I remember waking up 6am, going downstairs, and firing up my Atari 800XL. The disk labeled Karateka inserted, the drive would grunt a few dozen times and the screen would flash. Suddenly, with barely any warning, the opening titles would appear and then the music would start – six notes to signal a game that was menacing in its simplicity. The story was simply told. Characters stood in darkened rooms. The Shogun aimed a finger at a door and the princess was forced into bondage. You were the Karateka, the hero, your pixelated motion was as fluid as any humans. I marveled at the realism. The whiffed punches sounded like a fist smacking a ham hock. The fight music, the little fanfare of victory, was all I needed for those few hours before school. Karateka was a marvel in an era of cheap gaming. In a world populated by Pac Men, Karateka foretold the future.
Karateka begat Prince of Persia and the creator of both, , went on to become one of the greats in the gaming industry. Luckily, he and his clan of programmers haven’t been resting on their laurels. They have just re-released Karateka in its original glory on or , allowing us oldsters a brief moment of nostalgia and ensuring the younger generation understands the magic of a game that sparks the imagination.
but I suspect most of us will want to experience the pixelated splendor of Mechner’s virtual world instead of the modern, cartoony style so popular with mobile gaming recently. Pro tip: watch out for the freaking eagle.