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Return of the master
The original Karateka is a highly influential fighting game which sprang from the mind of Jordan Mechner, legendary creator of Prince of Persia, so it's interesting to see this reboot which also sees Mechner once more involved. However, in practice, it's a very disappointing offering, thanks to some wonky controls and an overall feel of being little more than a minigame rather than a full gaming experience. The original game was a simple enough side-scrolling fighter and this version sticks broadly to the template, throwing three heroes into a classic scenario where they must rescue a princess from a warlord in feudal Japan. The essential gameplay is similar here and finds you facing off against a series of enemies and bosses who must be taken out with your ninja skills. The difference here is the rhythm-based nature of the game and a subtlely different approach to the age-old lives concept. Here, you start out with a weak character and if he falls in battle you move up to the next one, who is stronger, with the third character being the strongest of all. It's an unusual idea and works well but unfortunately the rest of the game lets things down considerably. The essential gameplay is quite enjoyable but working against this are the horrible controls which are an exercise in frustration to play with, along with the fact that the game is only thirty minutes long. The visuals are quite splendid but ultimately there's just too little here to warrant more than a cursory investigation (and even then, you're going to have a hard time with those controls).