Karate Champ

Publisher: Data East
Year: 1986
Genre: Fighting

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.

Just want you to be as annoyed as I am.
Just want you to be as annoyed as I am.

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.

I'm the one in white, and technically I'm losing, despite the flawlessly executed kick to the dick.
I’m the one in white, and technically I’m losing, despite the flawlessly executed kick to the dick.

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.


Year: 1986
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Shmup

This screen has almost as many numbers as letters.
This screen has almost as many numbers as letters.

It’s World War II and you’re a U.S. pilot flying a super-plane to Tokyo to destroy the Japanese air force! I have to admit, I initially had some serious misgivings about any game by a Japanese company about destroying the Japanese air force, and had to wonder whether it was the opposite in the original Japanese (and the game was, perhaps, called “Happy Pearl Harbor Fun Time Airstrike!”), but as far as I can tell (and according to Wikipedia) the Japanese just sometimes make games about destroying their own airforce.

Is that a Mitsubishi G4M? Almost certainly not...
Is that a Mitsubishi G4M? Almost certainly not…

John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0 – this game is about as vanilla as a shoot-’em’-up can possibly get. As far as I can tell, there’s exactly one power-up, which basically makes your guns wider, and a grand total of three different enemies (not counting palette swaps).

Wild Gunman

Year: 1985
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Shooting – Zapper

If a certain “certified sane” Floridian lawyer is to be understood and believed, the Nintendo Zapper was, for many children, their first taste of murder and a gateway to the immoral video-game-playing lifestyle. Thus, Wild Gunman was, without a doubt, the first TRUE Nintendo murder simulator, allowing us to finally live out our depraved fantasy of being an officer of the law and bringing violent felons to justice.

This is the end of the innocence...
This is the end of the innocence…

Also, as previously mentioned, when I was a child, the thought of actually shooting a duck was anathema to me. Outlaws and cowboys, on the other hand, were the bread and butter of the “pretending to shoot things” set. If this game had some vastly simplified caricatures of native Americans drawn almost exclusively from stereotypical depictions of the plains Indians, we’d have the triune exemplars of an entire (remarkably brief) era!

Ok, so I admit a bit of bias – as a child I never wanted to be a contemporary police officer (what with the movies depicting drug lords as unstoppable forces with machineguns and real life appearing to confirm this), I would have gladly been the sheriff of a silver mining town, because the movies showed you exactly what to expect from the outlaws: a gun identical to yours in every meaningful way. (Note: I know the “Wild West” wasn’t actually that way, but I choose to ignore this fact because it is boring.)

One of these men is considerably more murder-simulated than the other.
One of these men is considerably more
murder-simulated than the other.

Now, these days, this sort of thing is mini-game fodder: the kind of thing that gets rolled into another game because, heck, why not? Heck, Kirby’s Adventure (a review for another time) has a Wild-Gunman-esque mini game, and that was still Nintendo era. Back in the day, though, simpler crappier games than this would claim a month’s worth of a child’s allowance and entertain him for hours. Simpler times, my friends, simpler times…

The standard mode is a showdown where you are forbidden to shoot until your opponent draws. (As a child, I always wondered why you couldn’t be the one who gets to draw first, mostly because I was pretty sure the zapper worked on MAGIC and would KNOW when I pointed it at the screen, but I digress). Once you’ve mastered that, and you will (unless you have the reflexes of a sea slug) you can upgrade to two outlaws, which is probably a little more than twice as hard. Finally, when you think you’ve tackled that, you can take on a whole gang of outlaws who appear, shooting-gallery style, in the various windows and entryways of a saloon.

I think that the most important thing to note about this game is that it’s all in how you play it. Sure, you could sit there, Zapper in hand, ready to fire the moment the game indicated that it was your turn to draw, but that completely ignores the opportunity for self-imposed challenge that this game represents. As far as I’m concerned, you aren’t actually playing Wild Gunman unless you tuck the Zapper into the waistband of your pants and stand in front-facing horse stance, taunting your computerized opponent until the screen barks “DRAW!” and you whip out your sixgun to make mincemeat of the outlaws! YEAH!

John’s Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0, though I anticipate a veritable shitstorm for daring to rate this as high as both Hogan’s Alley and Duck Hunt. Frankly, this game provides more atmosphere and an opportunity for a bit of role-playing that I didn’t really find in either of those games. The only thing it lacks is some sort of two-player mode, which makes sense because, frankly, how the heck would you pull that off?

Kung Fu

Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1985
Genre: Brawler – Side-Scroll

There was something of a martial arts craze in the 80’s brought on by the likes of the Karate Kid, The Last Dragon and Gymkata. Ok, maybe not so much Gymkata. Point being that it is generally agreed that in the 80’s, everybody was Kung Fu Fighting.

Those cats were fast as lightning.

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Ice Climber

Year: 1985
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platform – Top-Scroll

Few games capture the true essence of the Esquimaux peoples of the arctic circle, expressing the spirit and character of the proud native heritage they all bear within them. This game isn’t one of them. This is a game about hitting polar bears with a hammer.

As culturally sensitive as the culture of the 80’s required.

Continue reading “Ice Climber”