Vist Genki!

Format: Playstation 2
From: Sega
Year of Release: 2004
Onscreen Language: Japanese

Fist of the North Star

Hokuto No Ken
(Fist of the North Star)

Released as volume 11 of series one of the Sega Ages 2500 collection. Each game in the collection is a Playstation 2 remake of a classic Sega game this one being a remake of the Sega Mark III Hokuto No Ken game.

The game is a scrolling beat-em-up with the player controlling Ken and in later levels Rei as they battle against a non-stop flood of disposable, muscle-bound henchmen. It seems that while the graphics and sound have been updated the gameplay has been left untouched. The player wanders left and right, as indicated by the onscreen prompts, killing bad guys and eventually the level boss. Once the boss is defeated there is a short burst of plot then the next level begins and you do it all over again. Eventually you'll come up against one-on-one confrontations with key characters from the series such as Heart, Shin and Jagi. These battles are much tougher and feature short but furious button bashing sessions set against a wall of fire!

During each level you come up against a large number of foes. The more bad guys you kill the higher your power and special bars grow. Once you fill the power bar you can activate a glowing shield which increases your attack strength and reduces the amount of damage you receive, for a limited time of course. The special bar allows you to use your character's signature moves. The more powerful the move the more of the special bar (represented by the 'Seven Scars') you need to fill in order to activate it. The signature moves are written at the bottom of the screen and can be selected with the R1 and L1 buttons.

Unfortunately, for a beat-em-up Hokuto No Ken features an incredibly small selection of attacks. The player has only two punches at their disposal; fast and slow. Other than these you have a crouching punch, a jumping kick and a dash attack... hardly much variety. Another draw back is that each standard bad guy only takes a single punch to kill making levels little more than "left, punch, left, punch, right, punch, right, punch; repeat". The levels may be rendered in 3D but the gameplay is strictly two dimensional; no 'in' or 'out' just left and right!

The presentation isn't too great either. The story unfolds in text boxes sometimes accompanied by static pictures but never by speech.

While the gameplay and presentation may be lacking the graphics are a plus. The backgrounds and characters are well rendered and look like they were plucked right out of the Anime. The animation is a bit too fast though making it difficult to appreciate all the exploding bodies. The sound and music are a bonus too as all the screams, yells and tunes are ripped straight out of the series.

This remake will undoubtedly split opinions down the middle. Fans of Fist of the North Star will no doubt enjoy it while to everyone else it will seem like a monotonous, repetitive and dull button basher.

As with all the releases in the 2500 range the original game is included (on the disc) as is an information card, with details on the history behind the game. This card can be added to the ring binder which was bundled with the first volume of the Sega Ages 2500 series, Phantasy Star.
For one or two players. A 'Battle Mode' can be unlocked by completing the story mode.

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