I think this is something TNG did much better: the episode with Wesley in SF Academy ("Coming of Age") gave us a much more realistic "facing fear" test.
The test in question was obviously the psycho-simulator test referred to by Kirk in 'Bread And Circuses' that R.M. Merik failed miserably. And that test, while necessary, isn't more important than the Kobyashi Maru test for command cadets like Kirk was.
As for the lack of explosions, that was due to Kirk changing the conditions of the test so that he would win it; had the test gone as it was supposed to, the explosions would have been there.