With the modern anime industry being filled with emasculated males and moeblobs, it’s hard to imagine that a show like Fist of the North Star once originated out of the same country and industry. The anime was highly violent, filled with incredible fight scenes, exploding bodies, and overpowered fighters like Kenshiro generally slaughtering groups of people. Naturally, it would lend itself to the beat-em-up genre, leading to the creation of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage. Due to its resounding success with fans, Tecmo Koei has now expanded the title and created Ken’s Rage 2.
Though the original title had already covered the lore of Fist of the North Star, Ken’s Rage 2 revisits the universe in Legends mode and reimagines it for players. The story remains the same and follows the Fist of the North Star anime through everything from Kenshiro’s quest to take down Raoh and become the sole Hokuto Shinken successor to after the time skip when Bat and Rin lead the Hokuto brigade. It does go more in depth into the source material than its predecessor, but the presentation of it is spotty at times.
In addition to generic cut scenes, story segments are told in panels as a manga would, but transitions are odd and often confusing, telling whole scenes in a single panel and moving along seemingly to fill up a cutscenes time rather than aesthetics. Visually, the game is fitting of Fist of the North Star’s desolate wasteland setting; however, the environments are often reused throughout and, combined with an engine that has little graphical enhancements over Ken’s Rage, which makes the title less than impressive for anyone who has played the first game. The same can be said for the game’s music for the title, a collection of rock themes that helps to make every player feel as manly as Kenshiro as they pummel on goons; though it is fitting, it is disappointing that Tecmo Koei didn’t make an effort to include more faithful tracks from Fist of the North Star. Additionally, though it may be disappointing to some, the absence of an English voice over is fine by any fan of the source material.
On the gameplay front, Ken’s Rage 2 does not change much from the Dynasty Warriors formula of mowing down hordes of goonies. However, some new additions make Ken’s Rage 2 its own game rather than just another spin off. The ability to jump has been traded instead for a dash and dodge option. Clearly, Tecmo Koei was trying to legitimize the game more with these new functions. However, it hardly worked, considering how fast it would drain characters’ musou meter and the little chance it leaves for counterattacking. Essentially, boss fights are reduced to players running around for a chance to charge and blow their musou meters at every turn in order to whittle bosses down. In Legend mode, the game’s equivalent of a story mode that follows the progression of Fist of the North Star, the levels leading up to boss fights are awfully linear, dropping hordes of enemies for players to take out in every room before they can proceed to the end of a level, and the tension of boss fights are broken up by constant interruptions from cutscenes that are thrown in every time players start taking down an enemy’s health.
Fortunately, Dream mode resembles games in the Warriors series more, featuring full levels that players can navigate as they take out bases ala recent games in the Dynasty Warriors series and adding a strategic element back to the game. In addition, there are extensive campaigns for characters in this mode that allow players to get more out of the title whether it be from series mainstays like Toki and Rei to insignificant generic outlaws with mohawks. However, some of the game’s general problems remain present; with no jumping and tiny combos, players will essentially just continue to do signature move one after another till the boss’s life is drained away. Worse than the monotony of boss fights, the game often slows down when the large groups of baddies are on screen at the same time, ruining the fast paced action that should come with any Fist of the North Star game.
While the previous title featured a modular upgrade system where players would trade in karma points earned from defeating enemies towards skills and stats, the system in Ken’s Rage 2 is a mess. Throughout levels, players will collect scrolls based on their performance or in treasure chests. These scrolls feature anywhere from one to three slots that could be filled up; players will have to line up glyphs of the same type in order to create nexuses that enhance the scrolls’ boost. While it’s fun creating these combinations at first, the process ultimately becomes a chore; with new scrolls after every level and an embarrassingly small reserve for unused scrolls, which will constnatly prompt players to discard new or useless scrolls. Eventually, I just threw away anything with lower levels, since I had already created an effective combination of scrolls.
While the original Ken’s Rage was a godsend to any Fist of the North Star and Warriors fan, the sequel is largely a disappointment. There are improvements over the original, such as the inclusion of more characters and a story mode that delivers more of the original story, but these are vastly overshadowed by the changes in the basic gameplay and upgrade system that make the title both monotonous and frustrating. The most disappointing part of this sequel is that all the benefits could have easily been delivered via DLC, making the full $59.99 price inexcusable.
- Very faithful to the source material
- More in depth than the first title
- Few improvements over the original
- Extremely repetitive and linear
- Boss fights lose their tension from cutscenes
- Always fun to bash characters in as Fist of the North Star characters!
Available on: 360, PS3; Publisher: Tecmo Koei; Developer: Tecmo Koei; Players: 1 – 2; Released: February 5, 2013; ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $59.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.