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Karatian Retrospective

Beyond the great hill and to the north, there was once a great man who guarded the five belts. You have to fight against your friends and the lurking evils to get these belts. Only then will you be able to leave this land where strange creatures dwell.

Hmm, an eerie ending to the start screen, but this isn’t a horror game. It’s quite the opposite: a game that is a parody of three other commercially released Amstrad CPC games from the 1980s. The loading screen straight away illustrates the game’s concept. “KARAT” is taken from International Karate + and “IAN” is taken from Barbarian to give you the name KARATIAN. Hage and Steve, of Wizcat, put this together in 1995, and it’s an amazing demonstration of what can be done with original CPC games and giving them a reboot.

I said a parody of three games – Karatian uses Beyond the Ice Palace’s (Elite Software, 1988) loading screen, music and scroll, then they grabbed two different backdrops from Barbarian (Palace Software, 1987) and wrap it all together with you playing Kung Fu Fighter, International Karate + (System 3 Software, 1988) style. It’s weird, but oh so wonderful.

Karatian: a hybrid of IK+ and Barbarian

Graphical changes to put the game together are so well done. It looks as though Karatian is an original game release, and a gamer today might not even know the difference, which in my view has made the game look even more impressive.

Your hit dots have been replaced with a clear yin and yan circle. The gorgeous Mode 0 playing screen has been moved up, while the bottom of the screen is an impressive Mode 1 — holding an equally impressive looking score, ranking and fighter fonts, inside a reed border. There are some hit and move spot effects for sounds Beyond the Ice Palace explosions, blowing your character up at the end of the round. Ah, who doesn’t enjoy explosions?

The play has changed slightly from IK+. I couldn’t seem to do the somersaults or double kicks; perhaps some moves have been omitted, which is a real shame as they are the best features of the original IK+ game. I found the limited moves makes Karatian a much harder game than the original IK+ and somewhat less enjoyable. Having said that, instead of two CPU players and one human player (for the CPC version), as in the original IK+, Karatian has options for up to four players at one time, options can also be changed to have a dual with with a friend or if you want to get some much needed practice you can select two players from the options screen and use the other player as a body bag.

The game uses Multi-Mode; allowing mixing of graphics modes

Another nice inclusion is the “CHA”. If you have ever watched karate movies they always yell out something loud when they fight an opponent, if you time it right you can get your kung fu character to scream out (without sound) in a comic style talking blog saying the word “CHA”, adding a little more ‘oomph’ and unexpectedness in comparison to the original IK+ game.

It also looks like you can only score half a point at a time where as in the original IK+ you could score full points. The game held my interest from start to end; then got me thinking about other CPC games that could be brought together like this.

Not sure if there are any bonus stages as in the original IK+ as I didn’t happen to get that far into the game, the CPU opponents move rather quickly even on white belt, so you know your in for a real tough fight right from the beginning.

Hard to believe that Karatian was released 22 years ago, what’s probably even more hard to believe is that there hasn’t been more similar CPC home brew commercial game mash ups released since as Karatian beautifully illustrates terrific Amstrad CPC gaming enjoyment, a must play even today. I scored this 8 out of 10 on the CPC Games Reviews website, but now feel it is probably worth just a little less due to missing the most important gameplay features of IK+.

PROS

  • Use of 128k
  • Up to four players simultaneously
  • Split screen modes look fantastic
  • “CHA” nice inclusion

CONS

  • No Bonus Stage ?
  • Miss seeing the judge from IK+ to tell you who won or lost
  • No in game music
  • No somersaults or double kicks the most important features of IK+ gameplay
  • Controls seem less responsive than IK+

Overall 7.5 out of 10

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