Tag Archives: karnov

FGC #623 Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja

DUDE TIMEThe president has been kidnapped by ninja! Bad Dudes is a cross-country romp for two generally not good fellows who have to beat down an entire army of evil ninja on their way to rescuing President Ronnie. And, while the opening narration notes that ninja crime is on the rise, and not even the White House is safe, it doesn’t answer one important question: who, specifically, kidnapped President Ronnie? The Secret Service is calling in the Bad Dudes as soon as Ronnie is kidnapped, but where were they for the actual event? Who had the wherewithal to sneak into the White House and commit this heinous ninja crime?

Let’s look at the bosses of this evil ninja cartel, and examine who had the gumption to kidnap the eternal President of the 80’s. We will start at the top, with…

Dragon Ninja: The Big Boss

The Big Guy

He Did It: This is the big boss of the ninja organization, and the final boss of the game. By the finale, he has President Ronny in his private helicopter, and he can only be fought after venturing through an entire Ninja Factory that includes zombie versions of every boss that has come before. This is very much the big man in charge, and he has President Ronnie right there. This must be the culprit!

He Didn’t Do It: Yes, Dragon Ninja was ultimately responsible for this kidnapping, but he did not do the deed. Can you see this guy? Wannabe kabuki ass flipping around with an army of dogs at his beck and call? I know security was more lax in the 80s, but there is no way this dude got anywhere near the White House. Bro couldn’t get into a Smithsonian food truck, left alone the most secure building in town. No, Dragon Ninja was handed Ronnie at some point, but he likely never left his Ninja Factory. One of those henchmen has to be the culprit…

Devil Pole

Spin that pole

He Did It: Given his placement as the penultimate boss that guards the cave leading to the Ninja Factory, one would assume that Devil Pole is Dragon Ninja’s second in command. Dragon Pole also fulfills that all important ninja position of being the bald guy with a stick that can absolutely wreck everybody, regardless of opponents with tremendously more lethal weaponry. It worked for Daredevil! So this “Stick” is likely the man for the job whenever Dragon Ninja needs to get down to the dirty work.

He Didn’t Do It: He’s just not ninja enough for the job. Devil Pole is absolutely some manner of martial arts master (have you ever seen a bad dude survive his spin stick?), but he also doesn’t fit the description of “ninja” that is so important in this caper. If Devil Pole was responsible, then the CIA would be putting out an APB on Liu Kang. They know it was a ninja, and Devil Pole doesn’t look like any ninja I’ve ever seen.


Watch the chain

He Did It: This is a ninja’s ninja. He fights bad dudes atop a moving train while wielding what appears to be a kunai on a chain. That scores an obvious ten out of ten “believe it”’s on the Naruto-Boruto Scale. He is also wearing a mask to obscure his face in the event of crimes, and his jumping abilities are beyond the pale. In short, if you are planning on kidnapping a president, Akaikage is probably the first guy you call.

He Didn’t Do It: My rudimentary Japanese and knowledge of 1985 arcade games tells me that “Akai” means “red”, and “Kage” means “shadow”. But this “ninja” is only wearing the tiniest red bandana, and mostly green and black for the rest of his outfit. And don’t claim this is for camouflage purposes, as there ain’t anything green about this moving train. So the obvious conclusion? Akaikage is some kind of wannabe that chose his name because it sounded cool. Couple this concept with the fact that abilities like “jump” and “throw chain” are not exactly rocket science, and it is likely Akaikage isn’t a ninja at all, but just some dork on the train that wanted to help out his “nippon friends”. It is possible Akaikage is the real deal, but it is also very likely that, on and on, he is just another weeb in the wall.


I know that guy

He Did It: No. Not even entertaining that option.

He Didn’t Do It: Should we just ignore that this is a real person? The official, canon name for this guy is “Animal”, and, oh yeah, he looks an awful lot like a grayer version of the World Wrestling Federation star Joseph Michael Laurinaitis aka Road Warrior Animal. He was pretty popular! Hung out with Road Warrior Hawk! Has nothing to do with the KISS Army or Gwar! And here is this pixelated “Animal” just stopping around the forest like he owns the place. This is blatant copyright infringement at best, and identity theft at worst! This indignity will not stand!

… But, uh, anyway. Joe never kidnapped the president, so we’re going to assume this Warrior didn’t, either.

Kamui the Multiple Ninja


He Did It: Another extremely likely suspect. Kamui appears to be a traditional ninja, but he has the ability to create “real” duplicates of himself in seemingly infinite quantities. That must be a significant boon for espionage missions, as being able to sneak into, say, the White House as one dude, and then instantly produce an army could solve a lot of problems. And Kamui here seems to be invincible while his duplicates are present, so conquering any kind of security should take about seven seconds. Keep shooting at the shadow clones, dummies, while Kamui sneaks off with Ronnie in tow.

He Didn’t Do It: The only real evidence that Kamui is not Public Enemy #1 is that he is the boss of the sewer level. If one of your top, powerful ninja lieutenants successfully accomplished the most daring kidnapping in history, would you assign him to sewer duty? He may be laying low by literally laying low, but the most likely explanation is that Kamui is not our perpetrator. A proper Ronnie-napper would not smell like a ninja turtle.

Iron the Claw

Don't get tetanus

He Did It: Another ninja’s ninja, Iron is covered in shadow-encouraging purple, and equipped with a metal claw that can grow to twice his size. He is the boss of the convoy stage, so you know he’s got some status in the organization, and his complicated spinning jumps and claw attacks can tear a bad dude to ribbons.

He Didn’t Do it: President Ronnie is like six feet tall and full of burgers. There is no way on Hattori Hanzo’s green Earth that Iron could successfully heft the president up and out. At best, he would need about three other Minis to carry that weight, and, at that point, your stealth rating has dropped to zero. No way Iron is getting out of there alive.



He Did It: Of course he did it. He’s fugging Karnov!

He Didn’t Do It: Nope, he did it. Karnov can breathe fire when fighting a bad dude, but we all know he can also wear all-seeing masks, produce ladders, and even fly if he decided to bring along the right powerups. And, while Karnov looks less like a ninja and more like a chubby Russian guy, you better believe that, in a world where Karnov exists, if he decided to join a ninja gang, it would be national news. When you are the king of a fighting tournament and known for never wearing a shirt, you better believe the paparazzi knows all your affiliations. And who else could get close enough to President Ronnie? Karnov is an international treasure! Anyone would let him in!

Yep, case closed. It was Karnov. Go get ‘em, Bad Dudes.

FGC #623 Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja

  • System: The arcade version was used for this article, and played on an Evercade cartridge. But the NES version is pretty well known, and at least one of these versions is currently available on the Nintendo Switch (maybe both?). Beyond that, you have a lot of random systems from the era, like the Apple II or Commodore 64. Also, the Zeebo had Bad Dudes at some point. Look it up!
  • Number of players: Two is the greatest number of Bad Dudes any one game could support.
  • Great place to fightMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: Bad Dudes is a rudimentary beat ‘em up, and an obvious quarter killer (the final boss can knock out a life inside of two hits!). That said, the arcade version absolutely nails the sensation of digital punching, and every defeated ninja feels like an accomplishment. Much like Smash Bros. years later, Bad Dudes seemingly put all of its R&D budget into perfectly replicating big, meaty hits, and it adds a memorable, visceral quality to the whole adventure.
  • What’s in a name: It is Bad Dudes on the NES, but DragonNinja in Japan and Europe. So, one way or another, it is named after the protagonists or the antagonist. The official arcade title uses both sides, so everybody is happy.
  • Favorite Weapon: None work like nunchucks.
  • Sexual dimorphism is a scourge: Traditional zako ninja are all assumed to be male ninja, because the Kunoici female ninja are very much presenting any and all feminine signifiers. Is there a reason any ninja needs fishnets and a short skirt? Mobility? Maybe?
  • An end: The infamous “let’s go out for burgers” ending only appears in the American version. The Japanese version gets some Masonry Dudes building a statue of the Bad Dudes, and, more importantly, “credits” for the enemies of the game. (Almost) Everybody gets a name! This article would be impossible without that! Or at least more confusing!
  • Did you know: Chelnov, star of Atomic Runner Chelnov, appears in Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja as a spraypainted tag proudly displayed on the train of Level 5.

    Everybody knows him!  RIGHT?!

    Chelnov would later go on to be the final boss of Fighter’s History 3 (Fighter’s History: Mizoguchi Kiki Ippatsu!!), meaning the atomic runner not only appeared in a game with Karnov, but finally got to fight the big galoot a few years later.

  • Would I play again: This is the ideal arcade game in more ways than one. If I ever see a Bad Dudes cabinet again, it is probably getting at least a buck. But if it is only available on a system competing with many, many other games… Well… I will probably play those first.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Food Fight! Keep your fork, there’s pie! Please look forward to it!

Some hot ninja

FGC #113 Karnov

Just, like lightningI’ve always had a soft spot for Karnov. Like a handful of other NES games, Karnov was a cartridge I returned to time and time again when I was a kid, and, unlike games I played basically because they were there (like Fester’s Quest or Friday the Thirteenth), I genuinely enjoyed playing Karnov.

I also barely ever got past the second level.

I’ve examined this phenomenon before, but when you’re a child, you assume there’s something wrong with you, not the game, and it must be your own immature skills that are causing the problem. Mr. Sandman isn’t impossible, you’re just bad at this. Your friend’s older brother beat him, he said so, and you could do it too, if you tried. I want to say it’s a side effect of a child’s natural belief in authority (it must be right, Mom/Nintendo said it), but whatever the source, the end result is an almost innate belief that there are no bad games, just bad players.

But, sorry folks, Karnov is a bad game.

For the benefit of my younger self (who, I guess, I’m assuming has the ability to peruse the internet through some kind of time tunnel), I will now list everything that is objectively wrong with Karnov.

It’s Mega Man with Super Mario Bros HP

Number one issue by a long shot: this is an arcade “quarter killer” (ala Contra) ported with the tiniest of concessions for the couch. Karnov is a stocky Russian fellow with the ability to shoot fire from his maw (for some reason), and you’re responsible for guiding this intrepid fellow on a quest for booty and maybe a shirt. In the arcade, you’re collecting the torn scraps of a treasure map, and, after the finale, Karnov will be rewarded with a McDuckian pile of Hate those guysgold. The NES version stripped out all traces of plot, so now it’s just Karnov mowing down monsters in pursuit of… a congratulations screen. And it’s one that you will never see, because Karnov is dead within two hits.

Yes, Karnov is extremely fragile, but that shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as his arcade twin couldn’t even sustain that much damage: you lost a life (7.5 cents) after a single blow. I can almost forgive an arcade game getting greedy for change, but it translates very poorly to a home port. Mega Man? There’s a robot that can take a hit, and Karnov’s gameplay is a lot closer to that of the Blue Bomber than Super Mario. And it really doesn’t help that…

Enemy spawns seem completely random

Now I’m sure this point could be disproven by cracking open the rom and checking the base code for Karnov’s adventure, but even with 25 years of experience with the game, I still wouldn’t be able to tell you what makes some enemies appear in particular areas. Just within the first level, there are a few dragon-birds and rock monsters that are entirely consistent, but then an army of scimitar wielding thugs appear out of nowhere to surround Karnov completely arbitrarily. I have no idea what triggers this deluge of monsters, and it doesn’t get better when highly mobile “cloud creatures” pop out of the woodwork on the next screen. It only gets worse in the following level, where a shining, golden alien appears to almost certainly slay your hero… or Goldie sits this one out, and Karnov saunters by completely unmolested. I have no idea what causes either situation, but one is completely fatal, while the other just boring.

Hate this guyThis is, ultimately, why Karnov’s limited health is such an issue: with monsters (some of them dramatically overpowered) materializing haphazardly (and sometimes right on top of our hero), you barely have a chance to react to an encroaching threat. And after abandoning a bald corpse and returning to the scene of the homicide… that enemy isn’t coming back. You’re ready to dodge, but, no, nothing. And then an arbitrary rock monster poofs out and you’re dead again. And then your third life is lost because the first monster decided to return. The joy of death!

Contra was fine with its limited health, because the enemies’ rules were well established, and it was possible to anticipate and avoid danger. Karnov can’t be consistent for ten seconds. Actually, I take that back, there’s one place where Karnov is maddeningly consistent…

All of the bosses are exactly the same

The boss of Level One is a green fish creature that advances and shoots a storm of bullets. Boss #2 is a… I don’t know… dog walker that advances and shoots a storm of bullets. Then we’ve got a T-Rex that advances and shoots a storm of bullets, a centipede woman that advances and shoots a storm of bullets, and then King Maybe it's a lion?Ghidorah, who advances and shoots a storm of bullets. Sometimes the same boss is reused between a pair of levels, not that you have any hope of noticing a difference.

The challenge here, of course, is that you have to rapidly spew fireballs while dodging every blast from the boss du jour like it’s friggen Gradius. Do it quick, or the monster will be right on top of you, and then it’s time to repeat half the stage over again! Woohee!

Oh, but don’t think that repeating the stage is going to do you any favors preparing for its finale, because…

Powerups are terrible

There is one worthwhile powerup in this game, and it’s the little red ball that either restores your health or expands your firepower. That’s about it. Despite this immediately apparent fact, there’s an entire inventory of powerups available to Karnov, and they all range from “too limited to ever be useful” or “required for one particular purpose”.

Let’s see here: in the “too limited” column we have items like the speed shoes, which will increase your walking/jumping abilities for a limited time. This is great!… except you’re very unlikely to get any enjoyment out of accidently careening into the nearest enemy at high speed. There’s a boomerang that does massive damage!… but they’re generally far too hidden to ever be reliably useful. And a Hate hershield! That should help against the bullet-hell bosses! Oh, no, wait, the shield only blocks Karnov’s torso, so do your best to duck and jump every fireball that isn’t aimed at one particular spot.

And then there’s the “required” powerups. There’s a reusable ladder that you obtain early in the game, and it’s the only way out of a few traps or over expansive pits. There’s a mask that allows Karnov to see hidden powerups, but by the very nature of hidden powerups, there’s rarely a clear indicator as to where it might be useful to use your (limited) masks. And bombs are terrible offensively, and appear to exist only to blow a few holes through like two walls in the entire game.

The wings might be outright most useful powerup in any 2-D game. While their time is limited, using the wings allows Karnov absolute, unfettered flight around any given stage, which is a boon not only to his mobility, but also his dodging prowess. Unfortunately…

Without the right powerup, you can get stuck forever

Stage 8 appears to be some sort of “city in the sky”, and if you didn’t have the foresight to bring a pair of wings, you’re done. Jump as far as you can, you won’t reach anything but a bottomless pit. Made it all the way to Level 8, but didn’t bring the right gear? You’re done. Brought your wings, but lose ‘em to an overzealous monster? You’re done. Continue? Sorry, you don’t get to keep your items after a game over, so you’re done.

Flying right alongLevel 8 is the most obvious example, but there are a number of lesser areas that require bombs or a ladder and, don’t have what you need? May as well just sit and wait for the timer to kill you, because you’re not going anywhere. Boobeam Trap has nothing on this game.

This all adds up to a game that is, from a design standpoint, objectively bad. Karnov makes mistake after mistake, and doesn’t ever seem to offer a play experience that warrants trying to overcome its many shortcomings.

Which is a shame, really. Karnov has an interesting, unique Central Asian (like Russia and Middle East) theme, appealing music, and an unusual, endearing protagonist. Perhaps with some kind of health bar hack, a “pause menu” to select powerups (oh yes, I forgot to mention that the mere act of selecting an item from your inventory is likely to get you killed), and a greater variety of bosses, Karnov could actually be a great game. “Super Karnov” could have been a wonderful 16-bit reimagining of the concept, but, alas, Karnov never again scored a solo mission.

Maybe it’s just as well. I just got past the second level of his first adventure.

FGC #113 Karnov

  • System: NES is what I’ll always think of, but the arcade game is pretty similar. Come to think of it, the arcade version has graphics that I would describe as “very Genesis”.
  • Number of players: There can be only one Karnov.
  • Does this make any sense?Just play the gig, man: I will say that the main (only?) theme of Karnov is something that has been stuck in my head forever. Oddly, when I try to recall Tetris’s Type A theme, sometimes this one pops into my mental playlist.
  • Karnov through the ages: Karnov was apparently Data East’s mascot, so he popped up in a lot of other games, generally as an enemy. We already covered Fighter’s History some time ago, so let us reflect on Bad Dudes. Karnov fought against the eponymous Bad Dudes. Does that make Karnov a Good Dude?
  • Special K: Oh, and Karnov collects a bunch of K boxes. Can’t he grab something a little more innovative, like a bunch of tiny Karnov heads?
  • Did you know? There’s a “code” that involves the second controller that allows you to… instantly kill Karnov. I can only imagine this “cheat” was inserted into the game because the development team found a number of places where “wait around to die” was the only option. Good design!
  • Would I play again? I really want to say no! But I know I’ll get that Karnov urge again, and I’ll be right back to Karnoving around.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for the Nintendo Gamecube! Get your bongos ready! Please look forward to it!

Kinda alright

FGC #002 Fighter’s History

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

“Great poets imitate and improve, whereas small ones steal and spoil.”

This looks very familiarGee, I wonder which quote gets tossed around more often: the quote supporting theft, or the one comparing it to curdled milk? Well, here’s some milk way past its expiration date: Fighter’s History.

Fighter’s History is Street Fighter II with a randomizer attached to practically everything good about the game. Special moves and even entire animations have been lifted wholesale from SFII to FH’s cast, and haphazardly distributed so Not-Zangief has Bison’s signature scissor kick, and Very-Not-Guile has acquired a head stomp. It’s blatant, and, for any fan of the genre and Street Fighter II in general, pretty disgusting. It’s Avengers Grimm to Street Fighter’s Avengers.

But theft in an artistic medium is inherently artistic, right?

There are original aspects to Fighter’s History, if you look hard enough. Yes, the principle players here basically are Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, and even Sagat with the numbers filed off, but there are a few interesting cast members. There’s a female judo practitioner who, yes, is dressed exactly Original Character, Do Not Steallike Ryu, but her “powerful” moves and general personality seem to be a precursor to Street Fighter’s own Makoto (who would debut years later). Marstorius could be a simple Russian grappler clone, but he’s a Grecian wrestler recalling the myths of Heracles and alike, which, if you’re going to randomly pull cultural stereotypes, that one seems a little more appropriate than Brazilian beast-men. And Abe Simpson’s favorite Matlok is a British punk rocker with bombastic movements that could have easily inspired Darkstalkers’ Lord Raptor. Yes, once you get into the gameplay, they’re all clearly Street Fighter knock-offs, but their design and origins aren’t bad.

This “original” game is, nuts and bolts, all about aping Street Fighter, but its coat of paint is generally different. I could easily brush off this game as an uninspired effort to grab some of those sweet Street Fighter quarters, but let’s indulge in the conceit that this is a game someone or some team created as an actual creative (created/creative.. ooooh that’s how that works) pursuit.

Man, that's racistSay someone had an idea about a fighting tournament. This tournament was started by a repentant emissary of (a) god, who wished to prove he was the strongest fire-breathing fat man in the world. His direct rival, a purple clad circus clown named Clown, fights against him, as has been the way since the days of yore. Joining the battle for supremacy are fighters from all over the world, from all works of life: a French gymnast, a 20-something delinquent high school student, and even an L.A. Detective who rumbles in front of the United States Capitol, which I’m pretty sure is in Los Angeles. Say someone wanted to present this idea to the masses, but only had skills in spritework and music composition. Man, that's racistAnd it’s 1993 for some reason. Well, obviously, the only way to get this product out to the nation would be to slavishly ditto Street Fighter II, the greatest fighting game of the time and possibly all time, and get Karnov’s Great Fighting Times Fun Game out there. It’s the only thing that makes sense!

Hey, you can’t copyright poetry, man, the person that invented rhyming didn’t horde the idea for himself for all of time, and you can’t claim you own the idea of how some dude throws a projectile at another dude. It’s, like, totally Scène à faire, bro.

At least that’s what some idiot judge decided when Capcom sued Data East for this piece of $%* being the exact same ^&*$ing game as Street Fighter II. Christ, our legal system.

FGC#2 Fighter’s History
Look it up!

  • System: Super Nintendo
  • Number of Players: 2
  • Number of Fighting Games I Ever Expected to See Featuring Matlok: 0
  • Number of Fighting Games I Ever Expected to See Featuring Karnov: 1¾
  • Did You Know? Clown the clown is actually distinctly noted as homosexual in the Japanese release. Hey, that’s neat, maybe that makes him the first “out” gay character in a fighting game. Good job, guys, maybe you’re not… wait.. what’s this? “Clown is depicted as a homosexual who is attracted to younger men.” Oh. Younger. Always finding new ways to ruin clowns, eh? Stay classy.
  • Would I play again? Never. Though, in a way, I’ve been playing it for years.

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man V (GB). Wow, third pick and it’s a game I actually want to play! Good ROB! Please look forward to it!