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#165 – The Karate Kid

Wax on, wax off!

Some chill vibes here to get focused.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 9/27/20 – 10/1/20
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Karate Kid Longplay

Hello, and welcome to another edition of “NES Game Based on a Movie that I Have Not Seen”!  I know.  This one feels more egregious than some of the others, for reasons I don’t fully understand.  It’s not that I don’t like watching movies, but there are just so many things vying for my time and movies are always at the end of the list.  Especially older movies.  Today some older movies are hard to find in the streaming era.  DVDs are much less common now, and not every classic movie is easily obtainable at the local store.  I guess the other thing is that I was too little to watch 80s movie back at the time of release, and many of them I never got around to checking out when I got older.  Anyway, we aren’t here to talk about movies of the past, we are here to talk about their video games!

The Karate Kid is a film released in June 1984.  It was written by Robert Mark Kamen, directed by John G. Avildsen, and produced by Jerry Weintraub.  The movie stars Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue, and William Zabka.  The film was both a critical and financial success.  It had a small budget of only $8 million but grossed well over $100 million, making it a sleeper hit and one of the best performing movies of the year.  This would become a movie series with two numbered sequels plus The Next Karate Kid.  Of current note is the TV series Cobra Kai which had its third season released earlier in 2021.  The film is also said to have increased the popularity of karate in the US.  There were only a couple of Karate Kid video games released at the time, one of which is this NES version.  The Karate Kid on NES was a North American exclusive game, releasing in November 1987.  It was developed by Atlus and published by LJN.  

Despite the game being named The Karate Kid, the plot of the game follows the story beats of The Karate Kid Part II.  The manual is very lean on story, opting for generic platitudes about using his training, practicing self-control, and such.  This side-scrolling platformer game will start you at the karate tournament at the end of the first film, with the rest of the game taking place in Okinawa in line with Part 2.  This game has four stages and you just need to clear them all and beat Chozen to win.

The climax of the first film is a throwaway stage in this game.

On the title screen, you can select either one or two players.  This is alternating play for the two-player mode, nothing to be excited about.  However, there is a one-on-one mode.  This is a simple fighting game for two player simultaneous play only.  Player 1 controls Daniel on the left and Player 2 controls Chozen on the right.  This is a very simple, bare-bones fighting mode.  You could use it to get accommodated with the controls in a safe space, should you choose, but this mode is too lean to be of any value for two players.

Here are the controls for the main game.  You use the D-pad to move.  This includes walking with Left and Right, crouching with Down, and jumping with Up.  Yeah, it’s one of these games.  The A button does a punch, while the B button does a kick.  You can do jump kicks and jump punches, as well as crouching attacks.  You also possess a couple of special techniques.  Crane kicks and drum punches do a lot of damage as well as help you parry attacks.  However, you have a limited number of these you can utilize, as noted at the top of the screen.  You perform a crane kick by pressing B without pressing any direction, and similarly you do a drum punch by pressing A while standing still.  The Start button pauses the same.  Select is only used to choose options on the title screen.

The first stage in the game is the karate tournament.  Here you will face off against four opponents one at a time.  You begin with four crane kicks if you need them.  The health bars of both you and your opponent is displayed at the top, so you can see your progress for these brief encounters.  This stage is short and sweet, and a fair example of how the combat works for the rest of the game.

The second stage takes place in Okinawa.  This is a side scrolling level with the scrolling locked as you go so you cannot backtrack.  You’ll be faced with enemy fighters that are simpler to defeat than who you faced in the tournament.  You’ll notice the enemy health bar has been replaced with a map indicator.  This is a long bar with a small arrow to show how far you have gone in the stage.  The stage also introduces powerups.  You will sometimes see a small yellow letter C or a small letter D floating in mid-air.  Grab one to add one to your crane kicks or drum punches respectively.  You also gain a small amount of health as a bonus.  The only other powerup you’ll find is one of three bonus characters.  You “collect” them and you restore a large portion of your health bar.  Nice!

While it requires precision, I always liked catching the flies.

The side scrolling stages also contain hidden bonus games.  You’ll find these by jumping into doorways and such that appear in the background.  There are three bonus games you will encounter.  The first of these is the Chopsticks Fly Catch.  Six flies will fly around the screen in a loop-de-loop pattern.  Move Daniel Left and Right and press either A or B to pinch the chopsticks together to catch flies.  The second bonus game is the Ice Block Break.  Here your life meter becomes a power meter that waves back and forth.  The size of the power meter is determined by how much health you have entering the bonus game, so to break through them all you really need full health entering the bonus area.  Press A or B when the bar is as far right as possible.  The third bonus game is the Swinging Hammer.  Daniel is on a center platform with a swinging hammer on a rope going back and forth.  You need to face the hammer as it swings down and press A or B with good timing to parry the hammer, allowing it to swing to the other side.  If you miss you get knocked in the water and the bonus game ends.  Depending on how well you do in the bonus games, you can earn points, crane kicks, and drum punches.

While the first two stages are pretty simple, the final two stages up the ante in difficulty.  Stage 3 is the same exact setting and level design as Stage 2, only it takes place during a typhoon.  So that means you have wind blowing you backward the whole time, as well as flying objects to avoid and to fight through.  These new additions are on top of the enemy fighters you always are fending off.  A patient approach is helpful to avoid falling in pits, but the enemies have a knack of bopping you around and pushing you in anyway.  The final stage does away with the wind, and in fact is a different stage altogether.  This stage features the spear fighters that have greater range.  The crane kicks and drum punches help a lot here if you still have some.  There are not as many bonus opportunities in this stage either.  The stage and game ends with the final battle against Chozen.

Despite not seeing the film ever, I have played this NES game before.  I remember playing this game at my cousin’s house as a kid, falling off the stage over and over in Levels 2 and 3.  This might have also been a rental once, though looking back that doesn’t really make much sense not having seen the movie.  For a long time this was a ubiquitous game that always sold cheap, but this game has eased upward in price over the years.  When I was big into collecting the set, this was a $5 game, and now it is trending more toward a $10 game.  I got it as common filler in a lot and I’m sure I’ve had more than one copy of it too.

Wind, pits, and being surrounded can make this game tough.

My difficulty rating of this game might be controversial.  I know when I played this as a kid it felt nearly impossible.  Having not played this game in many, many years, I cleared it on stream on my first try.  There’s a little trick I learned from seeing speedruns of this game.  In the platforming stages, the game can only spawn two soldiers at a time.  If you can get them behind you, they will follow you, leaving the path ahead wide open.  That helps a lot, but even without that, they aren’t too tough to fend off.  Jump kicks or attacks at the edge of your range work well to defeat enemies, and if they gang up on you the crane kicks and drum punches can cut through their attacks.  The patient approach to jumping pits got me through Stage 3 and maintaining a supply of crane kicks got me through Stage 4.  All that said, this game only gives you three lives to get through it, and there are no continues.  You do gain an extra life for every 20,000 points earned.  I feel like the short length of the game is a good enough reason to give this a lower-than-expected difficulty.  But feel free to disagree with me!

There is one, small goof I committed in playing this game.  I ended up playing and beating this the same night that I beat Days of Thunder.  It was an excellent pallet cleanser, and I’m glad my skills kept up to beat the game right away.  The only problem was that I did not have recording enabled.  I stopped the recording when I completed Days of Thunder but forgot to turn it back on for The Karate Kid.  It would be a few days before I was able to sit down and beat the game again, and it took me two more tries to do it that night.  Making weird mistakes off-game like this is one of my superpowers, I think.

There’s not too much more to say about this game.  I liked it well enough.  The graphics are mostly well done, perhaps a little cluttered at times.  Some of the bonus entrances are unclear.  The music is good with some catchy tunes to accompany the action.  The controls work well enough, even with Up jumping.  There isn’t a better control scheme I can think of to trigger the special moves that wouldn’t interfere with the gameplay the way it is.  This is a simple game to get into and quick to replay after Game Over.  The bonus games are fun and you get rewarded well for playing them well.  All in all, it was a good, slightly frustrating, and brief experience.  Just what the doctor ordered, in my case.

#165 – The Karate Kid

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#90 – Bonk’s Adventure

Bonk here, bonk there, bonk everywhere.

What a happy caveman!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 6/12/18 – 6/13/18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Bonk’s Adventure Longplay

The 1990s in video games were all about the mascot platformer. The success of Super Mario Bros. was a very early frontrunner to this trend, and although mascots wouldn’t really hit their stride until well into the 90s, there are some early examples of games trying to piggyback off the success of Mario. The Sega Master System tried keeping step with Alex Kidd. Sega eventually switched over to Sonic, a formidable rival. You could say Master Higgins of Adventure Island is also a mascot with a platformer. The SNES and Genesis generation brought a lot of one-off type games with mascot platformers like Bubsy, Aero the Acrobat, Sparkster, and Ristar to name a few. The Nintendo 64 and PlayStation era stepped it up even further with big names like Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, Banjo-Kazooie, and Spyro the Dragon. Within the days of Mario vs. Sonic and the Console Wars was Bonk, a humble caveman starring in his own adventure on the Turbografx-16. There wasn’t a whole lot of console crossover in the early days, but for some reason, Bonk’s Adventure did receive a very late NES port.

Bonk’s Adventure was released first on the PC Engine in Japan in December 1989, named PC Genjin. The PC Engine became the Turbografx-16 in the US, and Bonk’s Adventure was brought over in 1990. The game was developed by Red Company and Atlus. A Famicom port called FC Genjin released in July 1993 and the NES version launched in January 1994. Hudson Soft published the NES version, however the developer is not clear. Red is mentioned on the title screen, but development has also been attributed to A.I. Company Ltd. There were three Bonk games on the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 and two on the Super Famicom, as well as some Game Boy ports and spinoffs and mobile games in Japan.

Bonk’s Adventure is a side-scrolling action platformer. You play the role of the caveman Bonk who must save the Moon Princess from King Drool. Just another cliché video game story. Bonk’s journey through Dinosaur Land will take him through many locales over the seven worlds in the game. You beat the game once you clear all the levels and beat all the bosses.

You gotta use your head.

You move Bonk around with the D-pad. Use the A button to jump. Bonk has a very strong head and he can use it to hurt enemies simply by jumping into them from underneath. Bonk will grab onto walls from the side with his teeth. In this state, you can climb the wall by jumping repeatedly. The B button is used to attack in two different ways. Press B while standing to headbutt. You can hit enemies from the side this way. While in the air, you can press B to do a flip. This turns Bonk over so that you can fall onto enemies with your head and hurt them that way. If you press B again while still in midair, he will orient himself upright again. You can do a bunch of midair spins in the air by pressing the B button repeatedly while in the air. This causes Bonk to fall much slower and you can use the increased airtime to make long horizontal jumps.

There isn’t much on-screen information to go by while playing Bonk’s Adventure. The top left corner shows three hearts. This is your health meter. Enemies can knock off your health in quarter-heart increments, but typically you lose health by half or full hearts. You can read a little more information by pausing the game. The pause display shows the current round and stage number, the number of smiley faces you’ve collected, and how many lives you have remaining.

There are several powerups to aid you in your adventure. A recurring enemy in this game is the Bani-Bana flower. They are stationary enemies that you can knock with a headbutt either from the side or above to reveal their contents. There are a few variations of the Bani-Bana flower. There are white ones that don’t give power ups, but instead launch Bonk skyward if he jumps on top of them. There is also an enemy that masquerades as a flower that leaps away when you wake it up. Since you are often left vulnerable while attempting to reveal the flower’s item, this means you will usually get hurt by this enemy if you aren’t careful.

Get powered up and crash through the bad guys.

There are many different pickups you get from the flowers. Fruit that is shaped like a carrot restores a quarter-heart of health, while red hearts give you one full heart and a big heart gives you three hearts back. The rare big white heart adds a heart to your maximum health. You begin the game with three hearts and can earn up to six. Smiling faces are collectibles that are redeemed at the end of each round. There are both small meat and big meat that power up Bonk when you eat them. You can also find little Bonk figures worth an extra life.

The small meat powerups give Bonk a head of steam, changing his form to the Grand Bonk. This is only a temporary transformation that is quite useful. As the Grand Bonk, if you do a midair spin and land on the ground with your head, it shakes the screen and damages all enemies. If you take a hit, you will go back to normal, and the effect eventually wears off anyway. If you collect the big meat, or collect the small meat again while Grand Bonk, you become invincible for a short time. You can really plow through enemies and clear a lot of ground in this state. When the invincibility wears off, you remain Grand Bonk until that wears off or you lose it.

You may see a small flower within a level. Grab it to ascend to a bonus area. There are three different bonus areas that have different rules. In the Jump the Canyons game, simply work your way to the right as far as you can while collecting the carrot-shaped fruits. Falling off or reaching the end completes the bonus game. You can earn smileys or even a 1up by collecting as many fruits as you can. You play the Flip Through the Air game by jumping off a tall ledge and flipping with B as many times as you can. The number of flips are counted up when you land on your feet at the bottom and you can earn smileys or a 1up. You earn nothing if you land on your head. The third game, Beat the Clock to Reach the Top, is the easiest one. Cling to the wall and press A to jump as fast as you can to reach the top. You earn more rewards for every second remaining on the timer.

There are bonus games you can sink your teeth into.

Most of the worlds follow a similar pattern. Many levels begin with a signpost with the round and stage numbers written on it. Levels proceed in one direction and there’s another post with an arrow on it meaning you’ve reach the end of the stage. The final stage within a round ends in an elevator that looks like a skull. Stand in front of it and press Up to take the elevator to the boss. These bosses are all large enemies that need to be bonked many times to defeat. After the bosses are defeated, evidently you knock them back to their senses. They each speak a few words of text after you finish the fight. Then you get health restored depending on how many smileys you picked up within the round.

One nice thing about Bonk’s Adventure is you don’t get set back at all if you lose a life. When you run out of health, you roll around and keel over. You can hang out in the death state for a long time while the game continues around you. Press Start to wake up with a new life and three hearts of health right where you left off. If you run out of lives, you can continue from the start of the round. This is a pretty severe penalty if you happen to lose your lives on the end of round boss. Fortunately, it seems like you can continue as often as you want.

This was my first time playing through Bonk’s Adventure. On the NES, this game is well known as one of the most expensive NES games. It’s the most expensive game I’ve played so far for this project. Here in 2018, loose carts sell for an average of $500 and complete in box copies average $800-$900. Bonk’s Adventure has consistently been in or near the Top 5 most expensive NES carts. I scored my copy in mint condition for $150 in 2014. The value of the cart was around $400 then so it was a killer deal. I just happened to find the listing for it on eBay at the right time within a lot of other NES games. That $150 bought me Bonk’s Adventure and 10 other common games.

The bosses are usually huge like this.

I had an easy time with Bonk’s Adventure. There was a learning curve to the momentum in-air. For the first couple of rounds I often missed my target while attacking from above. Powerups and health pickups were plentiful enough to help mitigate most damage taken from missed attacks. I was also bad at the bonus games at first, aside from the wall climbing one that is virtually impossible to lose. I thought the second round boss was the hardest one. It jumps around a lot and I couldn’t hit it when it jumped up into me, which sadly happened a lot. Those were the main issues I had with playing the game and I didn’t have any significant troubles otherwise. My first time through the game required one continue, but the second game through for my longplay video was a no-continue run. I didn’t check on the pause screen, but I think I ended up with about a dozen lives in reserve by the end.

Bonk’s Adventure is a quality game that is fun to play. The graphics and animation are very well done. The boss fights are really fun, though I feel they take way too many hits to defeat. The gameplay is tight and there are plenty of ways to attack enemies within the simple controls. The game can get a little repetitive, but at the same time there are a few stages where you swim or climb and it’s nice to have something different. I am not a big fan of the music. The soundtrack feels a little moodier and depressing than I would expect out of a game like this. The song during the end credits is something that would have given me nightmares as a kid playing games alone at night. It’s not objectively bad music, it’s just not for me. This is a good NES game all around. I would recommend playing the game, even if it falls short of the Turbografx-16 version like I suspect it does. But there is no reason at all to own this game unless you are a collector, grew up with it and still have your childhood copy, or got lucky and found it for cheap.

#90 – Bonk’s Adventure


#89 – Wacky Races

Before you ask, this is not a racing game.

All the other racers drive through the title screen!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 6/9/18
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Wacky Races Longplay

I am always amazed at the old series or properties that somehow make their way to the NES. The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island didn’t really make much sense to turn into an NES game, even though the show maintained popularity for years in syndication. Puss ‘N Boots is another game starring a character with a historical past. These are just ones I’ve personally covered so far, but there are plenty more. Both Tom and Jerry and Rocky and Bullwinkle got NES games. Bugs Bunny had two NES games. Hanna-Barbera got in on the action too with two Flintstones games, a Jetsons game, and this Wacky Races game, all on NES. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting as well. I think you can make a good argument that Wacky Races might be the most obscure cartoon property to get an NES game. It sure seems to have flown under the radar from a gameplay perspective.

Wacky Races is an animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The show aired for only a few months in 1968-1969, with 17 total episodes made. The cartoon is about 11 racers competing in various road races against each other. The main villain, Dick Dastardly, and his canine henchman Muttley, drive a powerful vehicle that might win most or all of the races outright. However, being a villain, he often gets ahead of the pack to set traps that usually backfire in some way. Dick Dastardly never wins a race. There were a couple of spinoffs of the original show: The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The show was rebooted in a new animated series beginning in 2017. There were also a few video games based off the franchise.

There were actually two separate Wacky Races games created in 1991. One was made for various home computers in 1991 and 1992 and is a completely different game from the one I played. Wacky Races appeared on the Famicom in December 1991, called Chiki Chiki Machine Mou Race. It was both developed and published by Atlus. The NES version was released in May 1992. This is the first game either developed or published by Atlus I have played so far for the site.

Definitely not a racing game.

You might think a show about racing would have a video game about racing, but instead Wacky Races is a platformer. You take control of Muttley. There are three courses of either three or four levels each, and these courses all have their own plot line. Something has happened to Dick Dastardly and Muttley needs to go and rescue him. You can play the three courses in any order you like, though the stages within the courses all must be played in order. There is a map that shows Muttley’s progress through the course shown after each level. You beat the game once you have completed all three courses.

Wacky Races is a simple platformer with equally simple controls. You use the D-pad to move, mostly walking left and right. Press the A button to jump. You can control the height of your jump a little depending on how long you hold down the button. You can hold Down to duck, and you will jump down through ledges by holding Down and pressing A. The B button attacks. The standard attack is a Muttley bite from close range. The Start button pauses the game, while the Select button is used to trigger items from the item window.

The bottom of the screen contains all the pertinent info you need. On the left are the number of diamonds and lives. You earn an extra life when you collect one hundred diamonds. The middle of the screen shows the item window. The right side shows your health points represented by hearts, and a clock for the stage timer.

Dogs love bones, so collect them to power up.

Wacky Races has a Gradius-like powerup system. The item window is comprised of four icons. There are only three types of collectables in this game: diamonds, extra lives, and bones. When you pick up a bone, a cursor points to the first item in the item window. You can press Select to take that item now or wait until you pick up another bone to move the cursor one space to the right. The cursor will loop back around if you keep finding more bones.

The first two items in the list are weapons. You can only use one at a time but you can switch by collecting bones and nabbing the other one from the window. The first weapon is a bomb. Muttley produces a bomb above his head and throws it. It travels sideways for a while before arcing toward the ground. It blows up on contact with the ground or an enemy. You can hit enemies with it or throw it in front of them a little so that they are hurt by walking into the blast. The other weapon is called the Sonic Bark. Muttley barks and fires an icon in the form of the word “BOW.” This travels through everything and goes about the length of the screen before vanishing. There is a bit of a delay between when you push B and he hurls the bark.

The other two items are support items. The wings give you feather fall ability. While Muttley is falling, you can mash the A button to descend slowly. Muttley slinks down and wags his tail in the air while doing this. The idea is the same as the raccoon tail in Super Mario Bros. 3. The last item in the window is the heart. This item both extends your health meter and restores your health. You begin the game with three health points and can go up to six. Even with a complete health bar, you can still collect the heart from the item window and refill your health any time.

Here’s the obligatory water level.

The stages in the game are also quite simple as they all move from left to right. Stages are broken up into different sections by an arrow sign. Just walk to the edge of the screen to proceed to the next section. If you die, you go back to the beginning of the section. I found that the levels went on a lot longer than I thought they would. Many levels have three or four sections to them that take a little walking to reach the end. The levels themselves are generic platforming for the most part. There is a swimming level and an ice level plus there’s a stage where you bounce on clouds. There are a few more gimmicks like that along the way.

Each level ends with a boss battle. These are all other contestants in the Wacky Races and they all fight you within their vehicles. I think they did a good job making the boss sprites look like the vehicles from the show. The boss arenas are locked down to a single screen. There is a bone provided so you will be able to get a weapon if you start from nothing. The bosses have various movement patterns and may throw projectiles of their own. After taking several hits, it will look like you have defeated the boss, only for it to come back with a second, more aggressive movement pattern. All bosses follow this format. Just keep attacking and you’ll achieve victory!

You begin the game with three lives. If you lose all your lives, you can continue. The manual doesn’t say but it appears you can continue as many times as you like. Even better is that a continue also puts you back at the start of a section. The penalty for failure is this game is minor.

In this game, car chases dog.

This was my first time playing through Wacky Races. It’s a very uncommon game, and that comes with an uncommon price tag. The current selling price is around $200 for just the loose cart. It was one of the last ten games I bought for my licensed set. I had a chance to buy a copy earlier though. There is a local flea market that opens once a month. A seller had a copy there for at least a couple of years for $82. Around then the game had raised in price from around $60 to $120, so eventually the flea market copy was a good deal. Of course, by the time I was ready to go buy it, it had sold just a month or two prior. I had to wait a couple more months before I bought my copy on NintendoAge. I bought it along with Bubble Bobble Part 2 and I ended up getting it for around the price I missed. The only bad thing is that there’s an ink stamp on the front of the cart that I could not get cleaned. Maybe that’s a little reminder of what happens when you wait on something you shouldn’t.

The sad thing is that $200 doesn’t get you much with Wacky Races in terms of gameplay. This is a good enough game, but it is also really easy. I beat the game on my first try with over twenty lives remaining and used no continues. I counted seven deaths on my playthrough. That may not sound great but it’s low enough for a lengthy game like this that I’ve never played before. My deaths mainly consisted of either falling in holes or dying at the bosses. The boss battles in my mind are the hardest part of the game since they are big sprites and they take a bunch of hits to go down. I didn’t find the game challenging, not even considering the infinite continues you can use. It’s a light, simple game with a hefty price tag.

Wacky Races is a solid NES game in most regards. The graphics, music, and controls are all spot on. There are a few cutscenes that are nicely detailed and there’s even a little humor to go along with it. The powerup system works well and you don’t have to wait long to switch weapons if you want. On a technical level, everything runs great. The levels suffer from just being too ordinary. You simply move left and right. There’s a good variety in the graphics from stage to stage, but the level design does not stand out in a meaningful way. Most enemies don’t pose much of a threat. The platforming is basic too, with only a few spots that are mildly tricky. The boss battles get repetitive, though I do appreciate that they change patterns midway through each fight. This game is only worth buying if you are a collector. In that case, you might as well play through it and beat it quickly like I did.

#89 – Wacky Races