International Karate

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International Karate
International Karate - cover art (Commodore 64).jpg
Commodore 64 cover art for International Karate
Developer(s)System 3
Publisher(s)System 3 (Europe), Epyx (United States)
Designer(s)Archer MacLean
Composer(s)Rob Hubbard
Platform(s)Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Commodore 16, MS-DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console
  • EU: November 1985 (1985-11)
Commodore 64
  • EU: ca. May 1986
  • NA: 30 April 1986
Virtual Console (C64)
  • EU: 28 March 2008
  • NA: 23 February 2009
Genre(s)Fighting game
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

International Karate is a karate fighting game created and published by System 3 for various home computers.

Epyx licensed and published the game in the US as World Karate Championship in April 1986.[1] Except for a new loading screen and necessary tuning for the American NTSC television system, the US releases were unchanged.

International Karate + a successor which expanded the gameplay through the introduction of an additional - although not player controllable - karateka, was released in 1987. Through the unauthorized release of International Karate + Gold in 2001, this player was made controllable using a joystick adapter.


Atari 800 version of the game

The core game is a two-dimensional, one-on-one, versus fighting game. Players take on the roles of martial artists competing in a kumite tournament. Rather than wearing down an opponent's health, the goal is instead to score single solid hits. After each hit, combat stops and both combatants are returned to their starting positions. Depending on how well players hit their opponent, they score either a half-point or a full point. Matches can be quite brief, as only two full points are required to win, and a point can be quickly scored just seconds after a round begins.

In single player mode, successive opponents increase in difficulty from novice white belts to master black belts. Play continues as long as the player continues to win matches. Between fights, bonus mini-games focusing on rhythm and timing appear, including one in which the player must break a number of stacked boards using the fighter's head.

As in newer games in the genre, starting specifically with Street Fighter, the fights take place against a variety of backdrops (8 in total) representing different locations in the world.


The title utilises the standard one-button joystick, allowing players to execute a variety of karate techniques. Unlike modern 2D fighting games, players do not turn around if the opponent is behind them and must instead execute one of three "turn-around" manoeuvres to change direction.


  • Mount Fuji (Tokyo, Japan)
  • Sydney Harbour (Sydney, Australia)
  • Statue of Liberty (New York, USA)
  • Forbidden City (Beijing, China)
  • Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  • Palace of Westminster (London, England)
  • Parthenon (Athens, Greece)
  • Great Pyramid of Giza (Cairo, Egypt)

Ports, variants, and re-releases[edit]

Atari ST version of the game

The Spectrum version was used as the starting point for the Amstrad CPC port.[2] Another port exists for the MSX platform.

A version for the Atari ST home computer was created by Andromeda Software and released in 1986. This version featured the most advanced graphics of all versions as the 16bit hardware supported more colors and larger sprites.

The port to the PC, published the same year, utilised CGA graphics and therefore was reduced to four colours.

In 2000, a Game Boy Color version, created without input from Archer MacLean,[2] was released as International Karate 2000. It sported some enhancements, and was the basis for International Karate Advanced released in 2001 for the Game Boy Advance.

The C64 version saw re-releases in 2004 as a title on the C64 Direct-to-TV, and in 2008 on the Wii Virtual Console.[3]


After the release of World Karate Championship in the US in late April 1986, Epyx was sued by competing video game publisher Data East for infringement of copyright, trademark, and trade dress. The dispute was about similarities to the 1984 arcade game Karate Champ and its home computer adaptations published in 1985. International Karate used the same coloured fighters and had the same points system. The initial trial at the District Court for the Northern District of California began on 28 October 1986. In his decision of 28 January 1987, the court dismissed the allegations of trademark and trade dress infringement but found Epyx guilty of infringing upon Data East USA's copyright on Karate Champ.[4] Data East obtained a permanent injunction against Epyx, Inc., and an impoundment that restrained Epyx from further sale or distribution of World Karate Championship. Epyx was required to recall from both customers and distributors all copies of the infringing work.[5]

The decision was appealed the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who in November 1988 reversed the decision, stating that while the game was similar, it was not identical, and that one game company can not monopolise one entire sport.[6][7][8]

As a result, Melbourne House did not sue System 3 nor Epyx, as the game The Way of the Exploding Fist is also very similar to both of these games, though the game itself also borrowed heavily from Data East's Karate Champ.


Computer Gaming World called the game "an original Karate Champ clone, but it's the best one available ... Great scenery adds to the ambience".[9]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Steven L. Kent: "The Ultimate History of Video Games." First edition, Three Rivers Press, New York 2001, p. 368 - Kent does not mention the Atari version.
  2. ^ a b "The Making of: International Karate, IK+." In: Retro Gamer, Issue 26, pp. 42-47.
  3. ^ Commodore 64 Coming to Wii Virtual Console, retrieved on 25 February 2008.
  5. ^ Hartley Lesser, Patricia Lesser (November 1987). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (127): 74–80.
  6. ^ Data East v. Epyx, 862 F. 2d 204, 9 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1322 (9th Cir. 1988).
  7. ^ Data East v. Epyx. In: Steven L. Kent: The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokémon--The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World. New York, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4. p. 368-371.
  8. ^ Richard H. Stern, Computer Law 484 Professor Richard H. Stern Cases and Materials
  9. ^ Ardai, Charles (April 1987). "Titans of the Computer Gaming World / Part 1 of V: Ardai on Epyx". Computer Gaming World. No. 36. p. 53. Retrieved 24 April 2016.

External links[edit]