Developer: Karateka LLC
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

KaratekaClassic-1Sometimes classic titles only have a pronounced effect on the people who played them when played well after their time. Playing them years later often shows that something is missing. Karateka Classic, while intriguing to me as a fan of retro games and because of its pedigree as a creation of Jordan Mechner, could easily have fallen flat for me. It’s a bit before my time, literally: the game was released in 1984, three years before my birth.

I found myself pleasantly surprised: this holds up really well for a game made in 1984.

This is a one-on-one fighting game, where players try to kill the devilish Akuma, a bad dude who kidnapped yo’ woman. So it’s time to kick their rear ends from here to Tiennamen Square. The fighting involves steadily advancing to Akuma, while fighting his minions along the way, running forward between battles. Oh, and there’s Akuma’s stupid hawk to deal with. It is the worst bird in the history of birds, the way that it comes in and gets a couple cheap shots in between battles. Bad bird.

KaratekaClassic-3So, with my first exposure to this game, I feared it would be just too old for me to enjoy. The thing is, the graphics may be low-resoluution, but the combat still feels fresh today. It’s got a six-button control scheme, one for low, mid, and high punches and kicks each. The fighting becomes about trying to find openings in enemy attacks to get in multiple blows while avoiding theirs, while not getting pushed back too far, because that might mean additional battles to fight.

The controls miraculously actually work pretty well on iPad and iPhone 5, keeping the game at its original aspect ratio while using the extra screen space for the buttons, which are of good enough size that I didn’t accidentally hit a button I didn’t intend do, somehow. The game is also merciful, eventually introducing a rewind feature for replaying tough battles. There’s the ability to play in color schemes that resemble old low-color monitors, but that just doesn’t do anything for me. That’s about it, though. The game has definitely aged like a fine wine. It still has that feel of being an old game, but it’s a vintage feel.

While there’s actually a remake of the original Karateka already on the App Store, for those looking for a taste of what came first, check this out – it’s launched at $0.99 and it’s a piece of gaming history that’s well worth digging into it.

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