The idea is simple: you have 30 seconds to defeat your martial arts expert opponent by pull off points-scoring moves from the Karate handbook. Whoever scores 2 points first wins and if the counter times out before the points are scored, the person with the highest score wins!
Two wins will then earn you a new belt and move you onto the next stage in order to face off against an even more skilled opponent. So, no health bars here, just fighters score points on one another. Attacks can either score a half point or full point depending on the attack. There also a two-player mode where you and a friend battle it out in 90-second bouts of vengeance!
International Karate is great, offering a lot o stages to fight against an opponent. The game offers 16 different Karate moves. During an attack movement you need to keep the joystick pressed into the corresponding direction until the fighter has ended the move. It is possible to block breast and head kicks / strokes of the opponent by backing away (foot sweeps cannot be blocked and avoided only by get out of the opponent's reach).
Each stage resembles famous pieces of scenery from different countries such as Mount Fuji (Tokyo), Sydney Harbour (Sydney), Statue of Liberty (New York), Forbidden City (Beijing), Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro), Palace of Westminster (London), Venice (Italy) and the Great, Parthenon (Athens) and Pyramid of Giza (Cairo). All stages found in the original Commodore 64 version.
International Karate is great and the PC (MS-DOS) version, although converted 3 years later, made a complete success by turning mostly to the gameplay and animation.
Well, the game here runs in CGA mode only. Graphics are, naturally, worse than on C64, but still backgrounds drawings look nice. Note that the Atari ST version is quite different in background and sprite drawings and look cartoonish! As mentioned above, the fights take place against a variety of backdrops representing different locations in the world, and the PC version offers the 8 offered in the original (the ST offers 10 in total). Sprites are wonderfully animated and move relative fast. You may notice that in the PC version (and as in the original C64), sprites look much like the successor title (IK+) whilst in the ST version sprites look different.
The sound is good, offering the original cute introductory tune during gameplay but without SFX here.