C64, System 3 (1987)
IK+ is considered by many to be the best fighting game available for the Commodore 64, but the history leading up to the game is almost as interesting as the game itself. IK+ is actually the sequel to International Karate, released by System 3 in the UK in 1986. International Karate is a one-on-one fighting game with many similarities with Data East’s game, Karate Champ. In both games, two fighters dressed in red and white uniforms battle. Both games use the same scoring system, awarding either half or full points to successful moves and declaring the first combatant to reach two full points the winner. Both games feature a scoring judge and backgrounds featuring different locations.
System 3’s International Karate sold few enough copies that it was able to remain under Data East’s radar. Later that same year, System 3 System 3 licensed the game to Epyx for US distribution. The game was renamed World Karate Championship and became very popular — so popular, in fact, that Data East thought that the game was a rip-off of Karate Champ, and filed a lawsuit against Epyx over copyright infringement. Data East won the lawsuit, and Epyx was forced to pull World Karate Championship from store shelves. Later, a higher court reversed the decision stating that the games were similar but not identical, and Epyx began selling the game once again. Meanwhile, System 3 was hard at work on the game’s sequel, IK+.
In IK+, System 3 set out to create a fighting game that kept the action and fun of International Karate, but distanced itself from Karate Champ. This was done with three major changes. First, the scoring system was revised. Players now play to five points, with moves varying between one and two points. Second, many new moves were added, including head butts, backflips and split kicks. But the most noticable addition to the game is that of a third opponent. In IK+, it’s now one-on-one-on-one action.
Regardless of whether one or two human players are playing, there are always three fighters on the screen (a new blue-suited fighter has been added). The first fighter to get to five points wins the round and gets a point bonus to boot. The second best fighter also advances to the next round. For third place, it’s “sayonara”. As the levels advance, so do your computer opponents, continually increasing in skill and speed. By the time you reach black belt status, your enemies will be extremely accurate and quick.
System 3 managed to cram 18 different moves for players to use in the game, which is amazing considering the limitations of a joystick and one fire button. There are different attacks to use depending on the distance between you and your opponents. There are also several attacks to use to take out enemies sneaking up behind you, including backward kicks and reverse leg sweeps.
With literally hundreds of fighting games for the Commodore 64, IK+ managed to fight its way to the top of the list with innovative gameplay and a variety of moves. IK+ also features fluid character animation and another dazzling soundtrack from legendary C64 musician Rob Hubbard. If you’re looking for a fighting game with plenty of action, it’s hard to go wrong with IK+. It’s fun, easy to figure out and extremely addictive. One of the best fighting games for the Commodore 64.