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This page contains the answers to some frequently asked questions about Hokuto no Ken.
Isn't this game all about Toki?
Not at all! While Toki is still regarded as the strongest character with the most favorable matches, much has changed since the early days of the game's release, and it is possible to win with any character.
Alright, so what are the tiers then?
Tier lists usually fail to accurately display character strength and everyone has their own opinion which spawns tons of lists with minor variations, but if you really want to break the game down into general tiers, they looks something like this:
For a more accurate assessment of each character, the below matchup chart does a far better job of summing things up.
Heart is assumed 2P side. (Source: Hokuto Wiki)
As you can, the top 3 characters have very good matchups all around. Raoh, often considered to be somewhere between the top tier and mid tier, has good matchups against the lower ranked characters, but bad matchups against the top 2, Toki and Rei. The rest of the mid-ranked characters have very balanced matchups except against the top 4 characters. Mr. Heart ranks quite low but has very high potential(which is pretty common for 'grappler' characters in almost all fighting games), and in the hands of a skilled player he can easily overcome his bad matchups. As for Jagi, he is more of a comedy option character, having two 9:1 matchups, with even his best matchups being 4:6.
Which character should I use?
Do you want to use the easiest-to-learn character for a beginner? The strongest character? The most unique character? Only you can decide the best character for you! Below a quick description of each character and their play-style is provided to help you make the decision.
Kenshiro's play-style is quite standard, as one might expect from the main character of a fighting game. He has good normals, well-balanced specials, and his bread and butter combos are very easy to master. His mixup abilities are very decent as well thanks to his extremely fast instant air dash B, and he is capable of applying a lot of pressure in the corner. On the defense he is not lacking either, having both an invincible uppercut and Musou Tensei that he can use to get out of bad spots. Kenshiro's only real weaknesses are his big hurtbox (seriously, it's huge), and bad matchups against Toki and Juda - overall he is a great character for players of any level.
Raoh is slow, powerful, and more than anything else, a combo character. He is likely the hardest character to learn - he has no 'basic' combos, his bread and butters all being 100%'s. Theoretically he could perhaps be the strongest character in the game, as he is capable of doing 100% combos from any hit with no meter. However, realistically, getting a 100% off every hit is simply not possible, and due to the length and difficulty of his combos even top Raoh users will often make mistakes. Also, he is fairly good at applying pressure, but his mixup is lacking due to his slow speed. This, along with his very poor defense(no backstep, no reliable reversal, guard lag), is why he is considered in the bottom end of the 'top tier' characters. All in all, Raoh is a very strong character despite his weaknesses, but is not one that can be recommended to beginners.
If you are even a little familiar with Hokuto no Ken, Toki probably needs no introduction. His ability to teleport around with no recovery allows for over-the-top mixups and pressure, and he has an answer to any situation, being fully equipped with two of the best reversal supers in the game, zero-startup low/high/air counter moves, a projectile, and a projectile reflector move. Even one of his few weaknesses - the relatively low damage of his no-gauge combos from normal hits - also works in his favor in a way, as it simply means the opponent will have no stars at the start of the next round. As his 2B has a long startup and he possesses no other low moves, Toki's mixup is centered more on confusing the opponent into guarding the wrong way than the usual high/low or low/throw styles. Toki has a fairly unique play-style, and is perhaps not a very good beginner character. However if you are playing to win and are willing to put in the effort, he might be the best pick for you.
In most other games, Jagi would likely be a very strong character. However, in the world of Hokuto no Ken, he simply does not make the cut. Although seemingly intended to be a 'trap' style character like Juda, his barrel and gasoline moves are just not very effective. His attacking abilities are mediocre, and he has poor defense as well, possessing a unique guard crush gauge that only activates when blocking low. Because of this Jagi is required to take big risks to have any hope of winning, and this is more often than not a recipe for disaster. That said, Jagi does have a few good points - his 2C, jump A, and Rakangeki super are all top-class moves, and his crouching recovery is faster than any other character's(think the opposite of Rei). Despite all his flaws Jagi can be very fun to play if you want a challenge or perhaps to embarrass your opponent, just don't pick him as your main character if you enjoy winning.
Shin is a hard-hitting power type character, and has the ability to guard crush any opponent. During the early days of the game's release he was considered the strongest character, but he has fallen greatly in the rankings as the other characters have become more and more developed while he has stayed mostly the same. Between his command grab, 2B, and instant air dash B, Shin has a very good wakeup game, especially in the corner. However, his ability to apply continued pressure is lacking in comparison to other characters, and he has a very tough time getting out of bad situations. The simplicity and high damage of his combos, as well as his general ease of use make him a very good starter character, much like Kenshiro. Unfortunately, he lacks the same potential - of all characters, Shin has the hardest and least practical 100% combos.
Rei is a speedy, movement-based character, having access to a wide array of air moves and the ability to triple jump. He has very powerful normals, many being jump-cancelable, which allow him to keep up the pressure without the use of gauge. He has a strong defense as well, with a great uppercut reversal move as well as his Danko super, which essentially works to deny the opponent the chance to do a wakeup mixup on you. His star-taking ability is quite good, but he also has very practical 100% combos. While using Rei to his full potential requires a great deal of player skill and ad lib, he is also the perfect beginner character, with an easy to understand offense as well as relatively simple and damaging combos. Rei is also a good alternative for someone who wants to play a strong character but perhaps doesn't like Toki's play-style or wants to avoid the negative stigma that is often associated with using him.
Juda is a tricky, trap-based character, perhaps most comparable to Testament from the Guilty Gear series. The use of his followers allow him to create advantageous situations without much risk to himself, and he has a full arsenal of mixups and unblockable set-plays at his fingertips, many of which are capable of chaining into 100% combos. Juda also has several good reversals, namely his Stamp uppercut and dam super, as well as a special Dagar Guard Cancel, making his defensive game quite solid. In addition to all of this, Juda is also for the most part immune to Chikuseki. His reliance on his followers is one of his few weaknesses - without them he isn't capable of doing much. For this reason learning to properly manage your followers is an essential skill for any would-be Juda user. While very hard to pick up, Juda's unique style of play makes him an interesting character with incredibly high potential.
More than any other character in Hokuto no Ken, Souther is all about being on the offensive. Thanks to his powerful Bakuseiha fireball, Souther's mixups are perhaps the most devastating in the game. This coupled with his high star-removing ability can make him seem truly be unstoppable when he is on a roll. On the other hand however, his defense is without a doubt the worst in the game, on par with Mamiya - he has a Guard Gauge against all characters, no reliable reversal, and very low health. For these reasons Souther is considered a "one chance" character and sometimes has trouble achieving a stable win rate. While easy to pick up his basic attack patterns and combos, the difficulty of his more advanced techniques coupled with the amount of work required to be able to win consistently can make Souther a very frustrating character to play.
Mr. Heart is a 'grappler' type character, and he plays similarly to the grappler characters in other ARC games. Specifically, he moves very slowly and has no forward dash. Mr. Heart also has no Boost gauge, but his Banishing Strike still functions identically to other character's in that he is able to do a follow-up wallbounce combo. He is also able to use his Aura to perform a special Guard Cancel that can be followed up with a combo. As you would expect of a grappler character, he has a large amount of grab type moves, including both a grab super move and grab Fatal KO(which is the only FKO in the game that cannot be comboed into). While fairly decent on both the offensive and defensive, his poor maneuverability is what causes Mr. Heart to be considered a weak character. Because of his slow speed Mr. Heart is often unable to get out of disadvantageous situations without taking a risk - for example, Raoh can just highjump at long range and shoot air fireballs the entire round, and Mr. Heart has almost no safe way of closing the distance. That said, he has extremely high potential, and is quite capable of overcoming his bad matchups. All in all, Mr. Heart is an easy-to-play but very deep character, and is a good choice for both beginners and advanced players alike.
Mamiya, the only female character in Hokuto no Ken, is a long-range specialty character with very good maneuverability. Her normal moves and zoning abilities are top-class, however like Souther she suffers greatly due to her terrible defense. Mamiya is unique in that she has no throws, and possesses two additional gauges that some of her moves use - an arrow gauge and a spike gauge, which require reloading via a special move when empty. While considered the worst character early in the games history, Mamiya has risen quite a bit in the rankings thanks to the development of new combos. Despite this, Mamiya remains the least-used character in the game, and thus many players lack experience playing against her. Due to her reliance on fairly difficult 100% combos to win, Mamiya is definitely not a beginner's character, but she can be quite powerful in the right hands and is hands-down the most unique character in the game.
I am in/going to Japan. Where can I play this game?
Hokuto no Ken has strong communities centered in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. For the total Hokuto no Ken experience Nakano TRF is recommended, and is probably the only arcade you will find anywhere carrying more than one Hokuto machine(let alone four). With multiple tournaments per week, you can't go wrong with TRF. Also in the Tokyo area, the new Takadanobaba Mikado is a great spot to check out as well. Port 24 Yagoto in Nagoya also holds tournaments regularly and is your best bet in central Japan.
An up-to-date listing of arcades carrying the game can be found on the Arcade Listing page on the Hokuto Wiki, or in the individual area threads on the Hokuto BBS(A small amount of Japanese knowledge/Google Translate is required for these pages).
Where can I find match videos?
The best place to find Hokuto no Ken match videos is without a doubt Niconico. An account is needed to watch videos, but signing up is free. To get started, making a search for Hokuto no Ken or Nakano TRF(the main Hokuto arcade in Japan) should come up with plenty of high-level matches.