Vist Genki!

Format: Mega Drive
From: Sega
Year of Release: 1989
Onscreen Language: Japanese

Fist of the North Star

Shin Seikimatsu Kyuseishu Densetsu
(New Legend of Century's End Savior)
"Last Battle" (UK/USA)

The only Hokuto No Ken game released for the Mega Drive and the thirteenth game released on Sega's 16-bit machine. Based solely and extremely closely on the second series of the Hokuto No Ken TV show (aka Hokuto No Ken 2) this game bares a resemblance to 'Altered Beast' (not a good sign) mixed with the first two Famicom titles and combines action with some rudimentary RPG elements. This game is very bad so I will explain the events it covers to save interested fans the torture of actually playing it.

Hokuto No Ken is split into four chapters encompassing the 42 episodes of the show. Chapter one opens with Ken returning to the Tenti controlled lands and meeting the grown up Lin and Bat. The chapter includes battles with Geira and Bask, appearances from Ein, Mamiya and the Harn brothers who Ken discovers at the bottom of a dungeon maze. It closes with a confrontation with Soria.

Chapter two concerns Ken's attack on the Tenti capital. Our hero faces another boss lackey, meets with Asuka, fights Falco at the city's gates, finds Tenti at the bottom of another dungeon maze and learns of Lin's abduction to Shura.

Kenshiro is aboard a pirate ship at the start of the penultimate chapter. After beating Akashachi the pirate captain he agrees to take you to the terrible island. On arrival Ken battle's his way across the land, battles Alf and meets the mortally wounded Falco. At the end of yet another dungeon maze is a confrontation with the first General of Shura: Han.

Into the final chapter. Ken crosses the map several times meeting with Reia, searching the final of the dungeon mazes for the statue which holds the key to Hokuto Shinken and faces off with his brother Hyo and the ultimate battle against Kaio.

As I mentioned at the start Hokuto No Ken combines scrolling action with some RPG elements. Successfully fighting your way to the end of the stage opens the map view. From here you can check your stats, which are boosted by meeting characters located at the end of certain stages, and move location opening the next action scene. Each chapter contains one dungeon maze and several boss battles.

As I also mentioned at the start this game is bad. Awful in fact. As a very early 16-bit game it is very basic- levels are all flat, the backgrounds sparse and dull, the scrolling is extremely slow, the sound effects shoddy and ill fitting. The gameplay is monotonous from the very beginning consisting simply of "walk right-stop-punch-walk right-stop-punch" over and over. Ken is stripped of all his amazing moves; equipped here with a simple punch or kick in crouching, standing and jumping forms. The dreary music does nothing to lift the boredom in fact it makes it worse and isn't even taken from the show.

As enemies are killed, one hit is all it takes, a red bar at the bottom of the screen fills. When it reaches one of the markers Ken's shirt explodes and his attack strength and speed increases. This is as exciting as the game gets.

Next: the difficulty level. It's almost through the roof. A great example of true Japanese toughness this game must be completed with one single life! There are no continues! You have to battle your way through four chapters and defeat around seven bosses on a single turn! Energy boosts are few and very far between. Take into account the harshness of the boss battles and it makes completing this game almost impossible. Whereas Ken is without his signature attacks and skills the bosses still have most of their's plus greater reaching punches and kicks. I should also point out that you cannot block attacks which means there are some hits you are forced to endure as they are unavoidable making these encounters almost random in there outcome.

And possibly the worst point of all... the dungeon mazes. Each Chapter has one and only the very first Chapter's can be avoided. They are the most monotonous part of an extremely monotonous game. The goal is for Ken to find his way through by falling down pits and climbing up crates while avoiding a constant stream of annoyingly persistent projectiles. As with all the backgrounds in the game each dungeon looks the same as the last but in a different primary colour. The dreadful tune that accompanies these practices in soul crushing tedium still haunts me at night...

Are the any good points? The game follows the show's plot very closely even copy the end credits. The sprites are recognisable and detailed (compared to the backgrounds that is) although Ken looks a little off model. The blood filled explosions are probably the only high point of the entire game. The RPG overtones are a nice idea but are massively over shadowed by the plodding, tedious gameplay.

Absolute die-hard fans of Hokuto No Ken may get some enjoyment out of this but I'd only recommend playing an emulated version so you can save often. Otherwise avoid!

Note:- Due to the shortage of games that comes with the launch of a new console Hokuto No Ken, despite being terrible, got a Western release. Renamed Last Battle it has become somewhat of a legend for it's poor gameplay and ridiculously renamed characters. For instance Ken is re titled Aarzakk, Lin is Alyssia and Falco becomes Duke, Bat is Max and Ein becomes Gere. As well as the name changes characters are needlessly re coloured and all the gore is removed. Now instead of exploding enemies simply fly off the screen.

But the saga didn't end here! Amazingly 'Elite', a company known for converting Sega games to home computers, for some reason released conversions of Last Battle to both the Commodore 64 and Amiga!
For more info click here.

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