Read the review here.
“This early NES game poses two enormous problems, however: The play control is terrible and confusing, if the player wishes to attempt the more complex moves, which award more points, though the points only matter from an external record-keeping standpoint; and, perhaps much worse, the NES version of Karate Champ may have the worst hit detection in video game history.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
This game is, indeed, somewhat infamously notorious for its poor play control and nightmarish hit detection. I totally see it with the hit detection; this is my choice for having the worst hit detection on the console, and possibly in all of gaming history. Even accounting for the possibility of well-executed blocks, there is simply no rational explanation for why some punches and kicks seem to land while other, very similar or exactly the same maneuvers, just whiff.
Okay, actually, there is a reasonable explanation: The game was just programmed with an odd hit box for the sprites, somewhere within their bodies, and within the heat of gameplay it is tough to tell how close each combatant is to missing the other’s target zone. Even with that being said, though, unlike a well-designed shooter, the idea of a smaller-than-sprite hit box is an odd design choice for a fighting title, and makes for some confusing, even misleading gameplay.
Now, as for the karate move repertoire, I will actually say that I find it very interesting, potentially even kinda cool, that this title tries to cram in so many different moves, even given the inherent limitations of the NES controller. However, on closer examination, it does seem a bit crazy and overdone, as most of the moves may never get used and some seem to be impossible to actually perform. To give you an idea of the move set, check out this insane page from the instruction manual, the scan being courtesy of the NintendoAge site:
Yeah, that’s bonkers. Speaking of bonkers, I mentioned that Karate Champ was my choice for having the worst hit detection of all the games on the NES console. As such, it deserved its own video in my Worst Ever NES series. Enjoy:
NES Gameplay Tips for Karate Champ: Remember, this is a game of random chaos. That being said, your best best is to charge the enemy until he is at arm’s length, then start jamming the A button until you score points. If you want to switch it up for variety, use down+A for the sweep kick. If the enemy jumps behind you, use B for the back kick and down+B for the back sweep kick. Good luck – and that wish is meant literally, as luck plays a bigger part in this game than most.