Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When I said my quest to become
would follow as I (woefully) tried to defeat the ten hardest titles for the NES, I was telling a half-truth. What I failed to mention at the outset was my Ten Hardest NES Games of All Time is ten like the B1G TEN (meaning there's actually 12).Two games garnered almost as many votes for difficulty as votes for crapiness, earning them a place near the list despite being almost universally reviled.

Karate Krap
It's "Enteractive."
The first of those two games—and the first in my quest for NES supremacy—is Karate Kid. Developed by a team of LSD-fueled monkeys Altus, Co. and released by LJN in 1987, Karate Kid is a grab-bag of disparate plot elements loosely based on the film franchise of the same name. There's a Karate Tournament, some wind and a Guy with a Spear.

Now, I could spend a few paragraphs decrying the construction of this game: awkward hit direction, bad jump physics, A.I. on par with spore mold, but others have said it better. I'll just say the game is poorly made, which, ironically, makes it both incredibly difficult and mind-numbingly easy.

Stop running into my foot. Stop Running into my foot.
Stop running into my foot.
Stop running into my foot...
Case in point: our first level is a karate tournament. The Neanderthal A.I.'s strategy is to run full-bore at you, even when your foot is in their face. So, if a dude gets near you, just ask yourself, WWCND (What Would Chuck Norris Do?)? The answer—kick that sumbitch in the face. The A.I. remains painfully stupid from the first baddie to the very last, so if ANYONE gets near you, kick him right in his stupid face. What's that? You said you want to use a hammer punch or crane-kick (your practically useless power-up moves)? Nope—kick him in the face. You want to Sweep the Leg? False—just kick him in the face, idiot.

After your tournament win (Flawless Victory), Daniel-San goes to what is supposed to be Okinawa. This is apparently from Karate Kid II, but since I've never seen Karate Kid II (or Karate Kid I, for that matter), I'll just have to take Wikipedia's word for it. This is where shit gets real. Two mindless drones chase you, which wouldn't be so tough expecting that, according to a team of LSD-fueled monkeys Altus, Co., Okinawa is teeming with deadly pits. Leftovers from WWII? Godzilla's footprints? Your guess is as good as mine. While the drones aren't very good at landing punches/kicks, they are the Michael Phelps' of pushing you into pits.

Mr. Brownpants
We both know how this ends, chief.
The saving grace against the random pits of death is that the game awards an extra life every 20k points, which takes very little time. After each death, I simply found a straight stretch of ground and kicked people in the face until I was 1-up'ed. In this way I made it through the first level in very little time. The boss at the end, instead of being a flame-throwing wizard or a ninja with two swords, is simply a palette-swapped drone who takes five hits instead of one. The strategy? (Everyone together this time) Kick the sumbitch in the face.

Level 3 is basically the same as Level 2, excepting there's a typhoon going on (again, I'm fuzzy on plot specifics, here). This alters the game's physics, pushing Daniel backward and pelting him with birds, sticks and cabbage (yes, cabbage). None of the flying objects injure Daniel, but they do aid in what I'm assuming is the central plot of the Karate Kid movies: Two people and/or vegetation trying to knock Daniel into random pits. Within minutes, I was ready to cry "matte!," except by a single stroke of dumb luck. While running for my life through the cabbage-strewn typhoon, I stumbled on the game's other nugget of craptacular programming...

The screen can only handle two drones at a time.

A Winner is You!
This means that if you can manage to get the drones behind you, there's literally no one between you and  the level boss. This new flaw quickly supplanted "Kick everyone in the face," as the primary rule of Fight Club Karate Kid, making the strategy guide for this game remarkably short: "Run the eff away; excepting when one must kick everyone in the face."

The only real obstacle, then, between Daniel and... whatever it is he's trying to accomplish here...are the lousy mini-games peppering each level. Pressing up while in a doorway transports you to one of three minigames: catching flies with chopsticks, karate chopping blocks of ice, or jumping over a swinging anvil-thing. Each game awards points based on blah blah blah... The point is, entering a mini-game removes the drones behind you, meaning you may have to kick more people in the face. Avoid them, well like Karate Kid for NES.

Eff this guy
eff this guy.
The fourth and final level (Really? Only 4 levels?) is a pallette swap of the first, with rocks on the ground instead of wood. The drones take two hits instead of one and you know its serious because Daniel is wearing a RED OUTFIT! A new drone is added to the mix in this final level: The Spear Guy. Eff the Spear Guy. Seriously. The Spear Guy skewers you with his penis-looking spear and pushes you  across the screen, doing damage the whole way. Basically, if he hits you, you die. This would be a real pain in the craw excepting that...

Eff this guy
Oh I'm gonna get me a face-kickin'
Yes I'm gonna get me a face-kickin'
...At the very start of level 4, the drones spawn BEHIND you. Jump a few pits, avoid a few rolling boulders, skip the mini-games and you're taken to one final drone patiently awaiting repeated face-kickings. This final boss is clad in yellow and black, so I suppose he's Cobra Kai, but I honestly don't care enough to check. Basically he runs into your heel a few times and the game ends. For all your work, all the running the eff away, all the sumbitches kicked in the face, your toil is rewarded with one of the most resplendent video game endings of the 8-bit era:


Just kidding. You get a cruddy black screen and poorly-written text. Mr. Miyagi winks at you and then its back to the title screen! Yipee!

From first the first drone to the final wink!, Karate Kid took me about an hour, most of that time devoted to kicking random guys in the face for 1-ups (this being before I discovered that running away is the 1st Rule of Fight Club Karate Kid). The poor quality of the programming makes it inevitable that Daniel will fall into a pit or two. Conversely, the poor quality of the programming makes it so you only really need to beat seven people in the game: four at the Level 1 Karate Tournament, and then each of the remaining 3 Level Bosses. This game isn't so much difficult as it is frustrating, earning it a NES HARD rating of:

Controller Icon
one controller out of a possible five (with five being the most maddeningly, controller-whippingly, computer-cheatingly difficult of games). If any of the other games on the list are as easy as Karate Kid, I'll be the

NES MONSTER! in no time flat.

We'll see how the quest continues next Monday (and each following Monday from here to #1), when I delve into the danger zone in pursuit of NES glory.

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