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Pub: Data EastReleased: January 1988
Dev: Sakata SAS (port)Written: 11.21.08

KARNOV. My uncle, the same crazy uncle who introduced me to HALLOWEEN as a child, took me and my brother to TARGET one night, circa 1989. At that time we had owned and loved our Nintendo for a good two years or so. I can vividly recall browsing the toy section, gawking at the DINO RIDERS selection. I had just seen the cartoon which kicked copious amounts of ass. Then, as tradition dictated it, we moved to the video game center. We saw the Karnov cover and immediately fell in love with its monstrous, epic, exotic box art. Our uncle took notice of our excitement and bought the game on the spot before we could even break out our infamous "Buy this and it will cover our Birthdays AND Christmas!" shtick. That
was good ole Uncle Jimmy for ya

I remember we came rushing home that night, my mom in the doorway berating my uncle for buying us the game. As always,
he played it cool and managed to diffuse the situation. Back then Uncle Jimmy played his fair spot of games too, and I fondly remember how the three of us retired to the gaming room for the evening. We tore the video game open and began alternating play, though mostly my brother Kevin played. Luckily it turned out to be a good one and not a dud, which was always a risk when basing your purchase decisions solely off the art of a box cover. But that's how it was in those olden days you see. You relied on your friends, your local mom 'n pop, and your gut instincts. We never could beat Karnov, but we always had
a blast trying. We've long since passed it on to our cousin David, Uncle Jimmy's son, and David has long since lost the game to the sands of time. But I will always remember the fun times we shared with Karnov -- from that innocent night at TARGET to all the evenings spent between the three of us trying our damndest to beat the game once and for all

Remember DINO RIDERS?  It was a very short-lived cartoon (an awesome one, at that) and also had a pretty neat toy line-up. They had great voice actors and the plot of Quest Star's Valorians versus Krulos' evil Rulon empire was fine in its own regard, but then you add dinosaurs -- BAM, it's f'n epic. Check out this one minute commercial:


         And who remembers
         this? I wanted to buy
         it badly but since we
         had the NES game
         my parents never did

Instead I got this lousy piece of crap. OK it wasn't THAT bad; I spent quite a few road trips playing this in the back seat after all, but I bet it ain't no Karnov

Heh, I used to want these handhelds so badly... didn't you?

And long before he turned to the dark side, Karnov was a brave and viligant soul. Let's check it out...

                                                       "IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM!"


Players are teleported here with a lightning bolt. Upon seeing this, I knew this game would not disappoint. The dragon statue there set the mood

These icons added some
extra depth and strategy
to the game. They have
differing effects and finding
out which one works best
where will go a long ways
in seeing you through this
rather difficult game

The ladder was a classic one
that allowed you to reach items
you couldn't otherwise. Simply
climb down and the ladder is
safely back in your inventory

    Remember how they
    seemed to "laughed"
    at you as they threw
    their boulders?

                                                   [HA, I laugh at them for throwing like a sissy -Ed.]

                 But as soon you opened fire,
                 it sprung to life firing right back
                 at ya. I love the bizarre baddies
                 in Karnov. The game has a weird
                 almost goth-like atmosphere and
                 the enemy roster is one major
                 reason why

See?  Welcome to Bizarre-o World!

This guy (er, girl?) was strange as Hell

[Almost makes you seem normal -Ed.]

                                                                  THE MUTANT MERMONSTER!

I loved this boss. And what's
that funky thing he shoots out
at you anyway?  And where's it
coming from?  Hmmm, perhaps
better not to know eh?

We kids called it "BIG FAT BOOGER"


                                                Let him live too long and chances are, YOU WON'T...

Nice touch in a time where control in many games were so rigid

Ah, these blue guards that suddenly appear left and right of ya, just as the green swordsmen did the level before. Merely duck and fire away while tapping left and right back and forth. Although Karnov was a bit slow in responding to jump (well, that fits his portly build), I loved the control in this game... not as constricted as some other titles from this era if memory serves correctly

                                                                       "COME GET YOU SOME OF THIS"

The boss here remind anyone else of Rowdain
Super Castlevania IV?  Both the lion and
keeper are easy as heck. I love how the lion's
green... the whole game just oozes with this
exotic mythical feel as the box art suggested...
nice for a change that a cool box art did not
deceive us!


Oh I know what you're thinking... dirty mind you

Here's another cool little feature that I absolutely ate up. You can either climb the tree or jump it. The advantage of jumping it is speed. You'll get up a lot quicker and be less vulnerable. Sure, you can still fire when you're climbing, but it's safer to do it like such. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's the little touches that make games memorable and enjoyable

Though, I don't see any limbs Karnov could be standing on there, but then again, are lions really green?

                                                                                           Karnov ain't no tree hugger

Luckily, these rockmen are a different shade from the other rocks


     Don't underestimate
     these bastards. You
     can shoot down the
     rocks thankfully

                                                          [Their WHAT cousins?  ... Oh, I see -Ed.]

Sure, ole T-Rex may not seem so imposing NOW but that wasn't the case 20 years ago, at least not for me it was. I marveled at his size and oooh'ed at the simple but effective design

[No REALLY?  GET OUTTA TOWN!  What were the odds? -Ed.]


Karnov had enough secrets to keep you guessing

                                                   So what exactly triggered this?  I'm not showing..

OK so my will power ain't much. Set
up the ladder and hop on that little
edge there. A red dot (AKA Karnov's
power-up icon, if you need it) pops
up conveniently, and when you make
your way across, the bombs will crop
up. It's cool how they used the ladder
to trigger secrets. I remember when
my bro and I first discovered this secret
some odd twenty years ago we hi-fived
each other like two freakin' geeks. Man,
we really maxed this game out



                                             These guys always reminded me of my M.U.S.C.L.E. toys

I thought the T-Rex
boss in the last level
was nasty, I hadn't
seen SQUAT yet!

The Centipede Woman was as tough as it looked ugly

     It lunges and moves
     in a way you wish it
     didn't! This is what a
     boss is all about...

                                       Easily the best (and most disgusting) boss design from KARNOV


"Well it WOULD be a shame if I just stood here eh?"

                                                   Just because your family couldn't doesn't mean...

Look at that Karnov chap!  Diving
and shooting underwater like it
were second nature!


Thank God Karnov doesn't lose those fancy trousers. We don't need to see no Sir Arthur here, no siree. Instead he goes gray in the face, and everywhere else [You sick devil -Ed.]

                                                            "If you can't beat them... JOIN 'EM..."


You find out for yourself!  [Or see YouTube anyhow -Ed.]


Data East's 1993 one-
on-one fighter, Fighter's History, saw Karnov return in the form of a boss. The game, of course, is most well known for its lawsuit with Capcom as they thought Data East ripped off the "feel and spirit" of the almighty Street Fighter II. Capcom lost in court. Fighter's History is a guilty pleasure of mine; I just loved the SF II clones of that era

1993: What a great time to be 10 and a fan of 2D fighters!


Did you know: Karnov
was also a bad guy (a
boss, actually) in the
Data East beat 'em up


A sequel to Fighter's
was released in
1994, entitled Karnov's

I ate the sequel up as well, though I prefer the original for six buttons (as opposed to the sequel's four) and the nostalgia. Karnov's Revenge is
AKA Fighter's History Dynamite. It was actually the 2nd Sega Saturn game I ever bought way back in June of 1999!  Who knew a fat bald Russian could bring such joy?  [HEY NOW take it easy son -Ed.]

Good times, good memories


Karnov didn't disappoint. We didn't buy many NES games so the ones we did get we had to make sure would be worth it. Usually we relied on friends or renting. In the case of Karnov neither my brother or I had previously played it, or even heard of it. However, the art on the front and the back cover was just way too cool. Going by such and only such usually spells disaster but this was a pleasant surprise. Karnov has an intriguing atmosphere that is unlike your typical NES game. Its varied locales, baddies, bosses and musical stylings evokes a mythical almost goth-like air of mystery that permeates throughout the game's nine levels. There are also multiple paths and plenty of secrets to encourage repeated play. Icons add further depth. And I always liked the portly protagonist. It's not a great game, and many think it's nothing but mediocre, but I find it to be rather damn solid, and a notable effort in the vast 8-bit Nintendo library, thanks to its unique atmosphere, challenge and enjoyable gameplay. Amazing it's already been over TWENTY years since this came out. Thanks Uncle Jimmy. And thanks Karnov, for living up to our expectations. A bit creepy, with plenty of fun and challenge, KARNOV is a solid addition to any NES library. Haven't played it yet?  Ch-ch-check it out!  You might be glad ya did