Anyone who is a fan of anime knows that there has been a severe lack of manly anime (henceforth called manime) in the last decade or so. It’s been a rough road for those of us who are not a fan of clearly underage girls put in adult situations or the Moe fad. What the hell happened to straight up action shows like Cowboy Bebop, Scryed (and I don’t even like that fucking show), or Samurai Champloo? These were the shows that put hair on your chest with their awesomeness and in the 80s the king of the genre was Fist of the North Star.
Fist of the North Star follows Kenshiro in a post-apocalyptic future as he travels the wasteland in a battle to determine the rightful successor of the Hokuto Shinken style of martial arts. That synopsis only covers a fraction of the manga’s plot; I could go on for pages but that isn’t necessary. The series saw numerous video game adaptations, with the Famicom seeing 4. Bandai took a chance and released the second game in the US despite the franchise limited exposure. And unfortunately they picked one of the worst games of the lot, leaving gamers unfamiliar with the manga with a negative impression of the series overall.
Your only assets in this broken world are your fists and feet. Hokuto Shinken focuses on hitting pressure points on the body to cause numerous different reactions, with the most frequent resulting in the target exploding. That aspect surprisingly made it over intact, with enemy heads swelling and exploding when punched. I don’t know what voodoo Bandai cast over Nintendo of America’s censors to let that pass but I suppose it was deemed okay since there is no blood and brain matter shown.
There are very few power-ups in the game; understandable considering heads erupt aplenty when you so much as breathe on enemies. Golden Bracelets grant invincibility as well as a shadow clone for increased attack power, stars increase attack power, and the rare flags restore health. The stars also fill a gauge that once full, causes Ken’s shirt to rip like the anime and become a brolic weapon of mass destruction, able to chuck Hadokens left and right. Or at least he should be but the game’s many issues mean it will make little difference.
For a game that relies on its melee combat its’ biggest fault is the shitty hit detection. It simply doesn’t work in most cases. Most standard enemies will die in one hit up until the 3rd of 4th level, at which point they become sturdier. Watching as your punches and kicks seem to pass through a dude right in front of you is no fun, and neither is are the swarms of enemies that assault you. Midway through the game the number of enemies jumps significantly, to the point where you’ll have less than 2 seconds before the next group. With the hit detection spotty killing them before losing large chunks of life becomes next to impossible, especially the slide kicking bastards. It becomes easier to simply avoid combat, but it’s almost as if the designers cottoned onto that because the enemies start to slide kick in the air too. 9 times out of 10 you’ll reach most of the bosses with little to no life.
Now take the issues outlines above and apply them to the boss fights. It’s cool that each boss is weak against a certain attack, which will chop down their life bars significantly. But it seems the same applies to you as well. Don’t be surprised if a boss hits you 3 times and are near death in the space of 3 seconds. I don’t know how the damage ratios of attacks are calculated but it’s drastically off in this game. There are times where you’ll die despite a near full health bar. Maybe there’s another aspect to the combat engine (if you can call it that) that I don’t understand but fuck me if I’ll take the time to figure it out.
There’s been a resurgence in popularity of Fist of the North Star somewhat with the recent Koei produced FOTN Dynasty Warrior style games. Although the formula is repetitive it’s a much better representation of the series than this game. Leave this game forgotten by history.