My Dad Really Is: A Review of Karateka

I don’t like to jerk off with games anymore.  Games that take about 900 hours to complete are stupid, which is why I stick to dumb shit like Karateka.

karateka

You know shit’s real when whole heads explode.

If you don’t know the name immediately, you’re a toolbox and I’m not interested to know you.  Karateka was originally released in 1954 for the Magical Fruit Duo.  I played it when it was remade 30 years later as Karateka for the Commodore 64 in 1984, even though everybody went crazy off their ass for the Apple II version, because that was the kind of computer Jordan Mechner originally programmed it for.  Whatever.  Apples are my ass and blueberries are my balls.  The fact was, the original Karateka was a fantastic exercise in silent storytelling, an interactive kung fu movie for our childhood hearts wrapped up in a tight little pixelated package.  The plot?  Kick dudes in the balls as hard as you can until you got to save princess Mariko from some badass named Akuma.  Also, punch some bird that could get really pissed at you.

Karateka-storyboard

Drawings Jordan Mechner scribbled while he was in the shitter.

Easy. Simple.  The game was full of repetitive tension.  Blocking moves and judging where the best place to strike your opponent factored in heavily, and if you didn’t make the right decision, you were sure to get your ass handed to you.  I never beat the original game, probably because I was born retarded.  Mechner transferred some of those fantastic mechanics over to his more popular title, Prince of Persia, in 1989.

After buying the 2012 Karateka remake that magically came out for consoles in November and then surprised me on my Steam window earlier this evening, I was hopeful for an experience just as memorable as the original.  I couldn’t wait to get pissed, punch my monitor, and jerk off in the time it took to load from my tape drive.

Unfortunately, none of that happened.

Trying to view Karateka with glasses that aren’t steamed over by nostalgia is impossible.  It’s not a game meant to stand on its own; it’s not a game that was ever intended to be sold to exist on its own apart from the old memories.  Karateka tries to meet the standards of the original, but falls terribly short in almost every way.  It’s like when you went to the flea market when you were a kid, bought that sweet bootleg Jackie Chan VHS tape, and got home and realized somebody had recorded a workout tape over it.

What a bunch of dicks.

If this game looks cool, you're wrong -- it isn't.

If this game looks cool, you’re wrong — it isn’t.

Karateka is more of a rhythm game than an action-fighter.  It eschews the original formula’s need to judge your combat — Do I use a high-kick?  A low-kick?  Do I block the attack or step back out of the way?  Do I get aggressive, do I work defensively? — and instead replaces them all with Guitar Hero without the guitars or any of the fun.  Combat is broken down into two sequences: Block and Attack.  Fights almost always begin with the enemy throwing a few punches at you, and you needing to block before you attack.   You block at the right time by pressing a button, then attack back.

There you go.  That’s the Karateka remake in a nutshell.

If you want to move during a fight, you can’t.  Lateral movement isn’t even possible.  The camera just jerks back and forth between blocking and attacking sequences, and you’re expected to adhere to them without breaking out of pattern, without attempting to slip in an attack when it’s either not your turn, or when the enemy doesn’t ask to get kicked in the face.

Karateka is about the easiest game ever made.  Sure, you have three lives (each which corresponds to one of the three characters attempting to save Princess Mariko: her True Love, a Monk, and some creepy Brute dude who likes to smile like a rapist), but you likely won’t need all of them.  Hell, you might get bored enough before you ever really give a shit.

Karateka's character select screen that I magically made up.

Karateka‘s character select screen that I magically made up.

Here are a few things to expect from Karateka the minute you blow your cash on what you think might be a chance to relive some old memories.

1) The art-style is reminiscent of Disney’s Mulan.  Hell, I think you’re actually saving Mulan.

2) You don’t have to even angle your blocks or your kicks.  You just press buttons.  It’s that easy, you dingus.

3) Challenge is nonexistent.  Don’t even worry about getting better at the game.  By the time you beat the fourth enemy, you’ll be ready to take on the evil Akuma and turn this bullshit off.

4) You have a special move that you gather up over enough time of getting your face punched in the exact same way over and over again.  Fortunately for you, you can use this Chi super move at the right time — just as you’re getting kicked in your chin.

There’s really not very much worth saying about Karateka, unfortunately.  You’d be better off revisiting your sad childhood by playing the original, which is infinitely better in so many ways than this over-stylized  shadow of a video game.  If you’re interested to press forward for awhile, and then press a button and then another button over and over again, it might be right up your alley, but to spend ten bucks on it seems downright foolish.  You’re scarcely getting a game — you’re getting a reminder that some games just never need to be remade.

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