A little over thrity years ago, The Fist of the North Star began, chronicling the adventures (if you can reeeeeally call them that) of Kenshiro, practitioner of the deadly martial art skill of Hokuto Shin Ken. Set after the apocalypse where the rich get richer and all the villains have muscles the size of most people, it is most notable for its over-the-top violence and the line: “you are already dead.” We’re talking heads exploding, bodies being sliced into chunks, and more besides. And if you’re going to play a game based off the Fist of the North Star series, you’re expecting to see blood, violence, ridiculous dialogue, the lot.
Last Battle offers only one of those and basically it’s only due to poor translation.
Like REALLY poor translation.
Now, let’s be clear here. This is NOT strictly speaking a Fist of the North Star game… and yet by the same token it is. Last Battle is a censored version of the Japanese game Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu Hokuto no Ken. But let’s be clear here: neither game is particular good. In fact, they’re both fucking awful.
Let’s get something sorted though: I do like the Fist of the North Star and seeing as it came out around the time I was born, by the time I started reading it and watching it, it was pretty much at its climax and the whole story was there to read and watch. And it’s DREADFUL in so many ways but it’s so iconic, that you cannot fail to like SOMETHING about the series. For some, it might be the over the top violence where Ken’s opponents just burst from random places on their bodies, or the garbled, trashy, repetitive story that focuses on Ken’s love for Julia who’s stolen away by Shin because he loves her too and he has enough manpower behind him to basically steal her, leave him for dead and then spend the next ten years or whatever waiting for Julia to actually love him back.
SPOILERS: she never does because he’s such a MASSIVE twat.
But this doesn’t tell that part of the story; the part of the story that most people know. It tells the next arc which tales place some fifteen years later when the two children from the original story arc have grown up and become freedom fighters in their own right. Ken barely looks any older but suddenly there are greater adversaries to face than his own brothers.
Only NONE of this is ACTUALLY happening because it’s NOT FotNS, it is a totally different story and you can’t tell anyone otherwise because that would be copyright infringement or something.
Look, it’s FotNS in all but name. There are several reasons as to why it SHOULDN’T be though.
First of all, if you’re expecting ridiculous over the top violence then you’re going to be sorely disappointed with this laughable attempt. In the original version of the game, characters were one hit kills and their heads exploded upon contact before the rest of them did. In this version, we are treated to the REALLY obvious alternative: flying off the screen.
Characters fly off the screen as if you just punted a football and we’re expected to accept this? It’s still one-hit kills, which is bad enough as it is, but jeez, the last time I punched somebody (WHICH HAS NEVER HAPPENED, YOU UNDERSTAND), they didn’t fly off into the distance like Team Rocket blasting off again. Knowing the references to the series it’s MEANT to be based off is slowly going to be take its toll on the player. All you want is for the cartoon violence to just start and instead, we sorta don’t get it…
Well… we do a couple of times but to be honest, it’s been so poorly done that it’s quite sad to watch. Bosses have to be killed using a punch that sets up the usual Kenshiro 100 Crack Fist of the North Star move – the iconic one that blows people’s heads up – and if it works, you’re treating to your opponent breaking out in boils all over their body and a few piss-poor explosions of green goo. This is the ATTEMPT at being FotNS but also NOT FotNS.
AND IT’S SO BAD.
LOOK AT HOW SILLY IT LOOKS. He just looks like he’s been stung by a bee. Several bees. And when he ‘explodes’, it ends up being a like balloons of yellow goop splattering. It doesn’t look good at all. Cheap is a better term for it, like this WHOLE game.
I could spend a heck of a lot of time sitting here writing about how much this game OUGHT to be the Fist of The North Star (which I’ve already done for the last nine paragraphs or so) but that’s not going to explain to you just how DREADFUL this piece of garbage genuinely is. Now, bear in mind that this was a launch title for the system. As a game trying to show off the capabilities of the Mega Drive, it is incredibly lacklustre. Graphically, it’s lame and short on many count. The animation is dire, the sprites are ugly and the backgrounds are painfully dull. I know the whole game is meant to be post-apocalyptic and whatnot but on a serious note, every backdrop uses the same ideas: walls. BORING-AS-FUCK WALLS. EVERYTHING IS WALLS. OR PILLARS. OR BROKEN WALLS. OR BROKEN PILLARS. AND IT’S MOSTLY BEIGE. OR GREY.
GREY WALLS. LIKE PRISON. PLAYING THIS GAME IS LIKE PRISON.
Personally, I’d rather not be in prison at any point in my life so I will happily play this game INSTEAD of going to prison, seeing as it is the lesser of two evils. Even though I’m killing people in game. Not that it matters. They’re already dead.
REFERENCE FOR THE WIN.
Last Battle itself is also full of ghastly, nonsensical translations. See, in the above screenshot, Max speaks first, followed by Aarzak. But… where is the connection between what one character says and the other? There isn’t. It doesn’t correlate. It doesn’t have any bearing on that in the slightest. It’s quite sad really.
“I WANTED YOU TO MEET ALYSSA!”
“NOW YOU HAVE THE LOOK OF A HERO!”
“Excuse me…? I… er… only want you to meet Alyssa…”
“Er… no… Alyssa’s a woman…”
“DO YOU KINDLY GIVE THE PALM TO THIS OLD CROCK?”
“Fuck it, I’m out of here…”
As such… the game doesn’t make the MOST amount of sense. I mean, there’s a lot of text at the beginning of the game that scrolls up without any music and actually goes way too fast for anyone to properly read anyway… but it’s very much a paraphrased version of the FotNS arc the game is focused on. It’s not UTTERLY faithful but the basic idea is there. But even with THAT in place, it’s difficult to really know what’s going on or what to do even DO.
Occasionally, as you traverse the map (there’s a map system in place here and it’s absolute shite), you end up in one these dungeons filled with traps and the idea is to find your way out of it without any real idea as to where you’re going, what you’re doing or WHY YOU’RE EVEN THERE. Things pop up out of nowhere to hit you: rocks… smaller rocks… fire… different kinds of fire… spears… arrows… axes that travel slowly in one direction and then suddenly fling themselves back at a different height so you can’t avoid it properly…
NOT THAT THE REST OF THE GAME ISN’T, YOU UNDERSTAND.
However, peppering the game with these random dungeons that you have to crawl through… when there are no enemies… feels pointless. There actually is no point to them other than to get through to the other side. You don’t have to redo them, thankfully, as you traverse the map at all. Once they’re done, you’re done with them. But… wow. There’s no ACTUAL reason to do then. You HAVE to. Now, I don’t want to start throwing FotNS into the mix again but that show never had dungeon crawler parts to it and particularly UNMANNED ones. If Ken went anywhere, he’d be followed and ambushed and then kill the lot of them for basically being alive. It’s padding. There is only one instance where you NEED to go to the dungeon and that’s to find a seal that you have to find to fight the final boss. THAT is the bare minimum. There is still no other point to them.
On other stages, when you fight against characters or find allies, they often give you boosts to your abilities. Defense and Power goes up and your life bar increases in size. However, as this is mostly random and you have no idea how much of a difference it’s making to your skills (seeing as you one-hit kill everyone anyway, save for the bosses), it feels incredibly redundant as a mechanic. It’s like telling us your car in a racing game got a fifth wheel. Or a platform game where your character can double jump but there’s no reason to have it when every platform can be got to by single jumping. It’s tacked on and pointless and only necessary for the boss fights, each of which can be won with the jump kick move (which takes off about a quarter of their health each time).
Apparently this game was criticised for being really hard at the time. I can see why but those bosses, man. I killed them all first go. They’re silly easy. The main stages and the dungeon crawling bits… they’re hard, particularly when you have so many enemies on screen running from both directions.
Oh look… Ken’s got all powerful and whatnot. Now his shirt shall fly off like in the real TV show that this game isn’t about. It changes your move set from single punch and kick to triple punch and triple kick. AGAIN. WHAT IS THE POINT WHEN EVERY CHARACTER ON THESE STAGES IS A ONE-HIT KILL? Only for the bosses. Right. I got you. STILL WHY?
And why does every punch and kick get accompanied by the squelchiest, wet punching sound effect? It sounds like someone shoved their thumb into a pot of that keyboard cleaning goo and the pot makes the fart noise. THAT’S WHAT A PUNCH SOUNDS LIKE.
Even the weird ‘death’ sound effect for the bosses that blow up are just a crap. They sound as though someone is wobbling a piece of card and then jabbing it with a pencil when he blows up. There’s just so much to this game that feels really poor that it’s a wonder they even let it get released.
Don’t get me wrong. It works as a game. There are minimal (MINIMAL) issues with the controls. Everything works alright in that area. Just. It’s passing grade only for that. But the rest of it?
Yes. Gross describes this game. Not just this character… but the whole game.
It feels like a giant waste of everyone’s time. There’s really… no point to it at all. It doesn’t feel as though you’re actually doing anything or getting anywhere with it. It doesn’t help that the translation and the resulting dialogue doesn’t really tell you anything or help you. It doesn’t help the game feels incessantly repetitive when all you is fight off enemies on the streets with a single button attack, then crawl through a dungeon avoiding everything that’s unfairly thrown at you, then repeat until you find the boss, and then do it all over again.
All of this accompanied by boring music, boring graphics, boring presentation and a story that COULD and SHOULD have actually been reasonable had it been allowed to follow the source material. OR HAD IT BEEN TRANSLATED PROPERLY.
This game are sick.
I went there.