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It's basic, that's for sure. It's also clever, instantly enjoyable regardless of your skill level, and even at twenty-something years old it still feels fresh and different to almost all the other fighting games before and since. Is it worth 500 Points? It's better value than many of the NES games that have commanded that price, but frugal gamers will already have twigged that it might be best to hang on and see if the phenomenal IK+ is on the way first.
All in all, this is a more measured and cerebral game than it might appear at first glance; each of the opponents has a distinct set of behaviours and responses, which gives them a good illusion of personality, and as such the game is often more about strategy than reflexes as you match wits with the AI. Like all the best beat-em-ups, "International Karate" rewards dedication and planning, and, once mastered, will provide many hours of entertainment. But yeah, the sequel is better.