SNES A Day 198: Best of the Best: Championship Karate

Approximate Release: November 1992
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Loriciel
Publisher: Electro Brain

I am impressed by the quality of animation in Best of the Best: Championship Karate. I am much less impressed by everything else.

Best of the Best is a dreadful fighting game. But even after putting way, way, way too much time into the game for this site, I still can’t get over how smooth the combat looks. Moves flow well from one to another and characters react responsively to being hit. The smooth animations remind me of Prince of Persia, but I don’t think Best of the Best is using any rotoscopy. It’s worth seeing in motion.

The focus on animation, while nifty, might be what ruins Best of the Best. When you press the button to make your fighter punch at your opponent, that punch looks great, but it has a long wind-up and cool-down. It’s not totally clear when the game is going to accept the next attack input. Best of the Best wants there to be deliberate thought in what moves to use, but this feels unresponsive. Attacks will just go through an opponent if he is too close, which only adds to this feeling. The button-pressing is so divorced from gameplay that I sometimes lost track of which character I was. It didn’t feel like I was controlling either of the almost-identical fighters.

The main menu acts as a hub for the rest of the game. Here you can alter your fighter’s appearance and moveset. The moveset editor in Best of the Best is intimidating and I didn’t dig too much into it, but it looks like you can customize almost everything about how your character fights. It’s not intuitive, but in a better game I could see making changes to my character. As is, the fancier moves just leave you open to counterattacks. I relied on basic attacks that were fast and had a lot of reach.

I lost a lot when I first started playing, and I had to spend a lot of time in the menu’s training mode to raise my character’s stats. Training consists of three different minigames that each raise one of your attributes based on how well you perform. The first minigame has you fight a dude, the second requires pressing the B button as fast as you can, and the third tests your reflexes by hitting the correct direction on the d-pad to hit a target. None of these are fun and will only give you a point or two at most. I couldn’t tell how much of a difference it was making in the fights, but I strongly suspect grinding out these minigames will be necessary to beat the game. Oh, and losing will lower your stats, too.

I did not enjoy my time with this one. Best of the Best: Championship Karate is ambitious, but beyond the cool character animation there’s nothing to recommend here. Anything you’d want from a fighting game is either nonexistent or nonfunctional. It’s not Pit-Fighter bad, but it’s not far off.

Next time: We are jumping back into the future of 1993 for the company that will become Blizzard Entertainment’s third Super Nintendo game, Rock N’ Roll Racing!

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