Karate Kid review
It's not that bad...but damn it's cheap!

The good:

Gameplay physics are executed decently enough
Mini-games found in the levels are kind of fun to play
Graphics look decent enough
Soundtrack is decent enough

The bad:

Cheap and frustrating
Contact with the enemy makes both of you fly backwards
Bosses are too easy to defeat
Controls are stiff


Back in the NES days, movie-based games were often mistreated and people always gave them heaps of hate because they were poorly programmed and frustrating to play. For that reason (plus ET on the Atari-2600 causing the video game crash of the early 80's), all movie-based games are automatically shit in the eyes of...damn near everyone, unless it's Goldeneye for the N64. I like some movie-based games, but aside from Goldeneye, Batman and Journey To Silius, they're on the PS2. Shows improvement over the years, huh? But the most infamous has to be LJN. If you've ever played Back To The Future or Jaws for the NES, you'll know that LJN often put in some gimmick that was poorly executed, making some of the worst games known to mankind, while making toys and money. Basically, they leeched off the popularity of movies (mostly successful ones) and made horrible games based off them...just like many companies like them... However, there is one game that wasn't as bad as most of their other games... Meet... The Karate Kid!

Karate Kid on the NES is basically LJN's take on the first two Karate Kid movies (first level is at the end of the first movie while the rest are based on the second movie). If you haven't seen the movies, I feel sorry for you, those are excellent movies that you must see at least once before you die. That, and you might not know what the hell is going on... Yeah, it requires you to have seen the movies to get the idea of the story. Anyway, the game basically shows you in a tournament, then in some city, then in some city during a typhoon and through some mountains, and at the end of the cities and mountains, you have to fight the Chozen - your rival - until he surrenders, then you move on. Not exactly what Karate Kid 2 was all about, but hey, if you don't care about the story, just try to ignore it.

If you've never played Kung-Fu, please play it sometime, it's a pretty good game. Why am I bringing up a classic? Because this game plays a LOT like Kung-Fu! You could say that it should play like Double Dragon, but I disagree. I guess it makes sense to have the style like Kung-Fu's since this is "The Karate Kid" and not "Rocky". Basically, you scroll from left to right, either punching or kicking bad guys. There isn't really any difference between the two, maybe except for the fact that when you duck and kick, it's much lower than a ducking punch. Other than that, there isn't really much difference. Hell, the amount of points you get for doing one and not the other is any different! You get 200 points for killing an enemy whether you kicked him or punched him!

There are a few things that separate Karate Kid from Kung-Fu. For one, when you see a box with either a C or D on it and collect it, then stand still and kick or punch, you do something a bit different. They're stronger attacks. D allows you to hammerfist (put two clenched fists together) enemies, while C allows you to do the famous Karate Kid kick (you know the one where he raises a bent leg and his two hands, then jumps and kicks with the other leg). However, if you look at the top right, you see that you only have a limited supply of them. When that hits zero, you're back to regular punches and kicks. But when do these squares appear? Kill off a few enemies and one of the squares will appear at random. YOU HAVE TO BE STANDING STILL TO USE THESE ATTACKS, NO TOUCHING THE D-PAD!

Another difference is the fact that you can do these bonus stages..or rather, some little mini games that are fairly rewarding (depends on how you do). Finding these is both easy and hard. They are usually in open buildings. There are three sorts - Break some ice tubes, catch flies with chopsticks and dodge the swinging hammer. Now, I know what you're thinking. What the hell? Well, they were in the movie, so it makes sense to include these in the game. What do you actually do? Breaking the ice tubes requires reaction timing - a good reaction to the right timing (or when the orange bar gets at its furthest) will break all of the ice, while bad timing breaks nothing. You basically press A at the right time. For fly catching, it's like with breaking the ice, except you can move left and right while moving the chopsticks up and down. You have to press A when a fly gets to the end of your chopsticks. All 6 flies need to be squashed for the full reward, though 4 and 5 are acceptable too. Finally, dodging the swinging hammer... Let's be honest, I can't get over 3 dodges. You have to punch the swinging hammer when it comes at you... So basically, these are all a test of reaction timing.

Sounds good and all, and if it was just that, the game wouldn't be so bad. However, LJN thought it'd be a GREAT IDEA to have BOTH the player and enemy fly back when they touch each other without attacking! You can't even hit them at point blank range, you have to stand back a bit! Don't bother with jump kicks either, the bumpback will render it useless (not that it was that useful to begin with anyway, ground combat ftw). This gets very annoying, especially when the enemies start pummelling you.

And let's talk about the enemies, because they really get on your nerves while playing the game. They basically ram you to a corner or to a pit (instant death - =O) and can keep wailing at you because there's no temporary invincibility time once you're hit. No siree, they can beat you down until one of your attacks hits them and stops their chain of attacks. This, alone, makes the game's difficulty go from challenging to just plain cheap and frustrating. Add the fact that the fourth level's enemies are even stronger and even cheaper than the second and third level's batch, and the difficulty is even cheaper and even more frustrating.

Here's what really gets at me. There are only four levels in the entire game. That's right, FOUR LEVELS! Short, am I right? The game lasts about 20-30 minutes! Most NES games require about 50-100 minutes to beat! This... Oh sweet Jesus... But what LJN thought is that the game is short, so it's alright to make them hard as all hell. How about a game where you choose how to torture yourself with weapons without feeling pain? It's kind of the same thing! It really proves that this is just a cheap cash-in, just like 100% of LJN's games.

The level designs aren't really anything to scream out loud for any reason to. While the backgrounds look detailed and some parts even looking 16-bit (minus the plain sky blue sky), they aren't really special. Level 3 is actually the only level that's any different (level 1 is just 4 easy "boss" fights), because there's a typhoon striking the town, there's crap flying everywhere backwards and it's pushing you back, making everything harder than it needs to be. If you get hit by anything, it pushes you back, and there are a hefty amount of pits, so getting hit near them is instant death.

By the way, you only get one continue. You start with 3 lives, and you can get more lives by scoring a certain amount of points, but if you lose all your lives, that's it! Game over! You have to start the entire game all over again! But that's fair, because the game is very, very short. Actually, I think this is shorter than Journey To Silius, and that only takes 30-45 minutes to finish. What a cash thief!

Is it even worth it? Is the ending really worth the frustration and broken NES controllers? Not really, the ending is just some old guy (the karate kid's sensei) animated to look like he's telling you something. It's basically him 'saying' to you "congratulations you beat the game". Cheap cash-in...

There is another mode of play where you and your mate can face each other one-on-one, however, it's basically the first level, just that the opponent is not stupidly easy. It was easily a last-minute thought as they're not really much to it - FIGHT! But it was kind of a nice touch when you think about it...

So...is Karate Kid really all that bad? It's not the worst game on the NES or of all time... I actually think it's semi-decent! Not decent, but close.


Gameplay: 3
The bare basis of it is simple enough... Enemies coming, hit them. The little mini-games are also a nice addition, and a good test of reaction while making sense to the movies. Unfortunately, the bumping that pushes you both back plus the harsh difficulty hindering gameplay delays it like hell. It all almost kills the game.

Control: 2.5
The controls are somewhat responsive, though it all feels quite stiff. Also, when you jump, the control of your jump is limited since you fall fairly fast, plus it had to be the up button. However, the jump controls are at least realistic, plus A and B were needed for attacks. They're...alright.

Story: 3.5
It kind of remains true to the Karate Kid films, though the changes between levels is a bit too abrupt for my liking, plus it doesn't exactly feel like Karate Kid, but I can't quite think of why that is... Hmm...

Graphics: 4
Well, at least the graphics look good. The characters are all kind of flat so that they stand out from the detailed (and not so detailed) background objects. The background objects look pretty good and detailed. Of course, everything it as they're supposed to be. My only complaint is that the enemies are all the same. Hell, Chozen doesn't change in appearance after every level! That's a bit lazy, don't you think? But maybe I shouldn't be picky... I mean, LJN got something right without buggering up too badly!

Sound: 3.5
The soundtrack is alright. Nothing that sticks in your head (except for the title theme), but it's hummable. The sound effects are usual 8-bit affair - can't really criticise them harshly as Nintendo didn't have much control over this and it's only 1988 that this game was made, so there's no need to be picky about it.

Lifespan: 1.5
With 20-30 minutes of gameplay, no reason to want to play it again and a half-assed one-on-one fighting mode, there isn't much replay value here. The sort of game you'd only play once and forget about for a long, long time.

Funfactor: 1.5
Sorry to say, but the difficulty is horrendously cheap and with the bumpbacks, you can't really do much against the enemies. If you're breaking NES controllers and screaming the f word every few seconds while flipping off the TV because you're being rammed into a corner is your idea of fun... go ahead. But that isn't what I think when I think of fun. I'm for hard difficulty and all that, but this is like bullcrap hard - the bad sort of hard really. The only fun thing here are the little mini-games found in the levels.

Bottom Line:
Karate Kid was a great movie that spawned a half-decent game from a bad game developer. If you wish to play this, make sure you have a lot of anger management pills due to frustrations.

2/5. Give it a shot sometime. There may be a lot of bad parts to it, but nothing worth smashing to death!

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