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Karnov game flyer.png
Arcade game flyer
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Platform
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet Upright
Display Raster, standard resolution (Used: 256 × 240), horizontal

Karnov (カルノフ Karunofu?) is a 1987 platform arcade game.[1] After Data East became defunct due to bankruptcy in 2003, Paon, a company comprising former Data East staff, acquired the rights to Karnov, along with multiple other Data East games.[2]

In the game, players take control of the title character Jinborov Karnovski (ジンボロフ・カルノフスキー?), or "Karnov" for short. Karnov is a strongman popularly illustrated as being from an unspecified part of the Soviet Union's Central Asian republics as shown on the original arcade flyer and again in Karnov's Revenge.

The title character was reintroduced in several other Data East games, including Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja in which he played a boss in the first level. Karnov later appeared in the 1994 Neo-Geo game Karnov's Revenge. This game, also known as Fighter's History Dynamite, is not a sequel to the original Karnov, but to Fighter's History, a competitive one-on-one fighter in which Karnov was the final boss.


The game puts the bulging-muscled, fire-breathing, east-Russian, ex-circus strongman hero on a quest through nine different levels to search for the ultimate treasure.[3] However, between him and the treasure are several horrendous monsters, including sword-wielding monks, dinosaurs, djinn, hopping fish men, gargoyles, tree monsters, will-o-wisps, rock creatures, centipede women, and ostrich-riding skeleton warriors.

Karnov can walk, jump, and shoot to make his way through these levels and find special items that will help him. Acquiring red orbs can upgrade up Karnov until he shoots three fireballs at a time. The end of each level has one or more bosses which he must defeat to receive a new piece of a treasure map. The end of the game features a powerful boss called "The Wizard" who defends the last map piece that leads to the treasure.


This game was later ported to numerous home systems, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and others.[1] The PC port was developed by Quicksilver Software[4] and distributed on a self-booting disk; it was among the last developers for the PC to still release games in this format. Like Bad Dudes, Ikari Warriors, and Guerrilla War, it was written in Borland Turbo C rather than assembly language and Quicksilver modified the C library files to perform low-level INT 13h disk access instead of DOS calls (since there was no DOS loaded on booter games).

The Famicom version was co-developed by Data East and SAS Sakata; the former did the design and audio of the port while the latter handled its programming.[5][6] It was released on December 18, 1987 in Japan by Namco, and shortly thereafter on its North American equivalent, the NES, in 1988 by Data East itself. Although it plays very similarly to the original arcade game there are some noticeable differences:

  • Karnov takes two hits to die instead of just one. After being hit once he will turn a blue color in which he has one hit left or can gain an extra hit back by grabbing a blue fireball orb.
  • The Super Fireball is replaced with the Spike Bomb which destroys every enemy on screen. The Trolley item is replaced with the Shield which is used to reflect an enemy's fireballs.
  • Levels 4 and 8 are completely different from the arcade levels.
  • The final boss is no longer the Wizard, but a giant three-headed dragon. Both fights, however, take place in similar rooms.

The Famicom game is noticeably more difficult since it has limited continues and the option is not visibly present after all lives are lost, instead requiring the button combination of pressing select and start. The NES game, however, provides unlimited continues, and it allows Karnov to be killed when both the A and B buttons were pressed on the second controller.


Review scores
Publication Score
CVG 30/40[7]
Crash 76%[8]
Sinclair User 10/10 stars[9]
Your Sinclair 9/10[10]
The Games Machine 88%[11]
ACE 612[12]

The IBM PC version of the game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #142 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 4½ out of 5 stars.[13]

Later appearances[edit]

Although no direct sequel to Karnov was released, Data East has used the title character as an enemy. In some games, such as Garyo Retsuden, Tumblepop and Trio The Punch - Never Forget Me... (featuring enormous stone statues and even mini versions of the character), Karnov is featured as a regular enemy.

In other Data East games, he is featured as a boss character. In Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja, Karnov is the first level's boss. A grey version of Karnov appears later in the game. According to the credits sequence of the Japanese version of the game, this version of Karnov is called Kusamoci Karnov.

Karnov is also the last opponent in the original Fighter's History, and becomes a playable character in its sequels. Although not an official cameo, the guard boss from the Gaelco game, Big Karnak, is almost identical to Karnov's and Kusamoci Karnov's sprites from Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja.

Karnov has also made various cameo appearances. He appears in the alley background of the Neo-Geo game Street Hoop. He is shown wearing a shirt with a "K" on it. Karnov also appears in the credits of the independently developed freeware game I Wanna Be the Guy. In Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, a ghostly silhouette who helps the titular character is highly similar to Karnov, and is even implied to be her dead father.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Karnov". MobyGames. Retrieved 9 Nov 2013. 
  2. ^ "Data East History – DATA EAST GAMES". G-Mode. Retrieved 6 Sep 2009. 
  3. ^ "Karnov". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 17 Oct 2013. 
  4. ^ Karnov screenshots. PixelatedArcade. Retrieved on 2016-11-30.
  5. ^ sasgames – エス・エー・エス株式会社 » 部門紹介. Sasgames.jp. Retrieved on 2016-11-30.
  6. ^ タッグチームプロレスリング. sas-sakata.co.jp (1987-12-18)
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ [3][dead link]
  10. ^ "Karnov". ysrnry.co.uk. Retrieved 3 Sep 2015. 
  11. ^ [4][dead link]
  12. ^ [5][dead link]
  13. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (February 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (142): 42–51. 

External links[edit]