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BlackKnight

[4/2/07] Hokuto no Ken

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[4/2/07] Hokuto no Ken

for PlayStation 2

 

hokutonoken-0.jpg

 

Game: Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)

System: PlayStation 2

Emulators: PCSX2

 

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Despite leveraging the skills of Arc System Works, creators of the Guilty Gear franchise, as well as the famous anime property Fist of the North Star, Hokuto no Ken is ultimately a failed experiment. It retains the high-resolution presentation of its creator’s previous effort, but disappoints in almost every other conceivable way. An unbalanced 2d fighter, its animation, interface design and basic combat mechanics suggest an obvious lack of effort invested in its production. The location tests it underwent have failed to reduce the marked difference between the high- and low-tier characters which brings is comparatively tiny roster into prominence. As a final nail in its coffin, Hokuto no Ken offers none of the additional extras that are characteristic of Guilty Gear PlayStation 2 ports, surrendering an easy opportunity to add variety to the otherwise banal offering.

 

hokutonoken-1.jpg

 

The aging genre of 2d-fighting games has typically drawn newcomers against benchmarks like Street Fighter II but Hokuto no Ken inevitably has more in common with Guilty Gear, hinted at by my numerous mentions of the series. The reason is that this essentially the sophomore 2d effort from Arc, the team responsible that has made a name for itself through the eclectic and visually stunning later game. However, no matter what you compare HnK to, it comes out wanting. Against SF2, HnK finds itself with looser gameplay and a smaller roster despite having almost 15 years on the legendary title. When placed beside GG, it is slower, clunkier, and seemingly lacking the technical intricacy of that game. One of the most notable problems with this game is that one-hit-knockout moves, usually marked by extremely long and obvious execution, are now able to be combo-ed into. At length, the issuess with this title are legion. For the mass market, the minuscule number of characters will be a turn-off, and to the hardcore crowd, the fact that balance is nonexistent amongst the game’s already small cast will add insult to injury. However these are just two things that will annoy you about the fighting. Another is that lithe-looking characters are oddly slow, as compared to the behemoth, Raoh, who can end up running at cheetah-speed. Admittedly, I have not seen the anime on which this is based (there may be a canon justification for this), but it definitely stands out. Hit-boxes are also noticeably out of whack- I have never played another fighter (or any game for that matter) where jumping kicks so clearly go straight through a standing, non-guarding opponent. Still, the gameplay side of things is just one way in which HnK fails to deliver.

 

hokutonoken-2.jpg

 

Hokuto no Ken’s main draw against other, better established 2d pedigrees is the high-resolution engine that has been quite literally copied and pasted from Guilty Gear. Unfortunately, the animation and presentation overall is of a lesser calibre than its cousin. Sprites, while of a similar resolution, animate extremely poorly. This is about as smooth compared to Guilty Gear as Guilty Gear is compared to Street Fighter III. Gauges seem to be directly copied over, but the menus and pre-match fireworks are honestly laughable to witness. While it may be harsh to say so, the VS. screens just make you think the new intern at Arc was a little too trigger happy with the motion tween in flash, despite only knowing how to make things slide side-to-side. Similarly the introductory movie (with its absurd theme ‘You ha Shock’ [?]) is plain ugly. The decent enough anime art is ruined by the obscene use of pseudo-3d scaling and other effects that the resulting pixilation is not only obvious, but unacceptable. Another questionable aesthetic choice is the overuse of on-screen text during the fight. Slayer’s instant-kill move, and maybe a handful of others in memory have used the technique, but here it is overkill. The developers apparently wanted to shove writing on to interrupt the fight as much as they could – someone should have reminded them they are directly adapting the anime, not the manga. On the bright side, the music is palatable fare and the stage backgrounds are, if not plentiful, varied and interesting enough. Sadly, they are probably the best part of the game.

 

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On top of the mentioned streamlining of the core fighting mechanics, and of the animation, more corners have been cut in the extras department. Hokuto no Ken features a rather stark presentation, consisting of the obligatory Arcade, Team Battle and Training modes, and lacks unlockable galleries, characters or anything such. Those who have come to expect Gold, Shadow or even SP-coloured characters from Arc will not only be disappointed but also bewildered at their omission. They are but some of many curious oversights – there is not even an option to switch to monaural sound output in the menu options! The tacked-on History mode, which does not rightfully deserve to be a mode on its own, is inadequate compensation. In all it is indicative of the developers unwillingness to invest anymore in this title, which offers grim speculation as to what they thought of it themselves.

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There is not a great deal that can be said in Hokuto no Ken’s favour, or even about it as all. It offers nothing new or compelling to a genre that has really been beaten to death and even presents less than its forefathers and[/i] its contemporaries manage to. For some time now 2d fighting releases have been built on a solid base of either nostalgia, an enormous offering of characters, a budget price or innovations and improvements. Hokuto no Ken however has none of these things going for it, and its ill-concealed imbalance will likely doom its competitive longevity at arcades as well. Those looking for an improved package for the PlayStation 2 will have to look elsewhere as it misses all the chances to either rectify its problems or compensate for them with some amount of bonus content. Considering its prestigious anime heritage, a version of the original Fist of the North Star feature on the disc might have made the package more appealing at least to fans of the series and surely would not have been that difficult to secure. As it stands, the property on which it is based will likely be little incentive for fans to pick up the game, and the numerous shortcomings of the game itself will most definitely deter almost everyone else.

 

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Controls: 7/10

Gameplay: 5/10

Graphics: 7/10

Sound: 8/10

Extras: 1/10

 

Overall: 5/10

 

Grade: C-

Edited by DragonKeeper

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Hm. I wouldn't mind seeing an European release, no sir.

 

By the looks of it, it's running an the latest Guilty Gear engine. I can't say if this is really true though.

 

PS: You might want to change that Emulator: Chanka(st) thing.

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I actually just felt like writing a joke review (since its April and all) and since this game is shockingly bad. Pretty much everything I've said about it is untrue - it has stiff animation, few characters, incredible imbalance, and a profound lack of extras of any kind. I'll replace this with a real review tomorrow :/ But yeh it was very disappointing.

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=_=

 

Good point. I remember you bashing this game already in the past. It's not April yet over here, for what it's worth.

 

At least the graphics looks sort of OK, but my "question" about the engine still stands.

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[4/1/07]

Grade: S+++

Damn with a score like that how could this game lose?

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Damn, dragonkeeper lives in the future. Scary.

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=_=

 

Good point. I remember you bashing this game already in the past. It's not April yet over here, for what it's worth.

 

At least the graphics looks sort of OK, but my "question" about the engine still stands.

 

It probably does. This game spanks of a half-assed Guilty Gear really badly. The effects are the same style.. the text, the guages, the sprite style, screen res... everything down to the ridiculous jargon that flashes on the screen before a fight are reminiscent of GG.

 

In fact, I probably reckon that this was a quickly slapped-together project- I bet they thought they could capitalise on the anime property and on having one of the only other hi-res 2d fighters around- all while investing relatively little effort otherwise. It is just basically just stuff crammed into the GG engine, which has been stripped down in every way imaginable.

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I actually just felt like writing a joke review (since its April and all) and since this game is shockingly bad. Pretty much everything I've said about it is untrue - it has stiff animation, few characters, incredible imbalance, and a profound lack of extras of any kind. I'll replace this with a real review tomorrow :/ But yeh it was very disappointing.

Well one this is the only reason the game is badass - "The Time of Retribution, Decide the Destiny"

 

Seriously, it's awesome. But beyond that, the game suffers from GG's nice characters but mainly bad animations and retarded brokeness that reeks from this game. Music is pretty good to say the least. Even with the loke test, the game still ended up broken as hell.

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Ok- finall got my real review up. The joke one is now archived here;

 

[4/1/07] Hokuto no Ken

for PS2

 

hokutonokena-0.jpg

 

Game: HnK

System: PS2

Emulators: Chanka

 

 

If there was one thing I could say with the utmost certainty, even considering all my years of gaming, it is that you must buy Hokuto no Ken, the new Fist of the North Star game from our friends at Arc System Works. They might be better known for the decidedly fruity Guilty Gear series but this game blows their previous efforts out of the water. The animation is a hundred times better in this game and the fighting is like a million times better. When I first played this I thought that $ony are fools for not making this a launch title for their PlayStation 3 – its launch line-up is paltry compared to this game and I reckon this would have made them ship at least 2 times as many PS3 units. I recommend you buy this game even if you have already played the arcade version, as it is much improved and if you have some extra cash buy more than one copy. PM me for a referrer code for Play-Asia.com – they are having 20% off everything right now too!! So yes this game is very good and you should buy it.

 

hokutonokena-1.jpg

 

10 characters is not a lot by fighting game standards but this is where Hokuto no Ken aims to trick the unwary gamer. Like Tekken it has just as many unlockable characters! But unlike that lesser game these are not moveset swapped models – they are all the classic designs from the Fist of the North star anime which is also really good. As I said before, they animate really well. A major shortfall of Arc System’s Guilty Gear as compared to 3rd Strike[/] and Street Fighter III is that it was lacking with the keyframes. But HnK delivers much improvement in this department with Disney-quality motion and still at a very high resolution. The arcade unit outputs the full HD 1080p signal so that is another reason why this would have been good on the PS3 ‘cause it would also have been able to output this signal and make the game do the proper good animation tricks at the higher resolution but still it is nice to play the game at a high resolution anyway. Also if you thought ‘Heaven or Hell, Round 2, Let’s Rock’ was the coolest thing ever then brace yourself – now it is ‘The Time of Retribution, Decide the Destiny’. Awesome. Makes me want to just kick some anime butt. The intro movie is so good quality as well – I thought it was straight out of the anime. Obviously Arc has spent heaps of money on the cutscenes like Square-Enix but unlike in Final Fantasy XII have not neglected the gameplay because of this huge investment. But still it was so good that I don’t even like anime but this game would make me watch Fist of the North star because if it is anything like this game then the design is top notch. It is also evident in the game that the series has an unprecedentedly successful use of non-linear narrative in it, which makes things very interesting.

 

hokutonokena-2.jpg

 

Before the fights and during selecting stuff the visual design is top-notch stuff. There is no audacious use of effects or improper English anywhere. The character select method easily lets you see how many characters there are and is very flashy. Using voice-overs for the menus was also a smart move. All varied are the backgrounds and there must be at least 50 of them with matching music. Lots of effort obviously

 

hokutonokena-3.jpg

 

The fighting is just awesome – it has all the GG features plus more, resulting in super-tight gameplay. Burst and God Attacks are really cool, but what are really cool are the instant kill moves which you can now use as part of a combo unlike GG, which means you can totally get sucker punched after working the whole match for a bad beatdown. It really lets you stick it to people. However you can now use the new technique called ‘Nihonjin Cancel’ to take no damage from these attacks and reverse things. There aren't audacious bazillion-hit combos in this either. Also the special moves are very useful since they come from an anime so naturally are well suited to a tight 2d fighting game. They are not ridiculous like the ones in other games. The only thing I don’t like about the game is the last boss who I think is very stupid but you can see in the screenshots what the last boss is all about. But the other cast is really balanced. I played this for ages yesterday afternoon and couldn’t find any broken stuff or really high tier characters. Everyone can be used equally in this game.

 

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What really makes it worth your money are the hidden fighters and all the secret modes. Obviously fighters these days need to fill up the space like they should when they are for powerful systems like the Xbox or PS2. Hokuto no Ken is really tricked out with the special unlockables, such as Story Mode and Conquest Mode. Unlike Tekken 5 it doesn’t only have a few modes like Training so it is really good value. You can also unlock a WideScreen presentation for when you want to use the 4-character mode withyour Multitap. Or watch the DVD-quality extras and interviews that are on the disc.

 

hokutonokena-5.jpg

 

Seriously this game is so good, it is easily the best fighter out there whether you like 2- or 3-d doesn’t matter. It might even be one of the best games ever made, except for Dead Ball Zone which has this beat pre-flop. It is foolish to not release this on next-gen consoles. It is a squandering of profits. Luckily for them gaijins this is seeing an overseas release simultaneously unlike other niche fighting games like King of Fighters so that you can get it at your HMV or Harvey Norman or Big W or you can import for the nice imported smell. But the fact that it is being released overseas shows how good this game is. You should definitely buy it or you will miss out on one of the best combat experiences in your lifetime. Very good use of external IP which looks better than Dead or Alive 3.

 

Controls: 10/10

Gameplay: 11/10

Graphics: 1080/10

Sound: 7.1/10

 

Overall: 2.0*10^98/10

 

Grade: S+++

 

So cool that I couldn’t stop playing it to write my review.

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You almost got me with the joke review :thumbsup1:

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