Last Battle [Shin Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu Hokuto no Ken​] (07/01/1989)

Has there ever been a genuinely good Fist of the North Star game? I don’t ask this as to be a jerk or for a quick joke about how old games are awful, but short of the loving homage to the long running series that is God Hand, the hyper-violent post-apocalyptic adventures of Kenshiro really never seem to have gotten their due in video game form. The closest example I can think of is the Playstation adventure, but I played that during the unfortunate phase in my formative years where anything hidden behind a thick veil of katakana was obviously a forgotten treasure too perfect for our round eyes.

As you might imagine, this is a polite way of pointing out that Last Battle is not very good. A Fist of the North Star game that came to the US without it’s license or gore intact (and a missed opportunity to shoehorn in the allegorical novel of the same name by C.S. Lewis) , Last Battle manages to be slightly better than previous efforts to bring the series to the living rooms of exploding body part enthusiasts the world over.  Of course, the American version drops this sole selling point, leaving the average ravager mook to just spindle off past the draw point when punched in the jaw. Instead, the American audience receives roughly a novella worth of incoherent ur-localization that more often than not flies past at a pace that would lose the most stringent speed reader. In a way, I think we came out ahead.

Because this is the late eighties, there are rudimentary RPG elements. Ken (seen here as AARZAK, the name an incurious Ellis Island official gave him after his stateside arrival) refills a tiny bit of life refilled with each human being he reduces to a crimson mist, along with another few pixels being added to the power bar, which meters just how close AARZAK is to becoming too muscular to wear a shirt at any given moment. With the tyranny of clothing since tossed aside, AARZAK’s punches and kicks become far more powerful, which presumably is the key to defeating any of the boss fights that dot the semi-linear map.

The map alone deserves special consideration. As arcade games started to outclass their home counterparts in terms of graphics and sound, there was something of a trend to shoehorn in RPG elements into games that traditionally didn’t involve number or story manipulation as a sort of value-add for the home audience. Most of the time, it ended up being fairly innocuous, such as the power meter and map system in Last Battle. The game is split up into dozens of vignettes that each play on a different aspect of the beat’em-up genre.  There are short levels that exist largely to let you refill health and have astoundingly Kafkaesque circular non-conversations with the supporting cast. Tedious maze levels filled with traps that may or may not actually be possible to avoid, and impossible boss encounters. In theory, one can get to the end any way they please, but the grim reality is that only one real path exists through the game, and it frankly requires much more memorization than I am willing to give the game.

The music alone bares special mention, as it’s one of the few soundtracks that really does something different with the sound processor, scoring the entire game with a weird sort of acid-jazz that you never knew your post-apocalyptic wandering needed. In fact, it will play fairly heavily into the upcoming PSG Year One mix that I plan on uploading once we reach a year of Genesis games.  Beyond that, there is unfortunately no real reason to play Last Battle, beyond possibly the gore of the Japanese version. And I’ll go ahead and let Youtube play me off for that.

(as always, please check out friend of PSG Andrew Weiss’ post on the same game.)


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5 Responses to Last Battle [Shin Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu Hokuto no Ken​] (07/01/1989)

  1. Dr. Sparkle says:

    Since when does getting your hair cut like the dude from Fall Out Boy, and then dying it purple, give you “the look of a hero?”

  2. Jonny2x4 says:

    “Has there ever been a genuinely good Fist of the North Star game?”

    Black Belt for the Master System (or the original Hokuto no Ken for the Mark III) was pretty good. It helps that it was programmed by none other than Yuji Naka. I don’t think the guy was ever involved in a bad game and when he left Sonic Team, the Sonic the Hedgehog series definitely took a sharp decline in quality.

    I agree that Last Batle is not a great game, but I think it has a reputation far worse than it deserves in my opinion, although I do find it hilarious how the opening intro basically spoils the entire game and yet it still doesn’t make sense unless you’re familiar with the source material.

    I think the Toei games that were released on the Family Computer and Super Famicom had a more varying quality to them in general. Hokuto no Ken 4 on the FC and Hokuto no Ken 5 for the SFC had pretty bad original storylines (almost fanfic quality even), but they were still playable. The only Hokuto games I could truly could call bad are the original Hokuto no Ken for the Famicom, the Game Boy one, the Hokuto no Ken 7 for the SFC and that one “adventure game” by Banpresto that came out during the early days of the Sega Saturn and PlayStation.

  3. Sean697 says:

    This was one of my first Genesis games. At the time the only real expose fist of the north star had in America was the Streamline release of the motion picture. That dub alone really didn’t give a good version of the story. But if you had seen that (Which me and my friends had mainly for the over the top violence.) you could immediately connect the dots that this was a FOTNS game. Especially when you took out bosses with the insane fast punches or kicks and then the final WAHTAH!!!! and ensuing boss explosion. But the characters in this game made no sense if you watched the movie. I mean yea the kid and girl were Bart and Lynn. And at least one of the early bosses was Shin from the movie. You kind of thought that the last boss was Raoh. But you had no idea who all these other crazy fuc*#%$($(ers were. It was like when in the movie was there a crazy peg leg pirate on a boat or a prison. Of course then I discovered this website http://www.heartofmadness.net/ that had fansubbed all of the original Hokuto no Ken episodes which really was the first time you could watch the original story in America (One of the amercican companies realeased the first 30 or so episodes dubbed before stopping.) So 15 years later I finally figured out who all the crazy ass characters in this game where. The crazy pirate, why thats the guy who sails you to Shuren and who you help to rescue his son before he dies. The last boss in the game I am pretty sure now is not Raoh but Kaioh his older brother. Anyway this game would have been alot more popular had the kept it FOTNS and had a release of the original TV series here. As for the difficulty the only problem I ever had was the dungeons but they could be memorized. And eventually through countless playthroughs you would discover the best path to maximize your stats. I thought this game was at least average. The fighting was a little simplistic and the move set limited but the story was kind of interesting. And who can’t like a game where when your main characther powers up he literaly shreds off his leather jacket by flexing his muscles.

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