To say that there were a wealth of Street Fighter 2 clones during its reign of popularity in arcades would be an understatement, but none were quite as blatant as Data East's Karnov's Revenge. In fact, the game was so similar in many respects that it drew the ire of Capcom, not to mention a failed lawsuit attempt. Now the game's returned, appearing on Virtual Console to give Wii owners a chance to experience the infamous Street Fighter 2 knock-off for themselves.
As far as fighting systems go, Karnov's Revenge is fairly basic, much like the original Street Fighter 2 was. While there are some simple combos that can be executed, they're mostly pulled off by transitioning from blocking or using a simple attack into a strong attack. Since the game was created for the Neo Geo system, the 6-button system of the arcade original release had to be modified in order to fit in with the Neo Geo's 4-button controller. To accomplish this, the medium punch and kicks were removed leaving you with weak and strong attacks. To liven things up a bit there are some special attacks that can be pulled off at any time, some more intuitive and easy to execute than others.
One rather unique gameplay touch revolves around a character's "weak point". Each character has his or her own unique weak point that generally has to do with a specific article of clothing. If you are able to land attacks on a character's weak point it will eventually fall off leaving that character dizzy and vulnerable to an attack. While this can add a nice dimension of strategy to the experience, it can make some characters a bit too susceptible to attacks, thus altering their effectiveness and balance.
The main drawback of the game would have to be its slightly loose controls and sometimes erratic special moves. Even with the Street Fighter 2 ideas, the game sometimes turns into more of a button-masher than a strategic fighting experience. It does seem to become a bit easier the more you play the game and familiarise yourself with the system, but for anyone that's played a Street Fighter 2 release, it will feel extremely sluggish by comparison.
There are some impressive visuals in the game's scenery, some featuring a good amount of animation in the background. The characters are also fairly well drawn, but their movement animations seem to be a bit unrealistic at times. The changing of day to night is a nice visual touch and one that helps make up for the few rather bland backdrops you'll encounter during your run to the end of the game.
The audio presentation in Karnov's Revenge ranges from average to terrible. Many of the music tracks don't even seem to go along with the area you're fighting in. The announcer tends to be equally annoying most of the time as are many of the various character voices you'll hear at the end of matches. It's pretty clear that not much effort was put into the audio of the game, so don't expect to want to crank this one up if you do end up downloading it.
Data East borrowed many facets of Capcom's Street Fighter 2 release, but for some reason it wasn't able to implement them with the same level of quality. The weak point and one-two attacks are a nice twist, but even they don't seem to be enough to lift the game any higher than many of the other average one-on-one fighting games released on the Neo Geo system. Unless you just can't get enough Street Fighter 2-style fighting action, you might want to pass on this one especially considering that there are plenty of superior Neo Geo fighting games already available on the Virtual Console.