Title Fist of the North Star (Hokuto No Ken)
Developer/Publisher Bandai
Type Action/Fighting
English Version Not Available
Reviews #1

Review #1 by Steelman

Based on the long running anime series, Fist of the North Star is the beat-em-up game that I have really wanted to get involved since Final Fight in the early 90s. Retaining the primary beat-em-up formula of classic hits such as Double Dragon and Final Fight, it is one of the first games that's quite faithful to the original anime version. The main character does exactly what you know he should do. The villains act like they should and the backgrounds look like they were taken directly from the anime series. At times, the cut scenes and the linear design of the game, it often feels like this is an interactive anime.

Fist of the North Star is basically an apocalyptic tale of lost civilization and martial art. Kenshiro is the master of a killer martial art called Hokuto Shin Ken. Using his super fighting techniques, Kenshiro travels from town to town, where he must find his long time love, Julia and destroy different groups of thugs along the way.

As a mainstream title, this game accomplishes what it's supposed to. It is easy to pick up, simple button control, quite a long game to make your money worth, and the bosses are challenging enough. Even the game is in japanese, the simply gameplay should not turn anyone away, it's a beat-em-up game afterall. In fighting through different stages, Kenshiro can punch, kick, jump and execute limited special moves. For certain enemies and bosses, Kenshiro can also execute his ultimate death moves by pressing a combination of buttons in order with right timing. The typical enemies in the game are quite aggressive at times, but they're generally quite easy to beat. As for the bosses, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, as bosses usually do, some of them are quite challenging and may require some practices.

The characters are constructed in low polygons with limited texture maps, they all look fine, and the character animation is adequate. The backgrounds' color mixtures and visual textures make everything atmospheric and more effective, drawing us into the lost civilization, apocalyptic world. Other than the typical fixed camera angeles, the occasional use of an active camera provide a greater impact at times.

Throughout the game, the player is treated with a lot of movie clips in between to tell the adventure of Kenshiro. First of all, these movie clips are nothing like the visually impressive ones that we see in Square titles such as Parasite Eve or Final Fantasy IX. The clips are all produced by in-game, real-time, low polygon graphics and simple character animation, so don't expect too much. Although they don't look too good, tons of japanese voices and speeches are used and they really added life to these game characters in the movie clips. As going through the game for the first time, the player is forced to watch these movie clips, some of them are liked 10 mins each. However, after beating each stage for the first time and saves it in the memory card, if the player decides to re-play the early parts of the game, the movie clips can be skipped by pressing the start button. By the way, the save feature really comes into handy since the player doesn't have to endure several straight hours for beating the game.

Other minor gripes with this game include the inability to use the surrounding objects as weapons, which Kenshiro cannot pick up any random object like iron pole or knife to fight as weapons. Also, he cannot grab and throw the enemies. These two features are included in many other beat-em-up games like Final Fight or Fighting Force, but not including these features in this game are also understandable. Why? Because Kenshiro is a master of martial art, he doesn't need weapons, he fights with his bare hands and legs only.

Among all the anime licensed games that Bandai has created before on Playstation, Fist of the North Star is at its best engaging the eyes and mind. I really enjoyed the mindless beat-em-up arcade fighting action, story, cinematic elements and the unique apocalyptic feel. However, by no means this is an excellent title, it definitely has some flaws within. Overall, I have to say it is average at best. If you are a fan of this anime series, do yourself a favorite, go get it now.