The Making of Karateka Review

In my latest video I take a look at “The Making of Karateka” from Digital Eclipse, a virtual museum exhibit that explores the popular classic computer game Karateka developed by Jordan Mechner. In addition to some neat documentary content is also has a number of playable games including some prototypes from Karateka’s development and a modern refreshed version of the game.

Karateka, originally released on the Apple II, was a groundbreaking game known for its animation, storyline, and music. It featured a karate protagonist on a mission to rescue a princess locked in the dungeon of a temple. The game’s animation was particularly notable, as Mechner used rotoscoping to capture realistic movements, a technique that was later expanded in his other famous game, Prince of Persia.

One of the fun parts about making this video was testing out my original copy of Karateka that is still working 35+ years. At the beginning of the video you can see it booting up on my Apple IIe.

What makes this new compilation from Digital Eclipse intriguing is not just the modern refresh of Karateka but also the extensive exhibit of Mechner’s development process. It’s like walking through a museum, showcasing the journey of Karateka from its inception to its final form. This includes Mechner’s early attempts at game development, his meticulous documentation, and the evolution of his ideas.

Mechner’s first game, Asteroid Blaster, and his subsequent project, Death Bounce, which faced multiple rejections before Karateka, are also part of this compilation. These games reflect the perseverance and creativity of a young developer navigating the early gaming industry. The compilation also includes interviews and footage that provide insights into the animation process and the collaboration between Jordan and his father, who composed the game’s music.

The modern version of Karateka in this compilation is a testament to Digital Eclipse’s dedication to preserving gaming history. They’ve updated the graphics and smoothed out the animations while staying true to the original’s essence. This modern version, alongside the prototypes and earlier versions of Karateka, offers a unique perspective on the game’s development and the technological limitations of the time.

This journey through the making of Karateka is not just a trip down memory lane for those who grew up in the 80s. It’s a comprehensive look into the creative process of game development, the evolution of gaming technology, and the enduring impact of classic games. It’s a reminder of how far the gaming industry has come and the innovative minds that paved the way.