Take A Swing At Prince Of Persia Creator’s Karateka

By Nathan Grayson on December 4th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

That looks like an incredibly uncomfortable fighting stance.

Jordan Mechner’s mostly frequently associated with Prince of Persia – sadly the only of his creations to get a feature film starring Jake Gyllenhaal’s immaculately sculpted biceps – but his mighty brain also gave the world Karateka and The Last Express. The latter’s brilliance is well-documented - if not incredibly well-known – but the former doesn’t get quite as much credit. Admittedly, in spite of its silky smooth rotoscoped karate flair, Karateka hasn’t aged nearly so well. But that’s what remakes are for, so Mechner’s paired with Liquid Entertainment to take a perilous, punch-powered journey back to the very beginning of his career. The end result’s part-brawler, part-rhythm game, all action. Or something. And you can snatch it from the hands of a wizened karate master using only a pair of chopsticks right now. By which I mean Steam. But you can still use chopsticks if you want.

Rhythm-based chopsocky’s the clear star of the show here, but Karateka’s new death mechanic also bears mentioning. In short, the game stars three fighters vying to win a princess’ affections by rescuing her (this one heralds from simpler times, remember), and you begin as her true love. However, if he bites it, a different character will take his place, and the princess will live – but probably not happily ever after. So the goal is to replay the game – which only lasts about an hour – until you can beat it in optimal fashion.

It’s a simple, arcade-y premise, but the original was littered with Easter eggs (for instance, the princess could kill the main character at the end), so there’s certainly more to it than a straightforward series of foot-and-fisticuff throwdowns. Also, the remake’s gotten a fair deal of praise for charm and personality, so that’s encouraging.

To celebrate the release, Mechner and co are putting out a few lavishly produced making-of videos. The first one’s about animation, and it’s an enlightening watch. So then, engage your eyeballs’ karate-seeing action functionality and aim them below.

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21 Comments »

  1. Henke says:

    So anyone play this yet? Would love to hear some impressions.

    • basilisk says:

      Just finished it as the Brute, actually. It’s true to its arcadey origins – it can be beaten in about 30 minutes and it’s not particularly difficult to do so, but it seems like it will take quite a lot of skill to do a true master run, which is what it’s all about.

      The fighting is really simple. There are always two distinct phases – attack and defence. In defence, you hit block the right number of times (sound cues) at the right moment (visual cues), in attack you, well, just mash two buttons, I suppose (there might be a bit more to it, though, with combos and such). And the only other button you have makes your hero run forward in a perfectly straight line all the way to the end. Beat one opponent, move to the next. That’s all there is to it, really. It’s fun, but don’t expect anything deeper than that.

      Also, the presentation is quite lovely, though some antialiasing would be nice. It definitely has its charm.

    • aZn_triXta07 says:

      Took a while, but thoroughly enjoyed the remake. Now time to go dust off the Atari…

  2. jmexio says:

    If you’re interested in martial arts games AT ALL, please go back this KickStarter now. It won’t make it anyway (your money is SAFE!!!), but hopefully it will help down the line when they try to get other investors…

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kostaszarifis/kung-fu-superstar-become-the-ultimate-martial-arts

    Pretty please with sugar on top? :)

    • DestructibleEnvironments says:

      In that case, I will pledge 3000 dollars! It won’t leave my pocket anyway, right? Could you imagine if that plan of mine failed.

      But sorry, I’m terribly fond of fighting games. It does look fun though. But no friends and all that ;)

    • Arglebargle says:

      Thanks for that link! Brilliant design, love the riff on their fighting concept too. Too bad its kickstarter is going to fail, hope they keep on and get to publish.

  3. mckertis says:

    Ah, so i see he continues the fine and time-honoured tradition of stupidly naming the remakes exactly the same as the original, so people would get frustrated while googling for it. Let me guess, five years later there will be another Karateka relaunch which will have exactly the same name.

    • Mo says:

      This would be a valid point if the last one didn’t come out almost thirty years ago. Cursory Google search seems like it’s not even remotely confusing to tell them apart.

  4. adonf says:

    I’m tempted to buy this JUST because I first heard about it on its release day and not months in advance like most games these days.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Ditto.
      “hey someones doing a remake of a game you loved 30 years ago. PS, it’s out now” <–More like this please

  5. luukdeman111 says:

    0_0 Christopher tin made the music for this game!

    I don’t like fighting games, but now I must try it….

  6. jrodman says:

    Can you tell us one additional easter egg to the one in the story?

    All I can remember is bowing at the first guy and getting killed by the princess, myself.

    • fco says:

      I’ll be disappointed if you can’t die on the first second by falling off the cliff you emerged from.

      I loved this game for this kind of details. They were silly, but so unexpected and well animated I couldn’t help but chuckling every time I played it.

  7. Xzi says:

    That man’s arms…

    Maybe I’m the freak and I just haven’t noticed that everyone else’s hands are slapping against the sides of their knees as they walk.

  8. MasterDex says:

    Ahhh, Karateka. I remember spending many hours playing it on the spectrum back when I had a full head of hair. It’s probably the best fighter that the spectrum had, unless you count that horribel U.S Gold port of SF2.

    Not sure I’m sold on the remake though – maybe when it’s cheap on Steam.

  9. dE says:

    When it comes to rhythm based combat with a constant flow of back and forth, I’ve been “hit” by a little surprise called Kung Fu Strike. I’m loving the combat in that one, it’s just a beautiful flow of actions and reactions. Attack and Counter-Attack are seamlessly woven together. Attack, Block, Block, Counter-Attack, Pummel, Guard, Break Guard, Attack, Blocked, Dodge, Recover, scream at screen because of how bloody hard it is. Not to beat, but to perfect the stage.
    It’s dirt cheap, reasonably long (especially if you go for perfect ratings) and has some unlock system for Skills and NPC Sidekicks too. It’s also frequently in sales already and has been part of an indie bundle too. While the later levels sadly ditch the finer nuances of the combat in favor of “USE MORE ENEMIES LOL”, the early to mid levels are crazy fun – and satuate my interest in simple brawlers for quite some time. It’s a bit of a bad port though, so I wouldn’t try without a 360 gamepad. And you might have to adjust resolution via means of config file editing. (no big hassle though)

    • Baines says:

      Kung Fu Strike also has a DLC pack that adds some more levels.

      I haven’t had much time with it, though. Keyboard is sub-optimal, but i don’t have a PC support Xbox360 controller. And since this is a “modern” game, it assumes the only controller anyone will use on a PC is the 360 design. (I’ve an older controller, but its six face buttons throws off the button layout. With no button config option, I can’t even restore the face button “diamond” layout, much less move the “trigger” actions to the controller’s actual triggers. (Yes, it could have been done through the controller’s own config software, but that has long been abandoned, and doesn’t even install in Windows 7.))

  10. Eddy9000 says:

    Nathan, as a fellow aficionado of Jake Gyllenhaal’s biceps I’m surprised that you haven’t heard of the 2001 game ‘He-Motion’ that formed the basis for the film ‘Brokeback Mountain’. You controlled an avatar of Heath Ledger’s face, click-and-dragging the mouse on it to make barely perceptible yet powerfully expressive changes to his features in response to pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal in increasingly emotionally complex scenarios. As you responded correctly a ‘he-motion’ bar filled up: SPOILER when the bar is full the game ends with a picture of gloating rednecks and Jake’s blooded shirt and you have to coax a single tear out of Heath’s granite face in the games version of a final-boss fight.

  11. El Mariachi says:

    Oh my god I’ve been pronouncing Karateka wrong for thirty years.

    Or he’s of those guys being overly-correct about casual use of foreign language words.

    Still, gonna buy this.