Review by Vegita
"Vegita cleans the hall closet and finds...a review!"
The game ''Last Battle'' for the Sega Genesis system certainly wasn't a roaring success. The game, originally titled ''Hokuto no Ken 2'' (Fist of the North Star 2), was based off of a series that never made a large impact on the U.S. The series and Manga were never received, so most anyone, if they DID know what Hokuto no Ken/Fist of the North Star was, would only know it by the ultra-violent movie. This movie, which made its way into the 'States in the 1980's, essentially shrunk the series down into its most fundamental parts - namely the characters' names and extreme violence.
Because of this movie, the most successful and widely-scene of the Hokuto no Ken productions, many people assume that the series has absolutely no plot or redeeming value aside from the vapid death and gore. However, this is a fallacy - while not a complete turn-around, the series DID have more to it than just the violence. However, I'm not telling you this so I can justify the series' poor acceptance in the U.S. - I'm giving you the ever-important background to the game!
How does this relate to the background of THIS game? It's simple - as you may have already guessed, this IS a Hokuto no Ken game. Due to the realization that this game would most likely NOT be received well under its original moniker, the game makers decided to change the name of the game, the characters, even the fighting styles. Therefore, the game ''Last Battle'' is really just a Hokuto no Ken game, under the guise of a different name.
Now, what of the game itself, rather than what it is SUPPOSED to be? That's where I come in and describe the game for what it is. First off, if you are only familiar with the Hokuto no Ken movie, you will not understand much of what is going on. The world is a post-apocalyptic nightmare, plagued by gangs whom ransack what's left of the landscape for anything they can take. The main character, Kenshiro - whom no longer named Kenshiro, but you already knew that - is a master of the ''Fist of the North Star'' martial art, while his brother, Jagi - again, not named Jagi in the game - is a master of the ''Fist of the South Star'' martial art. Your ultimate goal is to save the love of your life from your OTHER brother, Raoh, and his various armies. Along the way, you have to beat up sadistic gang members and leaders across various cities and landscapes.
Great, now that I've thoroughly wasted your time with everything BUT the game, let's talk about how the game itself works. You control Kenshiro as he moves horizontally across the screen. He has the ability to duck, jump, and walk around, plus kicking and punching in each position (standing, crouching, and jumping). Kenshiro is apparently a disciple of the ''Kung Fu'' character, since he has just as much movement as the former Nintendo star. Kenshiro's main obstacle through each stage is the near-infinite number of gang members who literally throw themselves at him. Ken, using his amazing Martial Arts prowess, can punch these characters right back off the screen. At the end of each area, Ken has the choice of heading to a new area of the map, where he will either end up fighting a boss-type character or meeting a friend (after beating up hoards of more idiots).
Anyone who is familiar with the Hokuto no Ken series already knows that Kenshiro's most noticeable trait is his ability to make people explode when he punches them (which is actually the culmination of his training in the North Star martial art). However, Ken cannot use this ability until he has successfully beaten up enough grunts to build up his ''power meter'' at the bottom of the screen. Upon doing so, he rips off his jacket and proceeds to walk around, devastating his opponents with a new set of attacks (that, of course, make them explode). Upon completion of certain stages, Ken learns more about the location of his beloved, as well as the occasional statistic increase (more health, more power, etc).
Finally, you have the Boss Battles. These amount to, simply, Kenshiro going up against another enemy in Street Fighter-esque fights. However, the controls do not change - you still control Ken in the same manner as before - the only difference is that you must go up against another opponent with a similar lifebar, and hope that you can outlast them. Certain bosses, whom are key figures in the series, can only be defeated by Kenshiro's rapid punches (after powering up) - so if you haven't powered up, or you use only kicks, you'll be quickly disposed of!
Now, that's how the game works, in a nutshell. So, how does it rate?
Graphically speaking, the game is your standard styling for the Sega Genesis, and does have its flaws. The first noticeable flaw is the lack of effort on certain points, one being the standard gang members. The majority of them are simply palette-swapped copies of previous versions (for those of you whom aren't familiar with the term ''palette-swapped'', that means the programmers simply took the same design and style of a character and changed the color palette around, giving the character a new ''appearance'' through different colors). Another point is when your character converses with other characters, a small window with your characters' face appears. The complaint about this point arises when you realize that this picture, in terms of detail and effort, could have easily been reproduced on an 8-bit system! For shame, programmers - you really didn't put in much effort, did you?
The sound (and music) for this game are, well, pretty darn lackluster. Granted, we KNOW the sound capabilities of the Genesis aren't/weren't nearly as good as those of other systems (such as the SNES, Turbographix 16, etc), but these are pretty darn ridiculous. The same sounds are used for a variety of effects, making the sounds alone feel redundant. The music, though rather lacking, at least had some semblance of style to them. One can't hold the inability of the Genesis' sound capabilities against the games made for it, but one can complain about the programmers not making the most of the stuff they're given - and, at least, the music reflects that much.
Ok, here's where the game hits its largest snag. First off, the game is a side-scrolling 2D Beat 'Em Up, meaning that you move from side to side (Horizontally) and beat up enemies coming at you. Unlike other Beat 'Em Ups, though, this game does not allow you the ability to move in a 3D environment, meaning you have a very limited number of things you can do to avoid or remove enemies. This is all fine and good, until you realize that the attacks your character is allotted are weak in terms of usage. Granted, they're all just as effective as any other, but the problem arises when you notice that Ken's moves don't have very good range or priority versus enemies! Because of this, you're relegated to using only certain moves (unless you LIKE putting yourself in a position where you can be hurt over and over). This problem grows even more when you reach the boss battles, where your lack of truly effective moves will most likely kill you. In all seriousness, even if you know exactly how your opponent will move, you can still easily be killed because they will simply out-prioritize your every move, preventing you from getting in close to attack.
Ok, so I've done quite a bit of rambling on what the game is, where it came from, and how it's really not that great a game. It could have been a lot better, if the game had added in more moves or abilities, but ultimately it falls flat by its own volition. The gameplay's desire to be unique yet accurate to the series/manga/movie is what caused the game to be too difficult to play. If the game makers had simply decided to remove the ''Kenshiro mush power up'' concept and allowed him to walk around, using the North Star attacks to their fullest, the game wouldn't have been so blasted difficult to handle. However, I can't very well go back in time and change the game to make it better, so I can do is speak of how the game came out - and this I have done. Thus, I would not recommend this game to you unless you're a definite collector of Hokuto no Ken games (or Genesis games in general). If you are neither, then you have no business picking up the game. Put it down, I say! NOW!
---Final Score: 3/10---
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 05/29/02, Updated 05/29/02
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