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Music Monday: International Karate

The first four minutes or so of Rob Hubbard‘s lengthy arrangement for the original International Karate owe an obvious debt to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s theme for the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

After that we’re firmly in 70’s kung-fu chop-socky movie territory for another six minutes of funky martial arts action. There are two key version of the IK theme, one for Hubbard’s beloved C64 SID chip, and the shorter, less riff-tastic incarnation on the POKEY chip of the Atari 8-bit systems.

Unfortunately, despite the graphics of the Atari ST version blowing my tiny mind when I first saw a screenshot in a 1986 issue of C&VG magazine, the conversion (not handled by original author Archer MacLean) left much to be desired in terms of both gameplay and audio, despite running on a more capable 16-bit machine.

For the brilliantly asymmetrical, lusciously animated and Easter egg-packed sequel Hubbard picks up where the first game’s music left off. IK+ may depict the pure and noble discipline of open hand combat but this hilarious game and its bouncy overture are every bit as much Carl Douglas as they are Bruce Lee.

As with its predecessor IK+ was ported to myriad formats, including a belated (and slightly shonky) 2003 PSone release but the ones to hear are the two Commodore incarnations, 8-bit once again courtesy of Mr Hubbard while the same piece was interpreted on Amiga by Dave Lowe (Starglider, Formula One Grand Prix, Frontier: Elite II).

Up until relatively recently you could buy and play the C64 versions of both IK and IK+ legally by downloading them for Wii Virtual Console, but sadly Commodore 64 games have now been removed from the service. So eBay or emulation it is then.

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