The Retro Critic

Fist Of The North Star

Seeing as I’m currently filling up my blog with anime-themed content, something which it was seriously lacking, I thought I’d take this opportunity to review a famously not-very-good NES game called Fist Of The North Star.

Based on the classic anime series, this game has received something of a reputation for being pretty bad.

Now I’ll tell you right now: it’s not THAT bad.

Before we take a look at the game, I wanted to address something about the title screen above. Did Toei Animation really need to splash their logo with colour? I mean, it totally clashes with the main title! That cowboy cat’s just greedy.

It always has to be all about him…

I mean, we all remember Toei Animation’s Gravity poster.


For shame.

The game is a basic side-scroller in which you play as Kenshiro and walk around punching and kicking bad guys, making their heads and their entire being explode into pixels.

Exploding Guy

Occasionally you bump into a boss and you know this because the music instantly switches to something that sounds like a cross between a really annoying ringtone and what a fire engine would sound like if it was 8-bit. If the aim was to hurt your ears into finishing the boss fight as quickly as possible, then mission accomplished.

From the get-go, it’s easy to see why people would dismiss this game as terrible.

The design on the characters is a bit weird, to say the least, and, because of that, it’s extremely hard not to picture this guy as Dog The Bounty Hunter:

Dog Bounty Hunter

It’s incredible, really. How did Toei Animation know back in the late 80’s that people all over the world would want to put this Dog down in a video game?

Dog Cat

I guess that explains it.

For the record: I was going to photoshop together a picture of CatDog with that logo but I got lazy.

Visually, this Fist Of The North Star game is pretty unimaginative and inconsistent. One second you’re dancing around in front of relatively detailed brick walls…

Jumping FOTNS

The next you’re in front of NOTHING.

Blue Level FOTNS

By the way, jumping is bizarre in this game.

You see the picture above, the brick wall one? Yeah, that’s what it looks like when you’re jumping. Although, when you’re fighting, you get the chance to do different kinds of fighting jumps. The problem is that there’s way too much freedom with the jumping: you can jump through structures, all the way to the very top of the screen.

Super High Jump

Now Kenshiro’s badass, granted, but he’s not Kirby!

The game also suffers from the occasional glitch which doesn’t distract too much from the gameplay but which tends to turn bosses into bricks:

Glitch Enemy

Not always a good thing.

Then there’s the goofy aspect of the game which, I think, makes it somewhat charming. The animation on the characters is rather stiff and the messy way in which they fight and run is admittedly amusing.

Dance Boss FOTNS

Runaway FOTNS

But the best bit is easily when your enemies’ heads (and then they themselves) explode. The sound effects are hilarious and you just want that to happen: A LOT. It’s just a shame that the game didn’t go all out and provide us with more violence, more blood and more gore. I mean, this is Fist Of The North Star! You can’t have people just burst into pixels or lie down dead pathetically:

Dead Boss FOTNS

That’s just missing the point entirely.

It’s the over-the-top lols which make the game much more playable than I think people give it credit for so it would have been cool to see more of that in there. That said, I also enjoy the game as a basic piece of mindless entertainment. As flawed and silly as it is, it’s not too hard to play and exploding heads is so much fun that it becomes addictive.

Plus each boss offers something a little different whether it’s fireballs:

Purple Boss

Or man breasts:


They certainly liven up the mood, and that’s certainly a plus since the game often suffers from that horrible boss music, those glitches and the occasional depressing level titles:

Stage 3 Camp

I never thought I’d say this but…

You could have totally fit “concentration camp” in that box without having to resort to line jumps and dashes.

Overall, there are far worse games out there than Fist Of The North Star, even on the NES! Sure the game has its flaws, does a few things clumsily and lacks the spirit of the anime/manga but as a brainless side-scroller, it’s kinda entertaining.

I’ll be back next time with, possibly, another anime-related retro game but in the meantime…

CatDog lol

Have a head-explodingly great week.

(also check out our very own Nintendo Legend’s review of Fist Of The North Star!)