Fist of the North Star (known in Japan as Hokuto no Ken) is a 2D fighting game developed by Arc System Works and released by Sega for arcades (running Dreamcast-based Atomiswave hardware) in Japan on December 7, 2005. It also received a limited North American release on December 19, 2005.
Developed by the team behind the Guilty Gear fighting game series, Fist of the North Star is the fourth fighting game adaptation of the manga and anime series of the same name and is set throughout the manga's original series (up to the final battle between Kenshiro and Raoh). It uses a similar high-quality hand-drawn art style to the Guilty Gear series, strongly resembling the original anime adaptation, and includes variations of several complex gameplay mechanics from the Guilty Gear series (including dash-cancels and instant-kills).
It was later ported to the PlayStation 2 and released exclusively in Japan as Hokuto no Ken: Shinpan no Sousousei - Kengou Retsuden (loosely translated to "Fist of the North Star: The Twin Blue Stars of Judgment - History of the Fist Masters") on March 29, 2007. Copies of the game includes a bonus DVD with numerous videos extras (including a demonstration of character moves and combos, a history of the franchise's games, "director's cut" clips of the anime OVAs, and music videos of the game's ending song).
The game uses a five-button layout, four of which are used for attacking (Punch, Heavy Punch, Kick, and Heavy Kick) and one of which is a utility button (Boost).
- Dash Forward: → →
- Hop Back: ← ←
- Double Jump: ↑ ↑ (Can also do a two stage jump by jumping forward or back)
- Super Jump: ↓ ↑
- Quick Recovery: ↑ (Once on the ground)
Each character has three unique attacks that are done simply by pushing two attack buttons simultaneously: a launcher known as Grave Shoot (P+HK), an unblockable stunning attack known as Heavy Strike (P+K), and a special knockback attack known as Banishing Strike (HP+HK). These attacks can remove steps from the opponent's Big Dipper Gauge. The Banishing Strike is unique as it causes the victim to fly towards the opposing edge of the screen for a wall-bounce, which can be followed up by an enhanced forward dash (by pressing forward on the joystick) for additional attacks.
Most characters have two types of throws: a normal throw (using HP) and a grabbing throw (using K+HK). Both of which require the joystick either forwards or backwards, affecting the direction thrown. While the latter one uses a start-up animation (which also occurs on a miss, leaving the character vulnerable) and cannot be used on crouching opponents (with the exception of Mr. Heart's throw), it has a longer range and remove a step from the opponent's Big Dipper Gauge.
Players can also taunt their opponent using the Player Start button (changed to a dedicated button in the PS2 version) while on neutral and on the ground. This animation can be cancelled for mix-ups, but performing a taunt increases both of the opponent's Aura and Boost Gauges by one level/bar.
Aura and Boost Gauges
The game's super meter is known as the Aura Gauge, which has two levels stacked on top of each other: the first blue one and the second gold one. The Aura Gauge is accumulated mostly by landing attacks and blocking attacks, but can be gained by getting hit, and is used to perform the following techniques:
- The Aura Guard, which consumes a portion of the Gauge to perform an enhanced block (by holding the Boost button while blocking). Similar to the "Faultless Defense" technique in the Guilty Gear series, this type of guard negates chip damage while causing the opponent to be pushed back farther.
- The Guard Cancel, which consumes one full level of the Gauge to perform an invincible counter-attack while blocking (by pressing forward and both HP and HK buttons). Similar to the "Dead Angle Attack" technique in the Guilty Gear series, this type of attack knocks opponents away.
- The Yoroke Cancel, which consumes a half-level of the Gauge to animation-cancel the stagger state received by getting hit by Heavy Strikes (by pressing any button during the state).
- Character-specific Super Special Moves known as God Fist Blows. Some of these techniques take up one full level of the Gauge, with some taking up both levels. Along with high damage dealt, thest techniques can also remove steps from the opponent's Big Dipper Gauge.
In addition, the game includes a second meter known as the Boost Gauge, which have three bars adjacent to each other. Accumulated in the same manner, the Boost Gauge is used with the game's dedicated Boost button to perform an enhanced forward dash. Players can also animation-cancel the recovery of a normal attack or Special Move to the same dash using the Boost button.
Players can only use a Boost if they have one full bar of their Gauge filled. Each use of a Boost takes up a portion (20% normally, 50% when cancelling) of the right-most bar that's filling up, bleeding down into the next bar if necessary, and causes the partial bar to slowly empty (requiring players to optimize their usage of the Gauge).
Unlike the Tension Gauge in Guilty Gear, both Gauges have no penalities for playing over-defensively and are retained between rounds.
Big Dipper Gauge and Deadly Fist Blow
Unique to this game is the Big Dipper Gauge, which is located below the Health Gauge and resembles the shape of the Big Dipper constellation. It serves as the last bastion of defense against a certain type of Special Move that automatically wins the round (as a "Fatal KO") regardless of vitality known as the "Deadly Fist Blow".
Both players start the match with a full Gauge of seven steps and lose each step from being hit by certain attacks (including God Fist Blows, Heavy and Banishing Strikes, Grave Shoot follow-ups, and grabbing throws). Once the Gauge depletes, a Death Omen Star appears under the Gauge, which allows the opposing player to attempt a Deadly Fist Blow.
The Deadly Fist Blow, performed with a universal command (↓↘→ + HP+HK), is different from Instant Kills in the Guilty Gear series in that, for most characters, players can combo into the technique (even when the combo starts with the Gauge not empty). If the technique misses, the player's Aura and Boost Gauges deplete and the opposing player recovers one step of their Big Dipper Gauge. If the technique hits, the opposing player loses the round (and recovers all of the Big Dipper Gauge on the next round). Between rounds, both players also recover one step of their Big Dipper Gauges.
In addition, the character Shin has a unique God Fist Blow called "Omae no Ken Hou de wa Shinan!", which is a lengthy animation that, if successful, causes himself to lose as a Fatal KO. While it uses a level of the Aura Gauge, it allows him to start the next round with a recovered Big Dipper Gauge.
Some character match-ups cause characters to have a Guard Gauge below their Health Gauge, which decreases by constantly blocking attacks and recovers over time. If the Gauge is depleted, as Guard Crush occurs and the character is temporarily stunned.
- Shin and Mr. Heart will only have a Guard Gauge when fighting each-other or on mirror matches.
- Thouther and Mamiya will always have a Guard Gauge.
- All other characters will only have a Guard Gauge if they are fighting Shin or Mr. Heart.
- Kenshiro - The chosen successor of the ancient martial art known as "Hokuto Shinken" and the youngest of the four adopted sons trained by the style's predecessor.
- Raoh - The eldest brother-in-law of Kenshiro, who uses the destructive style of Hokuto Shinken to dominate the wastelands as the tyrannical warlord "Ken-oh". He has a more powerful boss version, as Kenoh, as the game's final boss and hidden playable character.
- Toki - The second oldest brother-in-law of Kenshiro, and a terminally ill pacifist who seeks to use the Hokuto Shinken as a healing art.
- Jagi - The third oldest brother-in-law of Kenshiro, who uses deception and cheating to win at battle (sometimes using his sawed-off shotgun) and seeks to tarnish Kenshiro's reputation.
- Shin - One of the six masters of the rival martial art "Nanto Seiken" and the successor of the "Nanto Koshuuken" ("Lone Eagle") style, who leads a territorial gang and takes his former friend Kenshiro's fiancée Yuria by force.
- Rei - One of the six Nanto Seiken masters and the successor of the "Nanto Suichouken" ("Water Fowl") style, who aids Kenshiro in defending Mamiya's village. Unlike other characters, Rei can perform a triple jump and can throw in mid-air.
- Juda - One of the six Nanto Seiken masters and the successor of the "Nanto Koukakuken" ("Crimson Crane") style, who resents Rei due to jealousy of the beauty of his fighting style. Most of his Special Moves involve his two minions, Dagar and Komaku, who each have their own recoverable assist gauges.
- Thouter - The leader of the six Nanto Seiken masters, who uses the ultimate "Nanto Hououken" ("Phoenix") style to declare himself the Holy Emperor of the wastelands.
- Mr. Heart - One of four lieutenants of Shin's gang, Mr. Heart is a large and imposing grappler who can deflect martial arts with his stomach. Unlike all other characters, he has slow movement, minimal dashing capabilities, and no Boost abilities (with the Boost Gauge itself absent). He also cannot combo into his Deadly Fist Blow.
- Mamiya - The warrior leader of her village, who recruits both Kenshiro and Rei to help defend the village before accompanying them. She has limited skills in martial arts, instead using a variety of weapons including a crossbow, dual bladed yo-yos (which can also be used as a bola), and emeici. Separate gauges are used for both crossbow shots and emeici attacks, both of which require reloading using special commands. Unlike all other characters, she cannot perform throws.
In the Playstation 2 version of the game, there were extra modes added to the game:
- VS 2P
- VS CPU
- Battle Gallery
A DVD was also released in conjunction with the release of the PS2 game. It contained the following:
- Starter Guide which demonstrated each character's moves and combos that can be performed.
- History of the past Hokuto No Ken games that were released for the consoles.
- Instrumental version of the ending song for the game by Ayumi Nakamura as well as the full version of the song with clips from the game.
- A parody show which showed Japanese celebrities who were fans of the series to compete in a variety of challenges.
- Director's Cut of some chapters from the anime OVA to both of the Raoh Gaidens and Yuria Den