International Karate +

Red and Blue could do better.

Source // Wikipedia

I would have said 'Another karate game? Already?', but I shouldn't because the likes of Karate Champ and Yie-Ar Kung Fu were released a good couple of years before International Karate +, meaning the developers at System 3 have had a good couple of years to see what works and make it perfect.

At least that's what I'm hoping they did. This can't be a filler game. You wouldn't fill a list of 1001 must play games with filler games, would you? No. I wouldn't. Anyway, that said, just what does International Karate + bring to the table?

Fun Times

Fluidly animated triple threat martial arts fights. Oh hell yes.

I'm playing the Game Boy Advance port, of all things, but the Commodore 64 original is just as much of a looker. It has to be, as this is your one and only view for the entire game - once you've marvelled at those waves in the distance, that's it.

Your focus isn't on the background though, is it? You are one of three karate practitioners all vying for the high score and the glory it brings. If you want to bring a second player into the action and gang up on the computer controlled player, you can do that too, but and the end of the day it is a full on triple threat match, friend vs foe vs friendly foe.

How will you cope? I managed to wing it by spamming attacks for the most part. Not button mashing, per se, as attacks (and defensive moments like blocking and backflipping) are all mapped to the d-pad, used with and without the A button.

Low punches, high kicks, even swift and brutal looking headbutts make their appearance, and they look great. Movement across the screen is a little cumbersome at times and you'll never quite know what attack you'll pull off until you know them by heart and can input them without error, but it's so entertaining.

One round, Red kicked Blue in the face from his first attack. By the time Blue had hit the floor, I, White, had closed the gap and delivered a crashing headbutt to Red, sending him crashing to the deck too.

The round wasn't over though, as you need to score six points-worth of good attacks (which are a different set of points than you see flash above your head, which may lead to some confusion) in order to progress. With two other fighters to keep an eye on - both capable of scoring points on each other - you'll have to be precise in both your attack and defence.


In between rounds are mini-games that include deflecting balls with a shield and kicking bombs before they explode, and frankly they get in the way of a great game. It's such a good pick up and play fighter that it doesn't need these distractions.

For those of you looking to perfect the mechanics and win fights unscathed, the number of moves might prove to be a bit of a hurdle, as will learning which situation to use those moves in, as will finding the timing to get them right. Personally speaking, you don't need to bother with all that. Just do what you think you need to do and celebrate every hit you land like you meant it.

Always go out on your back, right 'Taker?

Final Word

Games come in many forms and fulfil many purposes. If you just want to have a quick laugh with a mate by kicking him in the face, then International Karate + is an easy choice to go for - and much safer than actually kicking your mates in the face.

It doesn't offer anything more substantial than that, and that's great. It really is. "We do one thing and we do it well". What more could you ask for? What more do you want? Nothing. You won't nothing. You want to play International Karate +. You can do so online in a flash remake if you want. It's that easy to play and it's that good to not miss.

Fun Facts

How did Archer Maclean animate a backflip so smoothly? By tracing over frames of a backing dancer performing a backflip in Grease. How else were you thinking he'd do it?

International Karate +, developed by System 3, first released in 1987.
Version played: GBA, 2003, via emulation.
Version watched: C64, 1987 (Frankomatic)