They Came From Computer – Choplifter, Karateka

The two titles in this Atari 7800 post, the Broderbund published Choplifter and Karateka, got their starts on home computers before finding their way onto home consoles or in the case of Choplifter, arcades as well. In the case of both of these titles, my first experiences playing them was on home computer as well. My best friend growing up lived across the street from me and his family had an Apple IIe computer circa 1986-1987. Before I got my own NES for Christmas 1987, going over to his house was my primary means of playing video games outside of the arcades. He had a lot of copied games on floppy disk (shocker, I know!) and Choplifter and Karateka were two of them.

My experiences with Choplifter on the Apple IIe were quite positive at the time. I recall enjoying the game tremendously and had fun trying to save all the hostages while secretly getting a sick thrill from occasionally landing on one of them, smashing them flat. I also own this title for the Sega Master System and while I understand that the SMS version is more of a port of the arcade version of Choplifter and the 7800 version is more of a port of the arcade version, when it boils down to it, they’re both still Choplifter at the end of the day. Choplifter for the 7800 is in a nutshell, decent. It does a pretty good job of taking the action and excitement of the home computer version and applying it to a console with limited sound capabilities but it’s much shallower than the arcade/SMS versions so you have to understand that going in if you’re a huge Choplifter fan overall.

Unfortunately, Karateka for the 7800 is a mess. I was never a huge fan of the home computer version of this game but at least I was able to somehow figure out the controls & appreciate what the game was trying to accomplish. The home computer controls felt much more intuitive than they do when using the 7800’s ProLine controller. Right button moves your stance from standing to fighting. Pressing right on the joystick while in standing mode and you will begin running. Left button is used to advance (along with movement of the joystick) when in the fighting stance. When in fighting stance, the joystick is used to kick and punch depending on the direction you press. Got it? One tip for new players to Karateka is to only run when you absolutely have to. If you get hit by an enemy while in standing/running stance, it’s game over. It can be extremely frustrating for your game to end simply because you didn’t get out of your running stance quick enough as you fumble with the controller and buttons. However, the worst part of the game for me is the lagging controls. You kick (by pressing right on the joystick) or punch (by pressing left on the joystick) and a full second or two later, your karate master performs the action. With the opportunity for one hit game overs and the lagging controls, I don’t know how anyone could get all the way through this game without some luck or a touch of insanity.

Currently in my collection:

Choplifter – game, manual C+

Karateka – game, manual, box F


This boxed copy of Karateka is sealed and it will stay that way because no one needs two opened copies of Karateka.


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