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Title: Karate Champ (2nd Review)
Author:Data East
Rom Player: Jnes
Reviewer: Anonymous

Synopsis: Some games are timeless, either because they remain popular even though the consoles that first housed them have become obsolete, or "timeless" in the sense that the damn things never seem to end. With "Karate Champ," the latter is true, because even though I beat my opponent 70 times using every possible move the game offered, I was still forced to end the game by shutting off the power button wondering whether or not I really won. Am I now the Karate Champ? Or did I start out as the Karate Champ, and the guy in the red outfit is trying to take my title away? I'll never know, because the two opponents do not tell me anything, and the only other character in the game is a referee who loves heights and has a three-word vocabulary. All I've ever heard him say is "Begin," "Point" and "Stop." Thanks, ref. That really helps me put the pieces together.

You begin the game on Pride Rock, where, if you'll remember from the 1994 Disney hit "Lion King," Simba was crowned, or "maned," or whatever the hell. Even though you and your opponent are standing in the very spot the King of Beasts was coronated, the ref has climbed up even higher and is looking down on you both as though he were Christ himself. Some may argue that his choice of location is to give him a better view of the match at hand, but personally I think he's an egotistical bastard.

If you manage to defeat your opponent, which is no major feat since he's a sucker for the jumping face kick, you will be rewarded by a series of vases flung at you by somebody offscreen. The perpetrators of this injustice must be the judge and your opponent since they are the only two people besides you stupid enough to be hanging around the den of a pride of savage (but delightfully articulate and musical) lions. You can duck, jump over, or try to smash the vases, but the damn things never stop coming until, inevitably, you are pelted by one of them. How the hell the judge got hold of so many vases in the middle of the Serengeti is baffling, but you do not have the mental capacity to ponder this as you are now lying face down in a pool of your own blood, vase and skull fragments tangled in your matted hair.

Once properly humiliated, your mangled and ruined body is dragged out into the middle of the desert, where you must fight the red-clad adversary again. He still falls for the jumping face kick fairly regularly, suggesting that he has some kind of sick foot fetish combined with severe masochism. The bastard actually likes having bare toes in his battered face. If this disturbs you as much as it does me, try using the foot sweep as your new maneuver of choice. If properly timed, you will knock the enemy on his back, where he has suddenly grown a new arm. Either that, or his leg is now protruding downward from his shoulder joint. In any case, with this simple tactic you've managed to fuck him up real bad.

Great job--you've defeated your opponent without satisfying his deviant sexual appetites. Your reward: more fucking vases. Oh sure, you can break some for points, but you're really just prolonging fate. You are GOING to get beaned by one of those things, and points are little comfort to a person whose cranial bone tissue has been replaced largely by bits of porcelain. To add insult to injury, somebody put flowers in each one of the vases. Fucking FLOWERS. Now you know for a fact that you're dealing with a deeply unbalanced lunatic as well as a homoerotic pervert. God only knows what those two assholes are doing to you when you're unconscious from all those vase bludgeonings. If you notice that your black belt is a little loose the next round...well, it's best not to dwell on that.

Even with the combined mental issues plaguing the judge and your opponent, the resourceful duo still manages to summon enough sanity to arrange transportation for the three of you and the judge's formidable pottery collection, and your badly beaten and abused form is hauled to a city, Hawaii, the Great Wall of China (I think), a warehouse, a dock and other places. I admit I'm not much of a traveler, but if I ever take it upon myself to go on a trip around the world, it's certainly not so I can fight the same asshole in every major location on the planet. It's very difficult to appreciate the splendor of Stonehenge when both of your eyes are swollen shut from countless beatings. Also, you are never given a break from the vases. The rhythm is constant: kick your opponent's ass, get your skull crushed by pottery, wake up in blood-drenched flower petals, fight some more. Finally you reach the warehouse. Your opponent is still as inept as he was in the first match; when at last you score the final point, you think that your long road of suffering and torment has finally come to a close, when...

THWACK! You are assaulted by yet another vase. That's okay, though...the part of your brain responsible for conditioned learning has long since been shredded by pottery fragments, making you momentarily forgetful of the vases. However, you accept your latest head trauma with a sort of perverse gratitude, for you know it will be the last time. Happily you drift in untroubled dreams, floating through seas of flowers...countless flowers. Sadly, these flowers will never be purged from your subconscious, but it is a small price to pay for the tranquility that awaits you when you finally awaken.

You open your eye, for it is the only good eye left, and find yourself back on Pride Rock! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! What villainy is this? Not only do you have to defend your title for the 750,093,417,639th time, but now you don't even have any new scenery to enjoy. You've seen every square inch of the planet and a good portion of its core, and the judge plans to send you and your opponent both up to Mars in the year 2016, where you will have to fight and dodge vases another seven-hundred billion times. Also, I'm told that Martian earthenware is made of much harder stuff, and the flowers on Mars are actually cousins of the Venus Flytrap that subsist on human nose hairs. Therefore, the game continues until the red guy wins or your character succumbs to the broken, fragmented misery of torment and agony his life has become, and he finally just dies of grief.

Along with the monotony of the game's setup, you have the added joy of controlling a character who cannot turn around without performing an elaborate kick, which like his other moves, is almost as graceful as Fat Albert purging from his colon the twelve sides of bacon he ate that morning. Also, most of your attacks will phase through an enemy's face and body. It seems as though my fist overlaps with the red guy's head, but the judge will declare a point whenever the hell he feels like it. He can shape reality to his will, and no man should have that much power. The ref must be stopped. If apprehended by any of the governments ruling the many countries the judge has visited, I propose he be executed by hurling squad. No, not a firing squad, a HURLING squad. What, might you ask, would the death squad hurl at him? VASES, goddammit. Smash him with as many vases as equal to the number of countries he has dragged you off to, and if he's still breathing after that, he is to be shot in the face until dead. Then the corpse is to be decapitated and cloves of garlic must be shoved into his mouth, and a wooden stake must be driven deep into his chest and ass. After that, the body is to be burned, the ashes of which must be scattered to the four corners of Creation. That way, we'll make damn sure he never does this to another human being. EVER.

Not to be outdone by the gameplay, the graphics suck equally bad. For example, whenever a fighter is knocked to the ground or bows to his hated adversary, his face suddenly vanishes. Maybe this is a psychological tactic used by the fighters when bowing. If one has no face, one can show no fear. I'm not familiar with many Data East titles, but I know that several Konami characters never had faces to begin with, but at least they never spontaneously grew a face. Now that would be fucked up. My point is, no game should ever cross the face/no face boundary unless there is a change in perspective. If you're going to have faces in your game, you've got to commit, man.

The music of the game was mediocre, and I got tired of hearing that "Happy Theme" whenever my character won a match. Maybe the music became sour for me because I knew I was about to be bombarded with earthenware every time I heard it. The sound effects matched the simple gameplay, though, especially the sound THOSE GODDAMNED FUCKING VASES MADE WHEN THEY DESTROYED BOTH YOUR CRANIAL STRUCTURE AND YOUR DIGNITY! Who the hell came up with that vase round? I want names. I also want addresses, phone numbers, names of relatives and some grenades. I'll give those people a good talking to, by God.

Grudgingly, I have to give this game some points for originality, because this the first game I've seen of this type, and the last such game I ever want to see. I wish "Total Recall" had been a true story, because I'd go down to that memory-switching travel bureau in a heartbeat and ask them to delete all memories I ever had of playing "Karate Champ." Plus I'd ask them if they wouldn't mind rubbing out that time I got struck in the groin by a tennis ball during an important high school doubles game.

If you've never played "Karate Champ" and wish to know what it's like, first grab a potted plant from somewhere and smash yourself over the head with it. Then go punch the first person you see wearing red. If you win the ensuing fight, find more pottery and repeat steps 1 and 2 until somebody declares you the "Karate Champ." Like in the game, nobody will. I guess it's no big loss that you are never officially declared "Karate Champ" in the game, because being champion doesn't carry a whole lot of prestige in a league consisting of just two guys. Anyway, like I suggested earlier, you may already be the champ. As Mr. T said in Rocky III after he became Heavyweight Champion, "I will destroy any man who tries to take what I got." Well, after countless rounds of slow, sluggish fighting and being mercilessly pummeled by heavy flower pots, I don't think I want it anymore.

Best Cheats: I have no cheats, but if anyone has recently spotted or knows the current whereabouts of the "Karate Champ" judge, do not attempt to apprehend him yourself unless you are fairly adept at ducking thrown objects, jumping, or turning around. Otherwise, contact the police or notify your local pottery shop.

Game Play: 3
Graphics: 3
Music/Sound: 4
Originality: 6
Overall Rating: 4

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