The Legend of Karnov
November 22, 2018

Karnov made his first appearance on his very own Arcade game by Data East in 1987. You played as the titular Russian strongman* in search of an ancient treasure buried somewhere in a place called "Wonderland." That was pretty much it; Karnov was one greedy bastard and little else. The game featured three buttons for firing, jumping, and selecting special items that could help Karnov pass through stages such as ladders to reach high places, boots to run faster, and wings to fly about. The game was not without flaws, the fact that it was a one hit per death concept was met with a high level of difficulty beginning from the very start of the game. Memorizing the enemy patterns was a bit of help, but not enough to make it through unscathed. There was also a time period to push gamers into advancing through the stage. If you waited too long on a spot, evil plants would sprout around the screen peppering you with bullets and chances were you would lose a life immediately.

Not many remember Karnov in arcades but in fact, he was mostly remembered in the NES conversion of said game, where he was now hailed as a hero in search of an evil dragon that was terrorizing the land to destroy it. Karnov had his moment in the limelight, and the NES game was a lot more forgiving than the Arcade, having a two hit counter instead of a single one, and a more forgiving difficulty curve, but not enough to have it as one of the most difficult games you could go through. The power-ups were also rough to deal with, being as with the Arcade original, you had to move Karnov left or right to select an item to activate. This time the third button would be the SELECT button on the NES pad, which made me wonder why not just use said button to select said items without the hassle of moving Karnov at all. Karnov would also be featured in other platforms like the Spectrum and such as well.

Karnov's other appearances would not be in a form of a sequel to his first game. Rather, he would make cameos in other Data East games as an enemy such as with Bad Dudes vs. Dragonninja, where he would be the very first boss you'd encounter. Karnov also appeared in other games like Trio the Punch, which was a very, very weird Arcade game to begin with.

It was during the mid-90s when Karnov would once again be on his own game. More or less. Data East's Fighter’s History was a Street Fighter more sense than the word even. Karnov was now the final boss you would encounter if you could beat the rest of the fighters within said game.
Fighter’s History spawned a sequel called Fighter's History Dynamite, where Karnov wasn't only the final boss again, but now you could choose him as a regular fighter. This game would also be rebranded as Karnov's Revenge, even though the title made little sense other than to feature his name of all things. Capcom would file a lawsuit against Data East for copyright infringement, but seemingly this did not stopped the company from creating said sequel to their own fighting game either way.

After this there was not much to mention about the titular character. He only made cameos in other Data East games well before he was on his own fighting game, and afterwards he simply vanished from gaming history, with gamers mostly remembering him by his NES beginnings and little else.

*- Origins may vary. It has also mentioned that Karnov may be of middle eastern descent or Eurasian.

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