Beat 'em ups have been popular for years on the 64 with games like Way of the Exploding Fist spawning dozens of clones. The Amiga has yet to see any real good fighting games. This is all set to change with the release of Karate Kid Pt II by Cornwall-based Microdeal.
Anyone who has seen the film will know that it is a slightly above average American good-guy versus bad-guy film about a young martial arts fanatic, Daniel Larusso, and his ageing mentor Myagi. In the film they travel back to Myagi's South Pacific homeland (to say goodbye to Myagi's dying father) only to find an age old conflict waiting for them. As with most of these films, the climax is a lengthy martial arts fight in which Daniel fights back, against all odds, to win against an initially superior opponent. Kung Fu Rocky!
The game takes the idea of Daniels various fights, together with two other scenes from the film, and converts them into an excellent combat/fighting game which really does the Amiga justice.
Using a joystick, rather than the Amiga mouse, you take on the role of Daniel Larusso. Unfortunately, unlike the film, you have no guarantee of success, and instead must fight your way past various baddies, most of whom are, at least to begin with, far faster and better than you. Anyone not used to a good game on the Amiga, would be stunned by the quality of both the graphics and sound of the Karate Kid's loading sequence. With what looks to be a digitised version of the game's poster screen, and a computerised version of Peter Cetera's 'The Glory of Love' playing along in the background, it is simple to see why the phrase 'interactive cinema' is the latest hype-buzz word to describe various games on the Amiga.
As you begin the game, your first choice is whether you want a one or two player game. Once this has been decided, you enter the game proper. Although having seen the film will not help you play the game, many of the scenarios have been faithfully recreated by Microdeal, and in this sense, the game is a much more acceptable film tie-in than some.
The opening screen shows you and your opponent 'facing off' until one or other makes the first move. The rest is mayhem. Fists and feet fly in all directions and soon it becomes apparent that you have lost. After a few practices at the first screen, together with a long look at all the moves described in the manual (something which, after many years of playing all sorts of computer games, I regard as some kind of failure on my behalf) I suddenly began to make some headway with my first opponent.
Wham! A roundhouse kick to the head. Swish! A back somersault quickly followed by Crack! A high punch to the chest, and I am on my way to meeting the next opponent. Although scoring is an important part of Karate Kid, and indeed only good hits are rewarded with points, the real aim of the game is to progress, and this is achieved by reducing your opponents strength to zero (indicated by a strength meter to the right of his score). Certain attacks score better than others, and it generally follows that the more complicated the manoeuvre the higher scoring and more effective the result.
All told there are ten offensive moves, including high kicks, sweeps, roundhouses, and various punches, as well as forward and backward somersaults, duck and jump. Having played games such as International Karate and Exploding Fist on the 64, Karate Kid is a genuine improvement. No longer are all the moves dictated by limited memory and poor graphics. In Karate Kid the moves are all as smooth as silk, with knee and elbow movement clearly discernible as you or your opponent fly though the air. The characters are not quite as big as they could be, but they are so well animated that this can easily be ignored. The backgrounds too are immaculately drawn, with amazing attention to detail.
Sampled sounds accompany each punch or hit. These are fine. One thing that did get on my nerves , however, was the music which played almost non-stop throughout the game.
In all there are 11 different fighting scenes, starting with inside a dojo (apparently where karate fans practice) and go on until you meet the final encounter with Chozen in the Castle of King Shohashi. As well as these screens there are two bonus screens, and it is these which sold me on the game the first time I saw them.
One of these challenges you to Myagi (schizophrenia seems to be a big problem) where, armed with only a pair of chopsticks, you must attempt to catch a fly that whizzes around the screen. Graphically this screen differs from the others in that the only moving parts (bar the fly) is the arm and hand of Myagi catch a fly, something which I have only managed once. This is rewarded with a healthy bonus, depending on how quickly the fly is caught.
The second bonus screen is simpler. You, as Daniel, must break as many vertical slabs of ice as you can, up to a maximum of six. Unfortunately you only have your hand to do it with. To achieve the perfect result and destroy all the ice you must waggle the joystick as fast as possible, pressing the fire button at peak speed and releasing in when contact it made with the ice. The help you gauge the speed of your waggling, there is a drum in the top right corner.
Both screens use the Amiga's graphics to the full, particularly the latter which apparently uses digitised pictures from the film.
My biggest criticism of the game is the unsatisfactory way in which it finishes. The one time I managed to defeat all the baddies, and even win the final conflict, I was confronted with a drum on the screen and some instructions that told me I must now to learn the secret of the drum - or die. Not surprisingly I took the easy way out and died! What secret? How on earth should I know what they are talking about? Ah well, maybe I will just have to phone Microdeal and ask.
That criticism apart, Karate Kid is an excellent game. Apart from Starglider, it is probably the best U.K. sourced Amiga game.
Although converted from the Atari ST, Microdeal have had the good sense not to rest on their laurels in the conversion, but to use the added graphics on the Amiga, and to add six more action screens, which drastically improve the game's lastability. Exciting business reviewing Amiga games these days.