Karateka was the first commercial project of Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, released in 1984 on the Apple II. Karateka’s animation was years ahead of its time. When it was released, it had the most realistic animations ever made for a video game. Play Karateka online!
The player, a master of the martial art Karate (known as a “Karateka”), must save the beautiful Princess Mariko, who is being held prisoner in the castle of the evil warlord Akuma.
The combat consists of side views of the player and the enemy, like a fighting game. The player progresses through a courtyard and castle structure until reaching the final room where the end game boss resides. There are several screens worth of empty hallways after each encounter. The player runs through these screens to the right, and occasionally, the screen will change and the view will shift towards the enemy’s perspective as he runs (to the left), towards the player. As the two converge towards battle, the time between screen changes rapidly increases, adding an early bit of cinematic flair to the game.
The player can issue a series of punches and kicks, as can the enemy. Both can also adjust the height of the punches and kicks using the joystick. The types of punches and kicks can also be specified. The player only has one life but unlike many other games of its time, the player has health points. Once the health points are deleted, the player dies. Depending on the game version, these health points can be recovered by resting, in other words by not attacking or being hit. The original Apple II version had no way to recover health or block attacks, so the player had to be very careful positioning for an attack and rationing his health against the enemy guards.
Although some games had started to feature it, Karateka had no save function. However, the game was so short that it really didn’t make a difference.
The player had two stances, which could be swapped by pressing up or down on the joystick. The non-combat stance allowed the player to sprint and traverse the environment quickly. However, an enemy could score an instant, one-hit kill on any player who wasn’t in the combat stance. Sprinting carried momentum, similar to the original Prince of Persia, so these one-hit kills happened often as the enemy could always enter their combat stance faster than the player.
There is a minor easter egg that’s only apparent at the beginning of the game. If the player carefully approaches the very first guard in the non-fighting stance, he can push down to bow to the guard, who will in turn bow back. The player can repeat this process as long as he wants – each subsequent bow will be mirrored by the guard. The guard will only fight the player if he gets too close or a combat stance is initiated. As all the other enemies are already in a combat stance by the time they reach the player, bowing was only feasible to do with the very first guard.
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You can play Karateka online here, in web browser for free!