STORY / GAMEPLAY
The idea is simple: You have 30 seconds to defeat your martial arts opponent by pulling off points, scoring moves from the Karate handbook. The first to score 2 points is the winner and if the time runs out before points are scored, the fighter with the highest points wins.
Two wins will then grant you with a new belt and move you onto the next stage to face off against a more skilled opponent. So there are no health bars but just 2 fighters that score points. The attacks can either give half a point or a full point, depending on the style. There is also a two-players mode where you and a friend fight it out in 90-seconds bouts of vengeance.
International Karate is great, offering a lot o stages to fight against an opponent. The game has 16 different Karate moves available. During an attack move you need to keep the joystick pressed towards the corresponding direction until the fighter completes it. It is possible to block high kicks or punches by backing away (sweeps can be blocked or avoided only by getting out of the opponent's reach).
Each stage resembles popular scenes from different countries like Mount Fuji (Tokyo), Sydney Harbor (Sydney), the Statue of Liberty (New York), Forbidden City (Beijing), Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro), Palace of Westminster (London), Venice (Italy), the Great Pyramid of Giza (Cairo) and Hawaii (Atari ST only). Note that the original C64 version included the Parthenon (Athens) instead of Hawaii.
International Karate is great and for a fighting game of the mid 80's, this was nothing short of the total package. GRAPHICS / SOUND
The graphics are very respectable for a game published as early as 1986 and the Atari ST version replaces the original aesthetics with a more cartoonish look. As mentioned above, the fights take place at a variety of backdrops representing different locations of the world, and the ST version has a total of 10 stages in contrast to the 8 of the original. All stages are nicely designed with more colors and more details than the original. More on that, the Atari ST version includes a few animated objects/scenes at the backdrops. The sprites are wonderfully animated and move relatively fast. You may notice that on the original C64 version the sprites look much like the successor title (IK+) while the ST version the sprites look different. This is because International Karate was developed by a different development house (Andromeda Software) and published by System 3.
The sound of this game is good, with a nice introductory tune and some sampled fighting sound effects.