James V. Trunzo
Requirements: Apple II-series
computer with at least 48K RAM and a disk drive; or a Commodore 64/128
with a disk drive. Joystick optional.
This superb action game is a nominee for the Most Underrated Program of
the Year. It's a program that must be seen to be fully appreciated.
The theme of the game is simple. You, the hero, have
been away from your village, studying karate under a master. Upon
returning home, you find that the Japanese warlord Akuma has burned
your village to the ground and kidnapped your betrothed, the lovely
Mariko. Akuma has imprisoned Mariko in his mountain fortress, where she
is guarded by Akuma's fierce warriors-the least of whom is a
first-degree black belt. You must fight your way into Akuma's
stronghold and defeat opponent after opponent until, at last, you come
face to face with the powerful Akuma himself.
The Apple version of Karateka has by far the best
animation I've seen in an Apple arcade game. The smoothness of the
animation, complete with scrolling background and beautiful,
full-colored details, makes the game almost as enjoyable to watch as it
is to play.
Using either the keyboard or a joystick, you
maneuver your persona about the screen, kicking and punching as if he
were Bruce Lee. Each opponent that Akuma sends against you has a unique
style. Some are better with their feet, others are better with their
hands, some are balanced fighters. As the opponents become tougher
(corresponding to your success), they are better able to coordinate
several kicks and punches in a row. Victory comes only after you learn
the best way to fight the various warriors, each easily identified by
Warriors aren't the only obstacle between you and
your beloved Mariko, however. Akuma's pet eagle attacks from time to
time, and the fortress conceals deadly traps. Furthermore, even if you
vanquish an opponent, you sustain injuries that accumulate as the game
progresses. Of course, your opponents are always fresh!
more to offer, too. There are delightful animated sequences showing,
among other things, Mariko despairing in her call for help and Akuma
sending forth his warriors. There are the sound effects that accompany
a victory. There are ... well, to tell you more would ruin the surprise.
Is Karateka the
perfect game? No. When you're defeated, you must start the game from
the very beginning. You don't have multiple "lives," each one picking
up where the previous one left off. Considering the effort it takes to
progress through Akuma's stronghold, this can get a bit frustrating.
Also, there are times when you try to throw a kick but your character
just stands there. It's not a bug in the program, but I'm not sure if
it's poor joystick response, confused commands from trying to throw two
punches and two kicks at once, or what. Still, these problems are
relatively minor compared to the action and enjoyment that Karateka brings to the screen.
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