Karateka in Review – More Than Just A Facelift

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With the release of Karateka Classic on the App Store, I thought I’d check out the remake that hit the virtual store shelves in December 2012.  There’s no question that this modern interpretation of the vintage karate brawler is more than just a namesake, but it’s hard to tell what the target audience is.  Causal gamers will likely get frustrated by the timing in later battles, while hardcore fighters will get bored with the lack of combos and repetitive back and forth combat.  About the only ones that will be truly satisfied with this updated version of Karateka are the ones that remember and love the original, but even then there are a couple of interesting twists and turns…

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The tale is tried and true: a princess has been captured and you must rescue her from the evil warlord.  In this case you may take on the role of up to three different suitors, which is both a major departure from the original and makes it interesting how they weave the tales together, or at least what little they reveal about everything.  This definitely has the potential for a good anime movie.  Anyway, to save the day and get the girl you’ll have to fight many of the warlord’s underlings, as well as the warlord himself.  And for those of you that might be concerned otherwise, you do get to take out the hawk in this version as well (and just like the original, you’ll enjoy it when the bird finally falls).

Combat is interesting in that all you do is tap the screen.  For the most part each round is a two phase process: block each of the bad guy’s blows and then when he’s done hammer him as much as you can.  Enemy attacks are designated by a series of dots on the top of the screen, so you’ll know how many are coming and what’s left.  Personally, I find it much easier to judge the timing by the dots than by actually watching the foe.  The key is that you must block the final blow of each sequence, or not matter how well you did otherwise you won’t be able to attack.  If you do get to strike back, just keep tapping the screen relentlessly; the game will make you stop when you’ve used up your attacks.

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In a way the combat makes good use of the fact that you don’t have any true joystick control or even a keyboard like the old versions of the game, but it almost feels like you have too little control.  Even the port of the original version managed to provide several on screen buttons that while still simple compared to a modern fighter made you feel like you were doing something.  Still, this game did somehow manage to keep me intrigued all the way to the end, and I’m working on my second try now, so I guess the scheme isn’t all that bad.  The game does offer 15 achievements to earn as well as Game Center leaderboards, but honestly in this case they seem a bit superfluous.  The main replay value comes from beating the game with each of the three suitors, but the fascination might wear off before then.

Graphically the game far outshines its predecessor, but that’s what happens when you get to work with the Unreal Engine instead of monochrome color palettes and low resolutions.  The backgrounds look pretty sharp, and I like the fact that they left most of the game outside in this one instead of mainly traipsing through the palace.  The characters are nicely detailed and a decent middle ground between ultra-realistic and cartoonish.  The combat animation is slick and the fact that you can see your opponents hanging around the environment is quite cool.  The sound effects are decent enough, though it would have been nice to hear some of these characters speak.  There really isn’t much music between fights, and the music that plays during the battle seems to be affected by how you are fighting.

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There’s no question that fans of the original should check out this remake.  I’m not guaranteeing you’ll like it, but it’s always interesting to see how developers resurrect cherished properties.  As for the rest of you, I’m actually stumped on this one.  I personally have enjoyed it quite a bit, but I’m not sure who the target for this particular title is.  Maybe the best group of folks for Karateka is the ones that are interested in fighting games but never cared much for learning combos and secret moves.  I guess you’ll just have to judge based on what I’ve described above.

Grab It Rating - 4/5

App Summary
Title: KaratekaDeveloper: Karateka LLC
Reviewed Ver:Min OS Req:4.0
Price:$1.99App Size:
  • Interesting combat system
  • Great graphics
  • Dynamic Music
  • Not much variety in fighting
  • Replay value is limited

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