Why don’t we get karate games anymore? In fact, since International Karate was first released back in 1986, has there ever been another one? There was Best of the Best in 1992, but that felt more like kick boxing, it just happened to have the word ‘karate’ in its title. Nah, International Karate Plus is where it’s at and defies logic that there hasn’t been a new title in the series since 2003’s Game Boy Advance and Playstation release. It was always about the Commodore 64 version for me, though across the Atari ST, Amiga, and Playstation 1 it’s a fairly similar experience. The graphics are more simplistic on the C64, but it plays just as well.
The game pitted you against two other karateka, and you could have 1 human, 2 AI, or 2 human, 1 AI. Never a human threesome. The moment that timer starts, all chaos breaks out. What you thought about the professionalism of karateka and their martial art goes right out of the window as you and your opponents go for split kicks, flying kicks, headbutts, punches, et al. The head butts are particularly satisfying, being so difficult to connect but all the more satisfying for doing so.
With all of this insanity going off, it’d be easy to call this a mindless brawler but there’s more to it than that. The game is very strict in its hit detection, so you need to ensure your player is catching their opponent in the right spots. This is made even more important by the fact that the game does not operate under a health bar system but a strikes system. First to 6 points wins the round and the points you receive depends on the strike you connect with. Simple strikes get you a point, the more advanced techniques earn you 2 points. Honestly though, you won’t be considering your approach too much, as it’s just too darn fun kicking ten tons of it out of each other!
The audio is what made this game for me. It uses some of the most over the top combat sound effects you ever heard, and yet paired with the wicked sense of humour the game has, it’s a great partnership that works wonderfully. You’ll punch thin air and still hear that slapping sound of your punch, like you do when actors strike each other in the movies. I’ve heard rumours that the sound effects were actually ripped from a Bruce Lee movie, and when you get a good run of strikes under your belt, that’s exactly who you feel like.
The mini-games were quite fun too. Whether it was shielding yourself from incoming bouncing balls or having to strike detonating bombs off screen, it was always a nice respite from the ass kicking you were getting used to by this point. There were so many funny little touches going on in the background as well. You could see Pac-Man sometimes disappearing behind the tree, or you might spot the periscope pop up from the lake in the background. Sometimes during the bouncing ball mini game, you would even get a bouncing decapitated opponents head for you to rebound. You’d want to be on the lookout for these little touches, but at the risk of getting yourself bashed to the floor.
I love this game, it was such a big part of my childhood and I remember laughing so much when I would play it with my dad and brother.There’s also nothing quite as satisfying within the game as playing and playing and seeing the colour of your belt changing… and then you finally reach black belt. Truly a moment to get down on your CV. You can play it on nearly every system imaginable, it even got released on the Wii’s Virtual Console under their Commodore 64 section. Go get your belt tied up and start slapping!
Catch me getting my ass kicked @auto2112