Black Panther is yet another karate (or kung fu) fighting game for C64 (and for your emulators!)... or so it would appear to the untrained eye. One would think that after Exploding Fist and International Karate-series of games there would be no room for c64 beat'em'up games. Thankfully, Black Panther *makes* some room for itself.
Good graphics, excellent voice samples, good gameplay... what more could you ask from a C64 fighting game?
Upon loading the game, the player is greeted with a moderately interesting intro sequence which displays the logo (or mascot) of Punk Productions. After that, a very nice looking intro follows. A black feline is running, and that is probably where the game's name is derived from. The intro music greets the traditional oriental-style tunes which are used in many karate games (and maybe movies, too). Still, the tune is original and entertaining and goes well with the intro, helping in creating a good mood for some heavy-duty behind kicking.
As it is, we are not here to gaze at cool intros. It's time to... practice the moves! Yes, the game contains all the joystick/key combinations for the various combat moves. Black Panther lets the player practice the moves while studying the controls. Is Black Panther one of the games which created the example for modern games as to how to do the job ? It may be awkward to draw such conclusions, but Black Panther is awarded extra points for the practice mode nevertheless.
The one player game has a clear objective: beat an enemy after an enemy. After the first opponent is vanquished, a more skilled fighter will be summoned to the arena of glory. The game menu lets the player choose the number of rounds, and the arena ("choose grafix" in the menu). After each round, the fighters' energy is replenished. Fighter with most won rounds wins, of course. The rounds have a time limit, which probably will expire before a knock out occurs. Some of the arenas have platforms on which the fighters may jump, perhaps adding a minor twist into the fights.
The fighting is round-based, and one hit will not end a round. Instead, the fighters have energy bars. A kick in the face does more damage than a lowly sweep (pun intended). The array of moves is big, and thanks to the practice mode and effective use of the controllers' possibilities, each and every move is quite possible to execute in the heat of the battle. There are about two moves which require a bit more skill than the rest in order to be employed successfully against your opponent. These are certain fairly useful and cool "punches"... The system is balanced: a fast move is weak, a strong move can be slow or prone to leave the fighter open to a counter-attack, and a long range attack requires especially careful "aim".
For a beginner, the biggest challenge may well be landing a hit. In Black Panther, some of the moves look like as if they connect, but they won't. Maybe a poor hit should do less damage than a perfect one. A very skilled opponent will often block a hit. Most of the time it's the computer who decides to block. After all, it has nerves of steel unlike many human opponents. The delicate hit system makes learning the game all the more rewarding, if the players just bother to take some time to master the moves. The increasing difficult opponents seem to know their job: In one occasion, I decided to hit the opponent with a jumping roundhouse kick. The opponent didn't block, but knocked me down from the air by making a quick high-kick.
The player can not only kick and punch, but do somersaults and quick forward rolls as well. Whereas the somersaults look good and are not over-powered, the roll almost looks comical due to the speed it propels the players forward. Also, a fighter who gets hit, spends a bit too much time on the floor before getting up. This may allow the standing fighter position himself in a good striking location, especially if the other fighter is already cornered and can't somersault backwards... In addition, lying on the ground eats up valuable time. The rounds are short enough, and the fighting could be more intense. I've yet to see a knock-out as opposed to time running out. It would also have been nice if the arena would have changed after every two opponents or so.
Downloads: Music, Speech
|GRAPHICS - 8/10|
|The backgrounds do the job, but they are less artistic and less dramatical as the settings in, say, International Karate. The intro/highscore graphics are nice. The player sprites may appear small, but the detail of the many moves is to be rewarded.|
|SOUND - 9/10|
|The panther intro music rocks. The game menu tune is... rather original, but could be more menacing to my taste - this is a fighting game, after all. The in-game samples, however... many of them have been used in the (dubbed?) Bruce Lee films and Amiga's version of IK+. They probably appear in various other products, too. As for Black Panther, the samples hit their mark.|
|PLAYABILITY - 8/10|
|The game may be hard to new players but not to the point of frustration. Overally Black Panther's gameplay is excellent. The game is docked a couple of points for some small flaws which can't be quite overlooked.|
|OVERALL - 8/10|
|The more time you give to Black Panther, the more the game gives to you. That is exactly what happened to me. Upon playing the game for the first time, I wasn't instantly converted to a fan. Is Black Panther worth a try ? Yes, and more. It's interesting to see just how many "modern" beat'em'up features Black Panther has. Throughout the history of mankind, the basic idea of fighting games has remained pretty much the same, but the genre keeps evolving. Games like Black Panther are rightfully a part of that evolution.|