|From The Grader’s Desk – November 2018
Wata certifies its first perfect 10 A++
As Chief Grader of Wata Games, I get to see some of the most unique and interesting video games throughout history pass over my desk. In this column, I will be sharing some of these highlight items with you.
This month’s feature will be a title from the NES that is special to us at Wata for reasons not relating to the title specifically, but to the unique nature of this particular copy of the game. The game in question is The Karate Kid, released in 1987 by LJN. The Karate Kid is based on the 1984 Columbia Pictures movie and subsequent franchise films, which was well regarded with kids of the NES era during the 80s and 90s era of martial arts mania, even receiving a 1989 cartoon series. The film series helped make careers for Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita and Elizabeth Shue. It even inspired a modern-day revival series on Netflix in 2018 called Cobra Kai that stars most of the original cast and tells the story from the point of view of antagonist Johnny Lawrence. The show received positive reviews from critics and fans of the franchise, including yours truly.
So, you probably are familiar with the movie and NES game. Perhaps you know about LJN and their love of destroying your favorite movie franchises and turning them into frustrating or unplayable games. Maybe you even know of their notoriety as a company with gamers like the Angry Video Game Nerd, but that isn’t why I chose to highlight this copy of The Karate Kid. This particular copy is special because it is the first perfect specimen Wata has certified, receiving a certified grade of 10 A++. That is the highest grade that a sealed game box and shrink wrap can receive, and this particular copy was deserving of our first recognized slot at the 10 spot.
In determining the grade of any sealed game, Wata carefully scrutinizes the surface of both the box and the seal, assigning a numerical grade (10 being the best and 0.5 being the worst) to describe the condition of the box, and a letter grade (A++ being the best and C being the worst) to describe the quality of the seal. This copy of The Karate Kid was determined to be in top condition, receiving no grade deductions for neither the box nor seal. It is important to remember that the difference between a 9.8 and a 10 can seem very small, but there are circumstances outside of the owner’s hand like handling and general condition. The step from 9.8 to 10 is usually the result of a perfect situation of printing, handling, packaging and presentation of a game before it even leaves the factory, coupled together with a game with no post-manufacturing damages or wear. While many games can achieve a 9.8, that seemingly small step to 10 can become a quantum leap.
This level of condition may seem to be easily achievable for a new item, but you will have to remember this game is close to 30 years old and has survived in this condition without any special services of preservation available for much of its lifespan. It is easy these days to pluck new games from a store shelf and send them in for certification immediately, almost guaranteeing a high mint grade. However, classic NES titles had to wait decades for a proper certification and preservation option, all while having cardboard and soft shrink wrap packaging that promoted wear with even the slightest handling. After collecting and examining thousands of sealed games, I have developed an appreciation for games that have somehow made it through the years unscathed, and I must say, they are few and far between. This game is one of those rare instances, a perfect storm of circumstances, and I must say I am proud to have been able to both grade it and to share it with everyone here.
Kenneth Thrower, Chief Grader