Black Belt for the Sega Master System is one of the best martial arts video games EVER made. If you enjoy low budget martial art films from the 70s and 80s, then you must play Black Belt. Featuring six levels of fast-paced action, smooth gameplay and innovative boss fights, this masterpiece is unlike anything ever developed circa 1986.
Enter RIKI, the black belt hero. He wears a white karate uniform and wants his beautiful woman KYOKO back. A seemingly wealthy prick named WANG kidnapped her and believes he has the right to do so with his Yakuza gang. Well it’s not actually the Yakuza but we can easily imagine since the setting is “post nuclear war” in Japan.
The genius of this game lies in its perfect amalgamation of clean game play mechanics, inspired graphic design, musical themes and challenge threshold. Starting with backgrounds, detailed imagery draws you into another world with almost surprisingly 3D ground visuals. See breathtaking pagodas, distant cityscapes on the waterfront, ominous countrysides and dangerous dojos all while bustin’ heads.
The enemies you fight are presented in three distinct varieties. The first variety are standard foot soldiers you destroy by the dozen with only a single punch or kick. Each level has its own unique enemy, for example ‘Chapter 3’ is filled with hyper-spaz jujitsu men in red outfits while ‘Chapter 5’ sports Grace Jones look-a-likes wearing grey jumpsuits. The second enemy types are mid-level bosses who take more beatings to defeat. These characters are a blast to fight because they wield fancy weaponry and look like actors right out of B-movies. The third enemy types are big bosses, and I mean BIG. We zoom right in on the action and fight one-on-one in an awesome battleground scenario. What makes these boss fights extra cool are the larger character graphics and tricky fight patterns. Great satisfaction can be achieved when defeating them, especially ONI on ‘Chapter 4’… he is one evil dude.
Musically, the themes have a dramatic feel and are very pleasing to listen to which adds to overall replay value. Also pleasing to the ears are the rewarding sounds of exploding enemies and catching them sky-high energy boosts. Acquiring a red invincibility symbol will play an energizing tune to fight along with. It lasts a while and sounds like the 6 o’clock news.
One slight drawback to this game’s overall experience is its lack of story; an introduction sequence would have been nice to see. Any hint of a story can only be read in print on packaging and manual. Regardless, you can guess a plot as you journey through one stage to the next. A shocking fact about this title is that it was originally Fist of The Northstar in Japan! So the original release contains a solid story while this version does not. Mostly everything was changed for North America and it morphed into something entirely new.
If you have a Sega Master System and like beat ’em ups, get this cartridge. It’s definitely worth playing through to the end, repeatedly. With creative graphics, memorable music, fast paced action and perfect difficulty level setting, what more can you ask for in a martial arts game? Punch – Kick – Jump!