I’m not about to pretend that if you haven’t seen any of the anime versions of Fist of the North Star, or read the manga, that you’re missing anything profound. Despite its classic status, the story was predictable, the artwork style was all kinds of awful and the characterization was non-existent. It was still fun though, thanks primarily to the ridiculously overblown violence which tickled that small part of us that likes to see cocky bad guys get their comeuppance.
With so many pre-made concepts for a decent action game, it’s a wonder that Fist of the North Star hasn’t been made into dozens of videogames over the years – but by some strange twist of fate that never happened. There have been one or two, sure, but they were so obscure that nobody really knew about them. This latest incarnation for our current consoles, on the other hand, looks set to take the mainstream by storm and grab some attention… or does it?
The story for the game follows the manga storyline pretty closely, and the developers have done a remarkable job of keeping the graphics very true to the artist’s style – something that doesn’t usually happen when manga visuals are translated to 3D. There are two main modes on offer: Legend mode, which lets players play through the stories of several characters, and Dream mode, which is a lot closer to Koei’s Dynasty Warriors series, allowing players to play through huge maps, slaughtering hundreds of foes and capturing bases.
There are several characters to play, and they all have their own distinct fighting styles, but while it might sound like there’s a fairly complex action game here, Fist of the North Star is possibly the most simple, uncomplicated action game I’ve played in years. Each character has a string of moves which can be executed by hammering the attack button, and a more powerful attack that can be interjected into this combo by pressing the power attack button. They also have a unique special move assigned to the left bumper and a selection of super powerful signature moves that can be executed when players have charged up enough spirit energy.
Most of the game involves fighting hordes of enemies, trying to herd them together to get the best effect out of each character’s area attacks. Occasionally, stronger enemies and bosses will show up, and they require a fair amount of thumping before they die. Hidden around the stages are scrolls containing skill points, which can be spent between levels to power up characters by increasing their strength and health, increasing their available spirit energy, and teaching them new passive abilities and signature moves.
While the game is fun and does a good job of making the player feel powerful, it’s very basic and I can see most players finding it highly repetitive after a couple of hours. But if you enjoy the Dynasty Warriors series, or are a huge fan of the manga/anime franchise, it might be worth a look.