Originally released in 1984 on the Apple II computer, Karateka was Jordan Mechner first game created back when he was still at university, but now he is best known for Prince Of Persia game. Karateka was a best-seller in 1984, selling more than 500,000 units.
In the original Karateka you raced from left to right across the screen, trying to rescue a Japanese princess from an evil warlord. He must’ve been a pretty hard-up warlord though because none of his soldiers could afford swords. So instead you took them on in one-on-one fistfights, in what was essentially one of the earliest scrolling beat ’em-ups.
Karateka is launching today as a downloadable title on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Steam, and iOS. Mechner spent time in Hollywood writing the screenplay for the feature film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a Jerry Bruckheimer film that was the highest-grossing video game film adaptation ever at $335 million.
So it is interesting that Mechner has turned his attention to digital platforms, including the iPhone, as the medium of the future. The reason he is doing so is creative freedom.
There are now three playable characters who seek to free the princess Mariko from her evil captor, the warlord Akuma. The first character is her True Love, the second is a Monk, and the third is a Brute. The full game lasts about 40 minutes. If you die, then the next character takes your place. Mariko is happy to be rescued, but she wants to be rescued most of all by her True Love. So you have to get good enough to make it through the first time without dying.
That makes Karateka highly replayable, Mechner said. And it also means the rotating characters means that the player stays immersed in the game in the transition from one life to the next.
Composer Christopher Tin, who won a Grammy award for his “Baba Yetu” song for Civilization IV, created the musical score. Made with authentic Japanese instruments, the music changes in real time based on how much action is happening and who is winning. Mechner said, “You can tell what is happening just by listening to the music.”
Jeff Matsuda, animator on the celebrated Batman: The Animated Series, created the art.
“On the first game, the team size was me, unless you count my dad, who made the music,” Mechner said.
Mechner said he hopes the game will appeal to the original fans as well as younger players too. The game available today on Xbox Live Arcade (published by D3 Publisher) for 800 Microsoft points. It will be out on PSN, Steam, and iOS in November for $9.99.
Release Date: 7th November 2013
Age Rating: 12