Codex Gamicus

Karnov (カルノフ Karunofu?) is a 1987 platform arcade game developed and published by Data East. It is the debut of Data East's mascot of the same name. After Data East became defunct due to bankruptcy in 2003, Paon bought the rights to this game,[1] along with a few other Data East games, which Paon is comprised with former Data East staff.


Karnov's full name is Jinborov Karnovski (ジンボロフ・カルノフスキー?). Karnov, although popularly illustrated as an Eastern European or a Slav, is actually from Central Asia, in what was then the Soviet Union as shown on the original arcade flyer and again in Karnov's Revenge.

Karnov later became Data East's mascot, and was reintroduced in many other Data East games, including Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja in which he played a boss in the first level. Karnov later appeared in 1994 in another one of his own games for the Neo-Geo hardware called Karnov's Revenge. This game, also known as Fighter's History Dynamite, is not a sequel to the original Karnov, but to Fighter's History, a competitive one-on-one fighter in which Karnov was the final boss.


The game puts the bulging-muscled, fire-breathing, ex-circus strongman east-Russian hero on a quest through nine different levels to search for treasures. However, between him and the treasures were several horrendous monsters, including sword wielding monks, djinn, foot hopping giant fish and ostrich-riding skeleton warriors.

Players can make Karnov walk, jump and shoot his way through these levels and find special items that will help him on his way. He also can collect red orbs with which he can upgrade up to three fireballs at a time. Each level contains a variety of strange enemies, such as gargoyles, rock creatures, and strong men, which Karnov must destroy or avoid. When he reaches the end of a level he usually has to face one or more powerful enemies which he must defeat to beat the level and receive a new piece of a treasure map. At the end of the game he must face a powerful boss often called "The Wizard" and collect the treasure.

Special Items[]

In each level Karnov can collect a variety of items along the way, which can be chosen right away or only at certain times. The items Karnov can use at any time are:

  • Jump Boots: Allow Karnov to run faster and jump much higher temporarily.
  • Bomb: Destroys enemies and some floors and walls which can lead to hidden areas.
  • Ladder: Used to reach high places.
  • Boomerang: Powerful throwing weapon that destroys most enemies in one hit and can be retrieved after being thrown.
  • Super Fireball: 30 fireballs that destroy most enemies in one hit.

The items that are activated in special zones of levels are:

  • Wings: Allow Karnov to fly for a limited amount of time.
  • Scuba Helmet: Is used only in the fifth level (sea). Allows Karnov to swim faster in water.
  • Mask: It will flash and a noise will sound where it can be used to receive a cache of hidden items.
  • Trolley: Karnov can ride through and destroy ground enemies.

Miscellaneous items:

  • Red Orb: Increase the firepower of Karnov, letting him spit more than one fireball at a time, with a maximum of three.
  • Letter K: Although not really a special item, if Karnov collects 50 of these, he will earn an extra life.


This game was later ported to numerous home consoles, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Tiger Electronics handheld and others.

Famicom/NES Version differences[]

Karnov was released for the Famicom on December 18, 1987 in Japan, and a year later on its North American equivalent, the NES, in 1988. Although it plays very similarly to the original arcade game there are some noticeable differences:

  • Karnov takes two hits to die instead of just one. After being hit once he will turn a blue color in which he has one hit left or can gain an extra hit back by grabbing a blue fireball orb.
  • The Super Fireball is replaced with the Spike Bomb which destroys every enemy on screen. The Trolley item is replaced with the Shield which is used to reflect an enemies fireballs.
  • Levels 4 and 8 are completely different from the arcade levels.
  • The final boss is no longer the Wizard, but a giant three-headed dragon by the name of Ryu. Both fights, however, take place in similar rooms.

There are also non-game play differences between the Famicom and NES versions. The Famicom provides a story throughout the entire game, complete with images. The NES game does not have such a feature. The Famicom game is also considerably more difficult since it does not allow the player to continue after all lives are lost. The NES game, however, provides unlimited continues. The NES game also allowed Karnov to be killed when both the A and B buttons were pressed on the second controller.


The MS-DOS version of the game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #142 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 4½ out of 5 stars.[2]

Other appearances in media[]

Video games[]

Aside from being featured in the various ports of the original Karnov game and the Fighter's History games, he has found his way in several Data East and other gaming titles, usually as an enemy:

  • In Garyo Retsuden, only released in Japan, Karnov is featured as a regular enemy.
  • In Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja, he is featured as the first level's boss. A slightly different rendition of the boss music is used when fighting him, which contains the familiar melody from the original Karnov game. A grey version of Karnov appears later in the game. According to the credits sequence of DragonNinja (the Japanese version of Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja), this version of Karnov is called Kusamoci Karnov.
  • In Trio The Punch - Never Forget Me..., which was only released in Japan, features several different enemy renditions of Karnov. Some of these bizarre takes are of enormous stone statues and even mini versions of him.
  • Although not a direct cameo, the guard boss from the Gaelco game, Big Karnak, is almost identical to Karnov's and Kusamoci Karnov's sprites from Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja.
  • Karnov appeared as an enemy in the game Tumblepop.
  • Karnov appears in the alley background of the Neo-Geo game Street Hoop. He is shown wearing a shirt with a "K" on it.
  • Karnov appears in the credits of the freeware game I wanna be the guy' in the "Hall of former the guys".
  • Karnov appears as the end level boss of the game Fighters History, and becomes a playable character in its sequels.
  • Karnov appears as an enemy in the arcade game Joe & Mac Returns.

Pop culture[]

  • Robby Roadsteamer wrote a song called "Kathy Sucks At Karnov" for his 2008 release This Album Syncs Up To Toejam And Earl
  • In 2005 Galaxy454 Productions released the 30 minute film KARNOV based on the post-video game adventures of Jinborov Karnovski. Karnov the movie
  • In a stranger vein, Karnov appeared as the protagonist of Something Awful's Dance Dance Revolution parody, Dance Dance Karnov[1].
  • In March and June 2006, Karnov once again appeared as the subject of Something Awful updates. "The Karnov Playsets" (1 and 2) included short clips featuring Karnov in a variety of surreal and nonsensical settings. [2] and [3]

See also[]


  1. Data East History - DATA EAST GAMES. G-Mode. Retrieved on 2009-09-06
  2. Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (February 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (142): 42–51. 

External links[]