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Punchmania: Fist of the North Star (Arcade) artwork

Punchmania: Fist of the North Star (Arcade) review

"Stand aside, pig! Hokuto Shinken has no equal! "

Stand aside, pig! Hokuto Shinken has no equal!

Fist of the North Star is one of my favourite anime series all time and probably the goriest manga series my eyes had ever clapped upon. With bodies exploding here and their and body parts falling all over the place, who couldn’t resist sitting back and watching a whole two hour movie where all these qualities come into the fore.

I have slowly begun to know and love Fist of the North Star for a number of reasons, mainly the violence. Also I was interested, (to a lesser extent) in the depth of the plot and the bizarre collection of characters that have so recently have come close to my heart in many ways. Even though the majority of them are vicious bastards who should all technically deserve to be blown to bits by Kenshiro’s fists.

Anyway, if you aren’t familiar with Fist then I’ll give you a quick summary of the plot. Basically, the world has been engulfed in nuclear war and is now a post apocalyptic nightmare, ruled by violence. The survivors tend to either be killed by thugs or kill others to survive . An ancient style of martial art created in China is basically the only thing that can save those who are innocent, Hokuto Shinken. A style that uses the impact of superficial external blows on precise acupressure points to create internal chaos and blow the body inside out. If you have read the manga and/or watch the movie then you will have a better idea of what I’m talking about.

This game, though plays through the entire Fist story from three different perspectives, either playing as Ken, Rei, a man who uses the opposing martial arts style known as Nanto Seiken and Raoh, Kenshiro’s adopted brother who is another master of Hokuto Shinken. Each character will put you into a series of first person fights where you will have to hit the external pads with the gloves provided, it’s almost like a first person beat em up.

There are six pads, three on each side and during a battle they will come forward and light up. You have to use the gloves to hit them precisely when they light up so you can actually hit or block an opponent. If you score a number of combos you will raise your special, which will allow you to kill your opponent using a special technique, which will be hitting pads in a particular order etc.

The screen displays the level of you special technique, which is demonstrated by five bulbs on the screen, when all five bulbs light up then you, will perform your secret technique. This usually entails you hitting the pads like crazy when they light up. In addition to this, you have a green bar at the top. This indicates your health and the red one indicates the health of your foe. In order to pull off your move, you have to knock the health of the opponent down to the bottom and then you can pull of your move. However if you fail to do it then you will end up as a plaything for your opponent.

If you achieve this then you can do your finishing move by rapidly hitting pads a certain number of times which can range from 30 to 200. This game is very hard as you have to be very quick and accurate, one of the only games that will physically tire you and with some of the other very difficult fights at the end you have to be pretty damn fit. It takes a great deal of practice at first and when you play the game and get to know technique’s etc you’ll become more skilled. At first, you may be annihilated by Heart but when you practice you can swipe through him with no problems.

The game has a variety of difficulty levels and with each level you’ll battle different characters. The practice mode throws you into the beginning of the storyline and puts you face to face with villains like Zeed. After this, you’ll be placed in major fights with Heart and Shin. After the easy mode, you have three normal modes which allow you to play as Ken and Rei. In these modes you’ll be thrown into tricky fights against Jagi, Colonel, Devil Reverse and Souther. In harder modes, the pads will come out faster and more frequent, also if you are struck then a greater deal of health will be removed. Then you have the fact that you have to perform 100 hit moves and the will leave you tired and less able to fight with the next opponent.

Rei is the harder of the two because his health doesn’t go back to maximum after each fight. Also with Rei they throw you in the deep end by letting you face Raoh, who will probably take all of your health away in one attempt. After this you have to fight Fang, Amiba and Yuda, which is hardly fair due to the immense difficulty.

Yet, you’ll want to become better at it. Raoh may kick your ass the first time round but when you practice and have a better idea at what you are doing, the Ken Oh will fall easily enough.

Speaking of Raoh, he is the final character you can play and is the hardest character to grasp. With Raoh, you can face opponents that Kenshiro and Rei had little to do with in the story. For example, Raoh fights Jyuza of the Clouds, Fudoh of the mountains and Kenshiro himself, characters that Ken wouldn’t face. Raoh is for masters only as the pads will fly out at all directions at once so you’ll need sharp reflexes and a lot of energy in order to triumph in this mode.

Amazingly, the graphics have been directly taken from the anime, given a little brush up and placed on the game. This cartoon style is radiant for the game as it seems to bring you into the atmosphere very well, although I have to say a lot of the images look a little distorted and the animation can be choppy on occasion. This is a minor thing as you’ll be too busy actually playing the game to think about how great the graphics are. Although there is one thing that annoyed me was the gore! Mainly due to the lack of it, the manga and movie had stacks of blood but the game had none. When you kill a bad guy you want to be rewarded by seeing them explode in front of your eyes with hellishly gory scenes of their guts hitting the screen, although it might traumatise a few children it would be worth just to see at least one drop of blood. Too bad, but it’s not important in the overall.

Although there is barely any music in the game, aside from the jazzy music at the selection screen at all there is loads of speech. There are subtitles but the words are fairly clear, as long as it isn’t too loud around you which can he a hindrance in an arcade. The clear and loud voices are pretty damn cool and even though I would’ve preferred Japanese it doesn’t let it down. The dubbing is also brilliantly cast off and although it sometimes looks a little stupid, you won’t really think about it. All characters say something for their special technique, which can get tedious after the third time you hear it. They even have the squeaky radio tuning noise that occurs when an enemy is about to blow up, that noise happened in every episode and helps create a better representation of the series.

You’ve got some nerve eh?

But as with the graphics you will be so indulged by the fast paced game to notice any of this.

I guess it was a dream come true as I stepped into Ken’s shoes and blew away bad guys with my fists. You better have a full wallet when you come across this game because you will be hooked on it for a long time, I spent about £9 on it the last two days, and that’s pretty bad for me. I walked out of the arcade with busted knuckles but the entertainment value was so great I could have broken a finger and given it another round. One of the most effective stress relief techniques I have found and also a true gift from God for the shrinking pack of bloodthirsty Hokuto fans who have got nothing relating to the series in years. Remember to wash your hands afterwards though; I dread to think what that sticky stuff was on the inside of the glove.

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Community review by goldenvortex (October 21, 2004)

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