Retro Profile: Karate Kid (NES)

There are many hallmarks of growing up in the eighties. Karate Kid (NES) brings two of them together: playing Nintendo and cheering for Daniel San. From karate tournament to hurricane, the game takes you through events from the big screen (mostly the second movie, Karate Kid II). While it lacks the emotional impact of watching a young hero learn karate through washing cars, the game has its moments and turns out to be quite innovative for its time.

While often drawing hate, Karate Kid is actually a very diverse game. Players start the game fighting through a karate tournament, “Sweep his legs!” After several rounds of fights, players advance to the next level which turns the game into a side-scrolling action game. Karate Kid has only a measly four levels, but it flows well and features a fluid, subtle story-line.

While the game’s simple side-scrolling action isn’t new, it does innovates with small details like the mini-games. The mini-games are one of the most memorable parts of the game. They include chopsticking flies, chopping ice blocks, and dodging a swinging hammer. Strong force winds that push you back during the hurricane level are another of those details adding to the game’s innovation. In addition, the game features a simple two-player tournament fight mode.

Stay or Play? Karate Kid can be fun, but it can just as easily be frustrating. With only four levels, players may find themselves stuck in the same place for a while. Still, the mini-games and weather effects are worth playing. Don’t go out of your way, but if you get the chance, play.