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 game on DOS runs in CGA mode only. The graphics are not as good as on the C64 original, but still the backgrounds remain neat. Note that the Atari ST version is quite different at the backgrounds and sprite drawings, and look more cartoonish! As mentioned above, the fights take place at a variety of backdrops that represent different locations of the world and the DOS version includes all 8 stages of the original. The sprites are greatly animated and move relatively fast. You may notice that on the DOS version (and the original C64), the sprites look closer to its successor the IK+.
The game's sound is adequate and offers the original introductory tune but without sound effects during the fights.