Budokan: The Martial Spirit
is a martial arts simulation game that sports an impressive level of detail packed into two disks. The game requires a bit of strategy and practice to complete, and for the time had a lot going for it.
The game, released in 1989 by Electronic Arts, was designed by Mike Kosaka. Kosaka has the distinction of designing EA’s first in-house developed game Skate or Die
, which was a huge hit. Previously EA only published games. As it happens, Kosaka was a blackbelt and the martial arts were a passion of his, so designing a game like Budokan
must have been a dream come true, and a natural fit.
Budokan was also was one of the first ever games to be designed in 256 colors by Electronic Arts as VGA was just hitting store shelves around that same time (although Budokan also had to be downgraded to EGA, CGA and monochrome versions, too).
In 1989, the look of the game was impressive. Programmer Ray Tobey on the team
in San Mateo, CA:
“We had a fantastic team of artists: Mike Kosaka was art director as well as game designer, and he and Connie Braat did the fighting animation. Mike Nowak drew the distinctive dojo backgrounds. Cynthia Hamilton's portraits of the tournament opponents looked suspiciously like members of the development team. Mike Lubuguin did background animation. Look for his dragon in the pond!”
The team used DeluxePaint for the backgrounds, and legendary British composer Rob Hubbard created the excellent soundtrack. While most DOS machines used a single crappy PC speaker, which Hubbard referred to as the “fuzz organ”, his soundtrack is simply stunning and goes far beyond what most ever heard at the time on DOS machines.
On the Amiga, you can find a version of it on YouTube
. However, in recent years, music gaming enthusiasts have used the Roland MT-32 via DOSbox to capture the music that had been originally written for the synthesizer.
And the music by Rob Hubbard on Bodukan is simply incredible. It’s in full stereo and uses the left/right channels beautifully, as well as some nice deep bass synth lines. It is best appreciated with a set of good-quality headphones.
For a fun comparison, here is the Amiga version
. (Amiga YT version is a little rough, but you get the picture)
And here is the MT-32 version
. You can even download the MT-32 version in full FLAC format for free
Frankly, and to my surprise, the DOSBox MT-32 version is breathtakingly stunning and puts the Amiga to shame, which was still lightyears better than what most heard elsewhere. But the MT-32 version is simply fantastic.
Continuing on the audio thread a bit more, there is digitized sound for the players voices which sounds pretty cool, except for the female “voices”, which uses the same sound as the men in the game. It is a bit odd to whack a female opponent over the head and hear a deep voiced, "Oof!" but this was surely due to file size considerations. Also, do not try and listen to this game in emulation unless you have a proper sound setup, or you’re really doing yourself and the game a disservice.
In the game, each opponent has a particular weakness to one of the 4 styles of martial arts in the game (bo, karate, kendo, nunchaku). Once selected, and if selected appropriately for the given opponent, repetitive and persistent attacks that back your opponent up can bring victory fairly easily. By learning an opponents weakness to a particular fighting style you can create a path of least resistance to the end, and final glory. At this level, Budokan offers a level of strategy not very common in fighting games seen before it. Not understanding that there is this “path” can lead to a bit of frustration for some gamers, though, who want to just learn some moves and go for it. Budokan "doesn't play that game."
Also, the game loads can occur fairly frequently, so if you have an external drive you’ll want to use it as this game comes with 2 disks. And they are absolutely packed with large sprites, tons of animation and music that is top shelf.
If this game fails in anything it could be the controls, which take some getting used to. One could also consider the lack of any story - and a pure focus on training and fighting up the ranks a bit tedious. But if you’re into martial arts or fighting games in general, this game should be in your collection.
Below are two reviews from 1990 by Dragon magazine and Amiga World. It is odd that they show two totally different prices for the game.
Please also find Budokan’s 2 ADFs below the game credits box. It took some effort, but I was able to find the original ADFs with no cracktros. It is a pet peeve of mine to find games with cracktros bolted onto the load screens when NO copy protection was ever on the disks to begin with. Enjoy.
Dragon review, #161 (Sep 1990)
Budokan * * * *
Commodore Amiga version $39.95
Martial arts are back again. In Budokan, your character learns four different types of martial arts and uses them in a competition called the Budokan. Each style of martial arts has over 25 moves, so the game takes time to master. At the beginning, you enter different buildings to practice karate, kendo, nunchaku, and bo. You can practice the moves by yourself or against one of three skilled opponents. A bar at the top of the screen shows your stamina and ki. Stamina drops as the player performs complicated moves or is hit by the opponent. This bar slowly returns with rest. Ki represents mental power; the more ki, the more damage is Budokan (Electronic Arts) inflicted with each hit.
After you spar, the computer gives you pointers on how to improve your fighting. You can then enter a sparring building to compete against another human player or against the computer itself. You can even fight the computer using a different form of martial arts; e.g., you can use the bo style while the computer uses karate. When you feel that you have practiced enough, you can enter the Budokan and fight other computerized opponents. You choose which martial art to use for each match. Each style can be used only four times, so use the weaker styles on opponents with less strength and save the better-prepared styles for later. If you win, you progress to the next level. If you fail to beat an opponent one of three times, you drop to the next lower level.
Overall, Budokan is a refreshing martial arts game with competition and variety. The moves, however, are a double-edged sword. It is fun to have a variety of attacks and defenses, but some are hard to accomplish, and you might become frustrated when attempting to do one move but ending up with another move that puts you in a precarious situation. This happened to us a number of times, and we turned off the computer before we took out our frustration on it. The animation and sound were well done. Except for the one negative point mentioned, we recommend Budokan to any martial-arts or arcade fan.
Amiga World (Oct 1990)
By Graham Kinsey
UNLIKE MOST MARTIAL arts games. Budokan: The Martial Spirit does not immediately confront you with an opponent. The game begins in a dqjo. from which you can enter various training centers. In these, you can practice the martial art of your choice (Karate. Xunchaku, Kendo, or Bo). You also learn to focus your Ki power, an energy that, once built up, can make a successful attack cause greater than normal damage. When you deem yourself ready, you're off to the famous Budokan arena in Tokyo for a tournament.
After deciding which art to learn, you can practice its moves by yourself or against a teacher. To fight, you first move the joystick to indicate your lighting stance; then you choose which attack or block to execute from that stance. Once you have practiced enough, you may go to the mat to spar against other students, who, unlike the teachers, will not hold back their attacks if you weaken. You can specify which of the four martial arts you wish to practice and which you want your partner to use.
After extensive sparring, you travel to the Budokan arena and battle experienced opponents, some of whom use fighting stylus and weapons not taught in your dojo. Be prepared: You may use each of your arts only four times. You cannot specialize in only one or two arts and still hope to win the tournament.
Budokan's concept is good, but its presentation is uneven. While the Extra—Halfbrite mode graphics are only adequate, the sound is very well done, especially the music. The game runs on accelerated Amigas and does not use disk protection; however, you can not multitask or install it on a hard drive.
The biggest complaints I have are the randomly generated, and therefore useless,
words of wisdom you receive from the Sensei and the way some of the complicated
moves were implemented. (I have yet to execute any spinning jump attack via the joy stick and have had only slightly better luck with the keyboard.) Not being able to choose different fighting styles was disappointing, as well. For martial arts fans, however, the problems don't distract too much from the complexity and pleasure the game oilers.
($49.95, Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway Dr., San Mateo, CA 94404,415/571-7171. No special requirements.)