Karate Ace is a whole bunch of games with one thing in common, and it's not necessarily karate, strangely enough.
However, if martial arts sounds like your idea of fun, this could be your lucky day, 'cos this compilation contains some of the bestest oriental-type games around (and some of the worstest too). Glancing down the list below, you'll see that most of them date from the early Mesozoic Era, but why let a minor point like that spoil the fun?
So, chop chop, let's not hang about. With no discernible attempt at an eastern accent, here's the rine up...
Way Of The Exploding Fist: Need I say more? Oh really? Sigh. Known as 'Fist' to its friends, this is the great-grandaddy of them all, and looks none the worse for wear. Okay, well a bit then. The graphics have since been bettered, and there's very little variety.
But oh how that beeping intro tune brings back memories! And that eye-watering kick in the goolies, probably the all-time greatest move ever. However, the opponents aren't too bright, and repeating a certain move a few times gets you through every time. It's definitely best with two players.
YS hadn't learnt to count way back in '85 when this one appeared, so there's no rating for it, but we liked it all right.
Kung Fu Master: The only coin-op conversion in the collection, and the worst of the lot in my opinion. The idea is to battle through the five floors of a temple to rescue the poor damsel held captive at the top (sorry ladies!).
This involves beating up the obligatory crowd of baddies with the various moves available to you. The graphics really turned heads when the game first appeared - away mainly - and today they look worse still. Slow, stodgy, tons of colour-clash. Playability isn't too bad, but the whole thing seems so vague it's unlikely to hold your interest for long.
Kung Fu Master managed an eight first time round, but things have changed around here.
Way Of The Tiger: Maintenant vous parlez. This is a three-part multiloader, but don't hold that against it.
The graphics are what really makes this one, and they look good, even over two years later. The attention to detail is fantastic, particularly in the backgrounds, where fish plop out of rivers, owls fly overhead and peasants walk past pushing carts. Also worthy of a mention is the 3D parallax scrolling, which works vertically as well as horizontally. A little sluggish perhaps, but it brings a whole new dimension to the game (hence '3D'. Gottit?).
The three chunks are Unarmed Combat, Pole Fighting (Warsaw this about, then? Ho-ho) and the grand finale... Samurai Sword Fighting. They're all good fun, although you'll be lucky to get a whack in edgeways on the last part.
A Megagame in its time, and it still looks triffic today.
Avenger: Billed as WOTT II (or Wotty), it's really nothing like the first part. But it's still darned good.
Gauntlet is what first springs to mind. Same overhead view, same maze, same scrolling, but otherwise totally different. Continuing the beat 'em up theme, in order to dispatch the various nasties that come your way, you can punch and kick in the traditional manner or, if things get desperate, let loose with the shuriken. There are loadsa objects to pick up too, so you won't get bored.
Once again, graphics are first class (yuk, I hate that programme...) with nice smooth scrolling and there are plenty of sound FX and tunes.
Once again, a Megagame originally, and it holds onto its title on the curtain call.
Bruce Lee: If you thought Fist was going back a bit, how about this? I'm amazed the British Museum let Star Games have the master copy back!
Brucie got mixed reactions when he was let loose on our screens, oooh... must be three years ago now, and I still feel that way now. On the one hand, it's great fun dashing around the wizard's fortress collecting lanterns for a while, but as I remember, this was the only game I managed to beat eight times in a row without losing a life. It really is incredibly easy once you get to know the routine. And there aren't that many rooms to explore, so that doesn't take long.
The graphics look pretty disgusting as well. They're primatively drawn, and exceedingly repetitive.
Uchil Mata: Ooch! This one looks a bit rough round the edges. It also has the honour of being the only judo simulation I've ever come across.
Actually, underneath all the tatty presentation, odd-looking, flickery sprites and utter, utter lack of sound there's quite a strategic little number lurking in there. The idea is to execute as many judo throws as you can, as well as possible and so pick up points. These moves are quite nicely animated, but the blokes flicker so much it's easy to lose track of them at times. Uchi Mata, incidentally, is another name for the pervy-sounding Inner Thigh Throw.
Uchi takes a while to get into, but could be quite fun once you get the hang of it. I think most people are likely to be put off by the sordid presentation before they get that far though.
We gave it seven initially.
Samarai Trilogy: This is another Gremliny three-part ninja jobby, but not really in the same league as WOTT.
There are some very nicely done title screens, with a whopping great character set and a good tune, but after this things go sadly downhill. While the backgrounds are well-drawn the sprites themselves look decidedly limp-wristed, and animation is poor. As a result, the game isn't really terribly playable, and the three sections - Karate, Kendo and Samurai - don't contain enough variation to make the thing worthwhile. The training element, where you can choose three areas of ability to improve, doesn't help a lot either.
Samurai Trilogy originally netted a seven.
So there we have it. A mixed bag, as the weather man would say. A couple of goodies, a few averagies and two or three that aren't really worth the bother.
It goes without saying that you'll have to be a pretty determined chop 'n' slasher to be interested, but then again I think that covers most of us. But I do have a couple of little queries (quiet at the back!): why's it so pricey, and why fill two tapes with largely identical games?
Still, it does come in a nice big cardboard box, and being available on disk will make it very attractive to certain sections of society. If you haven't already got the gooduns, I'd give it a go if I were you.
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