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Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol.11: Fist of the North Star
  opened by paleface at 00:59:21 07/11/04  
  last modified by paleface at 12:25:50 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Beat_em_up; reg=JPN]
Reference added: 582
  "Fist of the North Star and Vigilante: walk l/r, punch dudes, repeat."
We don't get many quality 2D-style beat-em-ups these days, and generally when we do they're a remake of an old game. Such is the case with the Sega Ages "Hokuto no Ken," or "Fist of the North Star," remake, but that's okay because it's very well done.
The disc comes with the original Sega Mark III series Hokuto no Ken game, which of course is pretty similar to the new one only with a lot less detail. Well, and less to do. You have punch and kick and jump, though why you would use punch I don't know, since kick has better range, and the jump kick would be useful except that the jumping has an erratic, high trajectory, so you have to be pretty close to someone and but often end up sailing clean over them because your jump for some reason went 30 feet up. It has some nice parallax scrolling in the background, and the music is decent. The action, of course, is very repetitive, Vigilante-style (see entry 582), with worse graphics. The bosses are somewhat colorful, if tough. The big plus of the game comes when you kill someone right, because they burst apart into chunks that fly backward across the screen. It's the little things, you see.
So much for the old one. The new one takes away kick, makes jump kicking a lot smoother, gives you two punches, rapid and strong (tap rapid rapidly for a chain punch maneuver), plus a roundhouse kick (both punch buttons at once) that hits everyone around you (wicked!) and throws in a power attack system managed by a recharging energy meter and a attack power meter that builds up as you beat on people. It's a little complicated, and I'm still somewhat confused by it, but R1-L1 cycle through various permutations of the power modes, square activates or deactivates a general charged-up mode, and triangle can fire off a special move like a fireball or zooming across the screen leaving blue after-images behind.
Nifty graphical effects accompany these tricks, and indeed the game as a whole looks pretty sharp, with deep and colorful backgrounds, tall gangly characters in tight pants, and subtle glow, blur, and cel-shading effects throughout. These come to a spectacular head in boss fights where both combatants rip off power moves while charged up with different color energy fields, often culminating in a button-mashing contest with raw power geysers crashing and rippling around them. Sharp sound effects and wailing techno rock "I'm a bad-ass" type music accentuates the action.
Still, while tarted up quite nicely, it plays on the old Vigilante scheme: punch standing or punch crouching, most bad-guys die on a single hit, and they just keep coming from left and right for an arbitrary period, then you walk onward and do it again, with sometimes a boss fight. You pound buttons a lot. This could put people off, but after sticking with it a while I found that there is a method to the madness, and you need to pound the buttons in certain ways in certain situations to maximize your survival time. A deep game it ain't, but it's got speed, looks, and plenty of action to please the shallow parts of your brain for a while. I, of course, think it rules.
It's worth noting that unlike certain other Sega Ages 2500 Series releases, namely Space Harrier (entry 351) and After Burner II (entry 623), Fist of the North Star supports arcade sticks. Yay!
· Vigilante (PCE)

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