Hokuto no Ken: Shin Seikimatsu Kyuusheishu Densetsu

Platform:  Sega Megadrive (Japan Only)

Developed by:  Bandai

UK Distributor:  N/A

ELSPA rating: N/A

Original Retail Price (SRP):  Unknown

Current Import Value:  £25 (approx.)

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

Ah the good old 16-bit days, days when Sega and Nintendo slugged it out for dominance, games could cost anything from £40 upwards, and loads of scrolling beat-em-ups tried Ė and failed Ė to be as good as the Streets of Rage series.

Hokuto no Ken, better known in the UK as Fist of the North Star, seems to be the perfect series to be made into a fighting game.  The anime and manga follow the martial artist Kenshiro as he battles his way through a post apocalyptic wasteland in order to rescue his fiancťe from the evil clutches of his former friend Shin.  It has more over-the-top martial arts action and messy deaths than a Chuck Norris film and a very simple story that allows for plenty of showpiece battles.  Turning it into a side-scrolling beat-em-up would appear to be a perfect recipe for success, but anime games are rarely as good as they seem on paper.

If you are well-versed in Megadrive beat-em-ups you will be gripped by a certain feeling horrified familiarity when you play Hokuto no Ken: Shin Seikimatsu Kyuusheishu Densetsu (I'll call it just Hokuto no Ken from now on).  This is because it was released in the UK, stripped of the Fist of the North Star license and graphically edited, as Last Battle.

Now if you have read my review of Last Battle you will know that I consider the game to be about as enjoyable as ritual disembowelment, and itís easily the second worst game I have ever played (bad as it is it still has nothing on Rise of the RobotsÖ).  The graphics and sound are poor, the collision detection is so bad half your punches and kicks donít connect, the level design is weak and the animation and character design is laughable.  It is challenging to play, but only because of the colossal effort it takes to get past each level whilst coping with the gameís shocking inadequacies.

All of the flaws that Last Battle suffered from are still here, from the gameplay right through to the lacklustre graphics.  Luckily the awful dialogue and tedious opening text is in Japanese in Hokuto no Ken, so at least you canít read it.  There is little to recommend the game technically, but despite being exactly the same game as Last Battle it is strangely far more fun to play.

The differences between the two games is mainly visual Ė in Last Battle pictures of the characters were altered to make them look more Western, names were changed and the blood was removed.  And, Iím sad to say, the blood is what makes Hokuto no Ken the more enjoyable game.  Itís hard to admit it without sounding like some kind of psycho but there is something far more satisfying about seeing the endless, identical enemies explode in a fountain of blood than fly off the screen.  There may be only one death animation but who cares? Fist of the North Star was a gory show and with the gore Hokuto no Ken actually feels like the Fist of the North Star game itís supposed to be.  The license gives it depth and background, whereas Last Battle floundered with stupidly named characters and a lack of identity.  Donít get me wrong, Hokuto no Ken is not a good game, but it is a Fist of the North Star game and this alone makes it more interesting and papers over some of its weaknesses.  Last Battle in contrast was nothing more than a abysmal arcade brawler with little to put it into context, and it was already obsolete by the time it was released.

The graphics are still bad, itís still crap to play, it is still technically lacking and it is still frustratingly flawed in nearly every area, but the Fist of the North Star license and gore makes it more enjoyable than it has any right to be.  Fans of the series will no doubt like the idea of kicking the crap out of Shin and his minions, and Hokuto no Ken gives them the opportunity to do so.  There are a couple of nice touches, as Kenshiroís power bar increases he gets different moves and inflicting the final blow on a boss with a standing punch causes a showpiece death (which sadly isnít as impressive as it sounds), but you canít escape the gameís obvious flaws.  Hokuto no Ken lags miles behind the likes of Streets of Rage and Golden Axe in nearly every way, and is more comparable with the Megadriveís awful version of Altered Beast.  It can be fun in short bursts but control niggles and the sheer repetitiveness of it grate incredibly quickly, leaving a well below average game that will interest only extremely hard-core Fist of the North Star fans.


Game:   Extras: N/A

Back To Reviews Archive