International Karate 2000
Review - hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiya! One of the best beat-em-ups of many years ago gets a fresh lick of handheld paint
Back in the deep and dark mists of time there was a legendary martial arts tournament where karate competitors from all around the world would come to battle for the ultimate prize of achieving the esteemed black belt. All of the action took place within the dojos of the Commodore 64 home computer, where gamers stared at their screens with bloodshot eyes and joystick incurred blisters on their hands.
Needless to say if you are a veteran of International Karate from it's 8-bit birth, you will no doubt be relishing the idea of this game being freshened up and brought bang up-to-date on your GameBoy Colour. It is actually quite ironic that IK has been ported over as only a while back I was compiling a list of 8-bit games I would like to see ported, and IK was top of my list.
IK on the Commodore 64 had me chained in it's web of addiction for months, so does the GBC version capture and maintain the hugely playable standards of it's ancient brother? It most certainly does, and then some.
Wax On ..Wax Off
The premise behind International Karate 2000 is simple - pick a fighter, and do battle with all manner of opponents to win the coveted black belt. Once you have beaten all that oppose you do not think you can rest, as you will have to prove yourself once and for all to Sensei, the master. Once you have defeated Sensei you have completed the game. Simple? Not exactly.
To make matters that much harder for you each opponent has differing skills in all departments. Where one guy will have an excellent defence, the next opponent you face may have a lousy defence but a devastatingly accurate 'roundhouse' kick to watch out for. To further trouble you in your route to glory is the fact that as the tournament wears on so your opponents become more adept. A strategy needs to be worked out, as some players become unbelievably good when competing for the black belt, where others are much easier to take out.
You begin by selecting which of the twelve fighters you want to take control of, and to assist you with this choice there is a list of all fighters in the manual complete with their favoured move and fighting style. Once selected you will be taken to the world map where you will be selecting your next opponents later on, but for your first fight you don't get a choice.
The idea is to kick, punch or even headbutt your opponent such that his energy level depletes to zero, after which you are awarded match points which are determined by the quality of your knockout blow. A full point is awarded for a full on blow, and a half point for a glancing shot. The round is over when you or your opponent reaches three points, or when the timelimit expires. Whoever has the most points after the times up wins the round, or if the points are level the round is drawn and has to be fought again, with the first to two round wins taking the match.
After each fight you have a bonus stage, which will be either deflecting bouncing balls or side-kicking bombs. Bouncing balls come at you from left and right, at differing heights, with the occasionally flashing random bounce ball, with their speed ever increasing in later stages. For the bombs it is a simple matter of side-sweep kicking them off the screen before they explode, or avoiding the shrapnel if they do. Successfully deflect all of the balls or bombs and you will receive a score points award, fail and you don't win anything and you go on to choose your next opponent.
Your fighter has a great variety of moves available to him, including high, mid and low kicks, with an impressive array of punches to combine with them. Probably the most satisfying of kicks to execute is the 'roundhouse', but if you can perform the rather more difficult 'flying kick' you will soon be slaying all that step in your way!
Controlling is smooth, though you do find the directional key governed selection of the kick and punches to be a little haphazard sometimes, requiring a definite key press for them to happen. This particularly shows itself up when you are attempting the 'high kick' or 'face punch' manoeuvres which need you to press the up key in combination with the A or B key.
Apart from that controlling this game is a dream, providing some superb fast and frantic match-ups that will have your palms sweating and GameBoy screen misting up. Beware of thumb ache also, I fully advise a five-minute rest in-between fights, as my thumb is still hurting now two days after a particularly long IK2000 session.
Box of Tricks
Graphically they have kept the side-on scrolling as featured in the original, but have given the fighters a far more solid look. Animation is splendid with all the moves excellently displayed, and it almost makes you deliberately somersault the fighter to see just how good it is. Never once does the action slow down, ensuring continuity to the fights.
With each fight located at different parts of the world, you will not be surprised to hear that all the backgrounds feature key locations to each country. In Egypt you fight against a backdrop of pyramids, in Sydney the opera house, and in London, Big Ben looms above the fighters. You get the idea! All of the backdrops look great, and more importantly don't clash at all with the action going on in the foreground.
Possibly the aspect of IK2000 that got me smiling the most was the music. The songs featured are those used in the original, and they belt out in a true Commodore 64 style warble. The sound effects during the fights are also rather good with lots of Bruce Lee style slapping sounds and grunts of pain.
This game for me is what I have been waiting for on the GameBoy Colour, with its superb graphics, hard hitting sounds and gameplay straight from the old school of gaming. It is raw gameplay like this that can keep a man addicted for months on end, and IK2000 is difficult enough to provide hours more play even when you have won all there is to win.
I cannot recommend this title enough; you simply have to have it in your GBC collection. A little piece of gaming history gets a fresh airing, and boy is it good to have it back.