Exploding heads and punching go together like Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion. Fist of the North Star looks to take this classic combination (the former, not the latter) into the realm of video games. This video game adaptation of the comic book focuses on the ridiculous bloodshed and unending swath of enemies that fans might expect, but it's going to see quite a few changes from its original Japanese release to its North American debut. It's too early to know how this will turn out, but fans of wanton violence should pencil this into their appointment calendar.
There are two separate stories in Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage. The first, called Legend, retells the original story from the comic. Dream is the other mode, letting you rush through a unique story made just for this game, and it's the only way you can play with a friend by your side. We saw a level from the Legend mode, though the story was cut out entirely so we could get a good look at the punching, kicking, and other life-ending melee maneuvers.
The bulk of the game plays out like a 3D version of Double Dragon. Your mindless foes are little more than fleshy bags of blood, and you do them the service of ending what are most assuredly miserable lives. There are super moves in addition to the standard punches and kicks. At one point, the hero Kenshiro picked up a dude by his neck, punched him a few times in the face, and then punted him 10 feet away. At another time, he conjured flaming pillars from the ground. Clearly, this guy doesn't take guff from anyone. He can even make his enemies' heads explode after performing a thousand-hand punch. Violence is his mother's maiden name.
Kicking grown men in the chest and head can get exhausting after a while. Fortunately, there are vehicles to ferry you around when your legs are tired. We saw Kenshiro ride on top of a horse and motorcycle, knocking down foes on his way to his next location.
The version we saw today was still the Japanese build of the game, but the developer promised us that the mindless enemies would be given more thoughtful AI, and the violence would be made even more extreme. Fist of the North Star is due out this fall for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Tune it to GameSpot to see if claims of even more bloodshed came to fruition, and if the game is fun to play.