Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Karate Tournament (Arcade)

In the period following the release of Street Fighter II, tons of fighting games were released into arcades. Most of them were terrible also-rans like Mortal Kombat, some were the start of timeless, beloved franchises like Fatal Fury and King of Fighters 98. What they mostly had in common is the basic formula codified by SFII that even to this day most fighting games adhere to, with health bars and combos and special move inputs and so on.
The Karate Tournament is one of the few that doesn't follow that trend. The most obvious difference between it and other fighting games is the lack of health bars. Instead, it takes a more realistic martial arts tournament approach, with each fighter having six points, losing one when they take a hit, and two when they're knocked down. Losing all six points means losing the fight.
Three is a pretty important number in this game: you can choose from three difficulties before you start playing, you get three lives, and each location has three opponents to fight. Obviously, when you lose a match, you lose a life, but you have to start the match from the beginning again. A nice little touch is how there's a kabuki referee guy like in the early Samurai Shodown games, announcing and waving flags when a fighter gains a point or wins a match.
The points system makes the fights a lot quicker than in regular fighting games, usually only going for a few seconds and sometimes ending in only 2 or 3 hits. The other big difference is in the controls. Since there isn't any health system, there aren't different strengths of attack. Instead, there's an attack button an a jump button. There's a ifferent attack for pressing the attack button at the same time as each direction, as well as mid-air attacks, and quick mini-combos activated by pressing both buttons plus a direction. As far as I can tell, the CPU opponents all have the same moveset as the player, differing only in their preferred tactics and their skill in using them.
Despite all the unique innovation and originality in the game, my favourite thing about it is the graphics. As you might expect from Mitchell, the makers of the psychedelic Strider-clone Osman, the colour pallettes in this game are all incredibly bright and vibrant, and the animation is also excellently fluid (probably as a positive side effect of there essentially being only one character).

The Karate Tournament doesn't have the lasting appeal of regular fighters, with their varied casts and masses of tactical options, but it's still a game I reccomend playing, as there really isn't much else like it and it does look amazing.

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