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Sega Ages: Hokuto no Ken (PlayStation 2) artwork

Sega Ages: Hokuto no Ken (PlayStation 2) review

"If you want some Fist of the North Star action, buy the excellent PlayStation game instead; Bandai obviously cares about the franchise a lot more than Sega does."

So there's this epic TV show called Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star). It's about Kenshiro, inheritor of the North Star martial arts style. His punches can make people explode. That's a pretty wicked power. Kenshiro's friend-turned-foe a jealous sort named Shin has the power to cut through flesh with his fingers. That's pretty wicked too, but there's another even more wicked character. I'm talking about Kenshiro's older brother: a burly type who's named himself "the Ken Ou" King of Fists. He's a bad guy, but he's a bad guy with a deep sense of honor. Still a bad guy though. And he proves himself the baddest of the bad over and over. People across this apocalyptic world come to expect strength from him. He also rides a cool black horse.

"Badical, check."

So there's this town in turmoil, and the Ken Ou arrives. On his cool black horse. Some bad guys are being bad and the Ken Ou doesn't like to see that, because he's the biggest bad guy in the world. So he kills a couple punks just for show. The entire gang gets down on its knees and starts worshipping him. They've seen the Ken Ou say and do some profound stuff in the past, so they're expecting something great. They don't know what he's going to do, but he's the King of Fists, so these punks know it's going to be something cool. Like maybe he'll take them into his army, or bless them with some villainous wisdom, or something.

"The suspense."

So the punks are all kneeling on the ground, ready to hear the Ken Ou's mighty prophetic word. And the Ken Ou just sits atop his cool black horse, glaring down at them. Then the Ken Ou proceeds to trample over the lot of them, causing everyone to burst into bloody messes all over the ground. The Ken Ou does what he wants, not what the masses want.

"That's just beautiful."

You'll only find that kind of awesomeness in Bandai's PlayStation game. Whatever you're expecting from this PS2 Black Belt remake, just forget it like the King of Fists, Sega isn't interested in meeting your expectations. In the original Master System game, your character "Riki" (since Sega of America loved changing names for no reason) walked from left to right while punching and kicking people. This version looks (and controls) better, but Sega removed that whole "walking" thing. Now you just stand still, throw up a wall of rapid-fire punches, and wait for mindless thugs to walk into your fists. A single punch or kick is enough to turn any of these pinheads into a splattered pomegranate; there's no need for any fancy double thwack attacks. It's kind of like the barrel mini-game from Street Fighter 2, except that this time it's the whole game. Sega tried to smooth things over with pretty backgrounds and AWESOME music, but it's just too monotonous.

fap fap fap fap THWACK *splurt* THWACK *splurt*

(This is the part where you listen to cool music while waiting for more enemies to appear.)

fap fap fap fap THWACK *splurt* THWACK *splurt*

(The music really is very nice.)

Every now and then there's an actual boss fight, which is Kenshiro's chance to show off his six special moves. Some of these attacks are pretty impressive; at full power, Kenshiro darts around the screen, forming the Constellation of Death around his opponent. (The rest of us call it "The Big Dipper".) Seven stars converge in a blinding flash, inflicting great celestial pain on Jagi or whoever Kenshiro happens to be facing. But remember: Sega doesn't care about making you happy. After the second level, the game inexplicably benches Kenshiro and forces you to play as Rei, who only has two (really boring) special moves.

fap fap fap fap THWACK *AIEEEE!* THWACK *AIEEEE!*

Sure, it's neat to hear the ethereal screams as Rei slices foes to literal ribbons, but I'd still rather play as Kenshiro. It's kind of like when Konami forced millions of Snake-loving gamers to play as Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, except that most of those millions probably don't care about Hokuto no Ken.

*** end spoiler ***

After you beat the third level, Rei dies. CONGRATULATIONS! Your valor leads only to painful death! Normally I'd feel insulted by such a slap in the face, but this time it's okay because Kenshiro becomes the main character again. This is also about when the game notices its own monotony and feebly tries to correct itself... by removing all the enemies. This means the second half of Hokuto no Ken is actually just a series of boss fights (if three short battles qualifies as a "series").

If you want some Fist of the North Star action, buy the excellent PlayStation game instead; Bandai obviously cares about the franchise a lot more than Sega does. This PS2 hack-job replaces full voice acting with text bubbles, lasts thirty minutes instead of ten hours, and skips most of the coolest enemies (like the gargantuan DEVIL REVERSE).

It doesn't even include the Ken Ou's badical black horse.


zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (October 25, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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