key review info
- Game: Karateka
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: Yes
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Karateka is a remake of the classic title of the same name, made by original creator Jordan Mechner with a team called Liquid Entertainment, which can be played on home consoles as well as on the PC.
The story of the game is very simple: we have an evil overlord named Akuma who has imprisoned a beautiful maiden called Mariko in his fortress, defended by quite a few very skilled fighters.
The player needs to take control of at least one hero (potentially three) in order to fight all the defenders, including some surprising ones, before battling Akuma himself and getting the princess.
The mechanics of Karateka are incredibly easy to comprehend, but pretty hard to master, which tends to be the hallmark of a solid game experience.
The player controls one of the three heroes mentioned above and his biggest skill is the ability to block the attack of his enemies by pressing D or a button on the attached controller.
As they say in basketball: “Defense is more important than breathing,” which in Karateka means that as long as you can learn to time blocks and understand all the attacks an enemy can launch, a player can pretty much be as sloppy as he wants with his own strikes.
The enemies are very interesting and have quite a few tricks up their robed sleeves, from long range attack delivered with incredible speed to combinations of quick and powerful jabs, and it takes skill and luck to get a perfect fight and never face defeat.
One trick that I understood relatively late was to focus on the final strike of an enemy combo and parry just that one, in order to at least get the counterattack and get some revenge for my own lost health.
There are also some boss enemy types, which need to be defeated more than one time to stay down, and Akuma himself is very tough to beat, mainly because each player strike only takes out a fraction of his own health.
One of the most beautiful mechanics of Karateka is that the difficulty levels of the game are disguised as the three heroes that the player can use in his quest.
It's clear that the princess only wants to be saved by the first of the three characters, the True Love, but the game makes it pretty hard, at least for my skill level, to get to the end using him, so I’ve only managed to actually complete Karateka using the Monk (I blame a certain bird enemy for that).
It might say something about the nature of the player whether he accepts the results once he finishes Karateka with the Brute or whether he perseveres and tries to achieve the perfect result by reuniting the damsel in distress with her preferred savior.
The devolution of the hero is also an interesting commentary on the low stakes that video games usually present us with and on how winning is more important than following the pre-determined story of a game experience.
Karateka is built using the Unreal Engine 3 and the development team makes good use of the Epic Games technology when it comes to the fights that form the core of the game, which move smoothly and look good, even if there are some issues with viewing angles from time to time.
The game is a little disappointing when it comes to the in-game cutscenes, which look a little jagged and tend to diminish the overall enjoyment of the game.
The music is also very appropriate given the setting, although a little more variety would have been a nice touch.
Given that Karateka was first launched in 1984, most of those who pick up the remake will have no information on the original and will simply appreciate the game as a rhythm-based fighting title with some new ideas and a limited story.
But the game is also a sign that classics can be revived after 28 years and still retain authenticity and feeling.