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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My Very First Beat 'Em Up on My Old Apple II...Karateka!!

High atop a craggy cliff, guarded by an army of fierce warriors stands the fortress of the evil warlord Akuma. Deep in the darkest dungeon of the castle Akuma gloats over his lovely captive, the princess Mariko.
You are one trained in the way of karate: a Karateka. Alone and unarmed, you must defeat Akuma rescue the beautiful Mariko.

Put fear and self-concern behind you. Focus your will on your objective, accepting death as a possibility. This is the way of the Karateka.

Beat-'em-ups, of fighting games are the staple of PC games and consoles, a trend largely inherited from the coin-op arcade forefathers.

On the consoles, you have dozens of realistic fighting games, like Street Fighter, Tekken, Power Stone, Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat. Each game has a particular idea, which they execute pretty well, and that's what make it a good game, apart from the literally hundreds of wannabe games out there.

But many years ago, the very first beat-'em-up game a humble little game we played on the monochrome screen called Karateka. At that time there were other great fighting games on other platforms, notably Double Dragon and The Way of the Exploding Fist.

Karateka, programmed by a guy called Jordan Mercer for Broderbund Software (they were also famous for Lode Runner, Mercer went on to Prince of Persia), came in a single 5.25" floppy disk (yes, those days they came in 5.25" disks only).

The game was super simple. This hero with while hair climbs up a mountain cliff onto Akuma's lair (the bad master) who is holding the beautiful princess Mariko hostage (yeah, like the hero has still all the energy to fight after climbing up the mountain).

First you fight the guards outside the palace one by one (gee, don't these henchmen know how to gang up on you? Or use weapons?!), then you enter the palace and fight the stronger henchmen. Finally, you take on Akuma's annoying eagle, then the great master himself. And finally, if you win, you get to save the princess...

The game was simple, with 3 punches and 3 kicks (high, medium and low, go figure), a far cry from all the combos and juggling attacks you get on Tekken or Virtua Fighter.

Some interesting stuff i remember from the game:
  • The sound and music was pretty good for such an early game.

  • There was a gate at the entrance to the castle. If you ran straight into it, it would fall down on you and instantly killed you...

  • If you approached Princess Mariko with a fighting stance, she'd kick you down and you die. Yeah, i know it's cruel...

  • As with most games of that era, you couldn't save the game at any point. Which really added to the fun of the game...

I remember my friends and i were really crazy about the game, one of 'em had an all-expensive colour monitor and we could see Akuma's regal costume in full colour. There are emulators around the internet for the game, but i really wish i had my old apple II to fire up the game one last time... Meanwhile i should probably stick to the latest Street Fighter on the Playstation.


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