I’ve long held that pro wrestling games would be more realistic if instead of inputting attack combos, each player had to input a “cooperation combo” to perform the moves in such a way that it looks realistic and no one gets seriously hurt. Sure it might not be quite as entertaining as a frantic button-mashing fest, but it would more accurately mirror real professional wrestling. In the case of this game, however, such a system would almost certainly be more entertaining. Frankly, it would be hard-pressed to be less entertaining.
The game has one game mechanic – you punch your opponent. Then, you input a direction and your wrestleman does a move based on that. Back and forth like this until someone can pin someone. There is nothing more to this game, and nothing interesting happens the entire time.
John’s Rating: 1.0 out of 5.0. This entire game – 100% of it – boils down to who punches who first. Positioning is largely irrelevant. The presence of a tag partner in no way changes the dynamic. Moves don’t have different chances of success or allow varied escapes. It’s just punch, lock, lather, rinse, repeat.
The NES isn’t really well-suited for one-on-one fighting bouts as this game succinctly demonstrates. Mind you, the NES can do way WAY better than Karate Champ with its clumsy (at best) hit detection, its tiny generic move list and its unpleasant graphics. The controls, B to attack left and A to attack right, will be recycled in Double Dragon II, where they will not suck. This awful game didn’t deserve anything that useful anyway.
The game does not find any redeeming quality in the presentation. The sound and music are terrible, but in a forgettable way. The graphics are ugly, jerky and look rushed, like someone with some talent struggling to make something in a medium they have never used – just good enough to be annoying. Somewhere between adequate and inadequate.
John’s Rating: 1.0 out of 5.0. This is just awful. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the much better game Barbarian, which was sadly never ported to the NES. Except, where Barbarian features awesome swords and vicious bloodthirsty barbarians dueling to the death for bikini-clad babes (not to mention a useable control scheme with moves that were of varying utility), Karate Champ has a constipated old man watching people in bathrobes kick each other.