This mega-ton rumble is surely one of the best-named games of the year and is certain to be one of the most-played. It gives you the task of taking on either a friend or the computer in deadly hand-to-hand combat using the techniques of karate.
The simulation is in 2D with the two combatants facing each other on the screen with a Japanese landscape in the background and a squatting Buddha-like judge. The player can fight using keyboard or joystick to simulate no less than 19 distinct moves against either a computer or human opponent.
These are obtained on the joystick by different combinations of stick position and fire-button activation. On the keyboard there are eight keys to press with or without the control key.
When playing the computer the aim is to score two full points by hitting him with kicks or punches and eventually to reach tenth 'dan' by defeating 20 opponents of increasing skill.
You begin as a novice and have to defeat two opponents to move up a dan. If you succeed in striking an opponent you are awarded either a full point or half point depending on the accuracy of the manoeuvre. Your score is displayed in the form of yin/yang symbols. It's really mystical, Grasshopper.
If a move succeeds you or your opponent will end up as a crumpled heap or flat out depending on the blow that was delivered. As well as yin/yang symbols, points are awarded and the harder the manoeuvre the greater the score. Thus after some practice it becomes a matter of not just dispatching opponents but of doing it with style.
In one-player mode there is a 30 second time-limit on bouts and if nobody has scored a full two points by the end of it the winner is whoever has most hits. The time-limit is the same for two players but it is purely a matter of who can score the most in that time over four bouts, rather than using the yin/yang points system.
If two players wish to join battle at least one of them will have to use the keys, but this should not prove to be a drawback since it is often easier to accurately make a particular move using keys. This will also bring much more unpredictability and length to the bouts since a human opponent can make things much tougher and much more exciting.
The animation on the fighters is excellent although the fight sounds aren't all they could be. Control is easy although perfecting it so that you can take on the computer's best is another matter altogether.
- Brilliant character animation.
- Attractive screen display.
- Exciting two-player game.
- Terrific gameplay that is easy to learn but hard to perfect.
- Excellent range of moves and blows.
- Good computer opponents across many skill levels.
- Plenty of lasting challenge in the ten dans.
- No two-joystick option.
You can almost feel the agony as a kick or a punch rips into a player's guts - or an even more painful anatomical region. The one-player game is good but the real fun starts when two people scrap it out. There's genuine skill involved in mastering the moves and the complex tactics that have to be employed in combat. This game's a smasher.
JUMP: a leap in the air to avoid low kicks.
CROUCH: sneaky position from which several moves can develop.
HIGH PUNCH: leaves you vulnerable if you miss.
WALK FORWARD: advances you into the fray.
JAB: used close in - very fast.
LOW PUNCH: obtained from crouch - surprise move. Not illegal.
BACK SOMERSAULT: flips you backwards out of danger.
FORWARD SOMERSAULT: flip over your opponent and attack from behind.
WALK BACKWARDS: retreat from enemy. Loses face.
BLOCK: automatic or in response to opponent's strike.
FLYING KICK: very spectacular - if it succeeds.
HIGH KICK: catches opponent on head but calls for accurate positioning.
MID KICK: good early tool against unskilled opponents.
SHORT JAB KICK: good for close work and when opponent is in middle of move.
FORWARD SWEEP: highly effective when executed from crouch and you can keep your distance from opponent.
BACKWARDS SWEEP: vicious after forward somersault.
HIGH BACK KICK: also very effective after forward somersault.
ROUNDHOUSE: difficult to time but good points scorer.
ABOUT-FACE: half-roundhouse that turns you 180 degrees.