above, Karate Champ will never be on anyone’s list of games that you missed, or hidden gems.  I’d say it’s a shame, but I totally understand why!

Mostly, this game’s gameplay suffers because of the controls.  In arcades, Karate Champ was a twin-stick fighting game (!) where the right stick would influence your moves that you make with the left stick.  On the NES, you’re limited to a D-Pad and 2 buttons, so they got creative, and for the most part, they were able to bring the arcade control experience almost home.  Just… not quite.  It’s laggy, it’s unresponsive, it’s confusing, and it’s annoying.  Not to mention, even when you do the move properly, sometimes the hitbox won’t register the hit, or the game credits your opponent for whatever unknown reason it justified giving them the point… playing this game is like untying your shoelaces with your teeth.

Luckily, the game looks and sounds pretty good for 1986.  The graphics are colorful and the sprites big; the sound effects and voices are very good for NES standards; ESPECIALLY for ’86.  The lack of music is a strike but a minor one.  Also, as a speedrun this game is entirely simple and extremely easy to learn.  You will be able to speedrun this game in a couple hours max, if you put the effort in.  Just… be ready for the RNG fest.  EVERY fight feels like random luck, and there’s enough patterns to determine that you almost think you’ve got the game down… only for it to spit in your face right after you announce it to your entire Twitch chat!

This isn’t the worst game on the system.  It’s not the worst official fighting game, either.  But it’s certainly not a good game. Give this one a hard pass, unless nostalgia or other reasons compel you.

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