The Karate Kid is a side scrolling beat em up platformer developed by Atlus and published by LJN in 1987. Atlus are well known for making RPG’s series such as the Megami Tensei Series, which spun off to create the well known Persona series of RPG’s. This game was released one month after the release of Devil Devil Story: Megami Tensei, which at the time in Japan was acclaimed for being something different to the dungeon crawler RPG genre. Atlus also developed another game published by LJN, Friday The 13th, which was not received well.
LJN was an American publisher of video games and they published their first game, Jaws for the NES, which was released in 1987. LJN is notorious for publishing video games of a lower quality and published quite a few titles based upon movie licences like Friday The 13th, Terminator 2 and True Lies. LJN was dissolved into Acclaim Entertainment in 1995, which became defunct in 2005.
The story of Karate Kid is loosely based upon aspects of the story of the films Karate Kid 1 and Karate Kid and the game’s goals is to guide Daniel through 4 levels to prove that he can be a karate master and save Kumiko who is Daniel’s girlfriend. There is not much more that can be said about the story because the game does not go into much detail at all about the story and this is a shame because there could have been much more done with the movie license. Even other movie licensed games at the time did more with their perspective license like The Goonies, which was developed by Konami.
I feel that the story in this game is quite lacking because it could have followed the story of the film more closely, rather than being loosely based upon the first two films. Also, why base it upon the first two films when the game is titled The Karate Kid, and there was already a beat em up title for PC called The Karate Kid Part II. I think that there could be have been more exploration into the main character and maybe the game could have been based on more aspects of the first film.
The Karate Kid is a side scrolling beat em up where the goal of the game is to save Kumiko who was taken hostage. The first level of the game is the only level that has any aspect of the first film whilst the other 3 levels are solely around the second film. For players who don’t know the films, then there will be a disconnect because the game does not explain the story very well at all.
The first problem with the game is the controls as they are very unresponsive and the attacks take about 1-2 seconds before the attack is completed. This means that if the player is under attack by multiple enemies, then chaining attacks is almost impossible. There is also issues with these attacks clipping through enemies, meaning that there will be some situations where the player’s attacks will miss because of the poor hit detection. The jump button is set to up, which is tiring on the thumb due to the fact that the player will be moving left and right as well. The worst part of the controls is that the player earns powerups by defeating enemies and once the player kicks or punches, the powerup related to the attack is automatically used. I found out that I needed to hold the direction and the attack to conserve these attacks, but the game does not explain this.
The graphics of the game are actually not too bad and the backgrounds are quite colourful, however there are some issues with flickering and fuzziness with some of the foreground features. This flicker and fuzziness tends to occur when the player is moving and this definitely causes a distraction away from the gameplay. I definitely think that more effort could have been put into making sure that this doesn’t happen because it affects how the graphics look when the game scrolls.
The other problem with the game is the ridiculously unfair difficulty that the game has because even though the game is only 4 levels, the levels are extremely difficult and quite unfair. The first reason why this is the case is because the player has no invincibility frames after being hit by an enemy, which means that the player can lose easy and what can be considered cheap lives due to poor game design. Also, the player has only three lives and the game offers no continues, meaning that once those three lives are gone, it’s back to the beginning. I find this to be brutally unfair especially for new player who perhaps doesn’t know what the game is about to throw at them. There is also knockback, which seems to always be aiming at a nearby pit, and there are a lot of pits in annoying positions. This alongside the atrocious controls means that playing through the game for me personally was quite miserable and sheer frustration.
There is no separate music section because there is minimal music and there is very little in terms of sound design. Once again, the game feels rushed out of the door to make as much money based upon the licence and yet if more care was taken to maybe incorporate some of the Karate Kid themes, then the soundtrack might have been more memorable.
The Karate Kid for NES fails in quite a lot of departments and it seems to me that if a few more months were spent on the game, then the game could have been quite a lot better. The controls and gameplay are simply appalling, however the graphics and the backgrounds of the game I found to be quite pleasant and well detailed. The music and sound design is borderline non existent and I just think that this was a wasted opportunity to make a game that really showcases the license. Then again, LJN did gain a reputation for publishing games like this, which were rushed through development based upon many movie licences. I feel that the game had potential, but all of this was wasted because of how rushed the game feels and the only way I can describe the game is a “Bang Your Head Against A Brick Wall Simulator”.
Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use