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Video Game / Karnov

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Karnov, Data East's hero and mascot.
Karnov is an action platformer from Data East, first released for the arcade in 1987. The eponymous fire-breathing east-Russian strongman, Jinborov Karnovski, must go through nine different levels to search for the ultimate treasure while fighting against monsters on his way. The twist here is that Karnov can enhance his arsenal with the items throughout the stages, and occasionally summon special equipment like ladders to help his quest.

The game didn't exactly set the arcade on fire at the time, but regardless it had favorable reception, and got many ports for a number of systems, ranging from the NES to various European computers. Karnov himself also became a mascot of sorts for Data East, being featured in numerous arcade games by the company, and notably took the role as a Final Boss in the Fighter's History series.

Karnov provides examples of:

  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The Japanese Famicom cover has Karnov in a cartoony style, while the NES cover and North American flyer (the latter being featured above) depicts him in a more Boris Vallejo-esque realistic style.
  • Bald Head of Toughness: The main man himself! He possesses a bald head, immense strength, deadly fire breath, and a boatload of powerful items in his quest for gold (or redemption).
  • Blood Knight: The Famicom manual paints Karnov as one of these. Apparently, he loved fighting even at infancy, and later became infamous in neighboring towns for his sheer strength. It's this brawling spirit that (partly) got him stuck as a servant of God, and when evil forces invade the Earth, the holy one smartly chooses Karnov for the job because of it.
  • Breath Weapon: Karnov can spout out Fireballs against enemies. They can be upgraded to aim a wider range.
  • Continuing is Painful: Dying even once means you're sent back to the last checkpoint without your fire-breathing upgrade, as well as all the options you collected. Good luck restoring your power-ups while dealing with swarming enemies.
  • Difficulty by Region: The international arcade release tends to be more difficult, since it's packed with more monsters within the stages, and even adds some exclusive monsters that punish stalling players.
  • Excuse Plot: The arcade version has Karnov looking for pieces of a map that shows the location of a treasure.
    • Averted in the Famicom version, where Karnov is forced (as punishment for breaking a holy statue, and in general being a ruffian) by God to defeat the monster army of Arakatai.
  • Husky Russkie: None other than Karnov.
  • Item Caddy: Karnov being this is the core gameplay of the game. You can summon assorted items at any time to help your quest.
  • Multiple Endings: The Famicom version features three endings where Karnov is rewarded by God for defeating the Big Bad, based on how many continues you used to beat the game. Notably, all of the endings are good, it's just the extent to which they are varies. When the game was brought outside Japan however, the entire cutscene (including the prologue before the game starts) was dropped, and it just shows a simple "Congratulations! The End". That being said, the overseas version gives you unlimited continues, whereas the Japanese one declares a Game Over if you died too much.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Karnov may have big muscles with Stout Strength, but a poke by any enemy instantly kills himnote . Furthermore, all his attacks are fireballs he spouts out.
  • Nominal Hero: Karnov's main motivation in the arcade version is purely treasure, and he will take out anyone or anything that stands between him and the goods.
    • Averted in the Famicom port, where Karnov fights for good on behalf of God in order to save humanity and redeem himself.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Karnov dies in one hit on any occasion in the arcade and Famicom versions. The NES version has a more generous HP system, where Karnov can stand one more hit, which would turn him blue instead. He can be restored to his normal form by collecting a fireball upgrade.
  • Rogue Protagonist: Karnov's many cameo appearances in other Data East games such as Bad Dudes and Trio the Punch involve him fighting the protagonists as a boss character. He's even the Final Boss for one such Data East franchise; Fighter's History.
  • Stalked by the Bell: In the international versions, if you stand around for too long, plants fall from the sky and shoot projectiles at you when they land.
  • Stout Strength: Is Karnov a bit chunky? Yes. Is he strong? Most definitely.