Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 Review
Fist Of The North Star’s status as a legendary manga from Eighties-era Japan is well founded and it contains everything you’d want from a satirical, post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-styled licence.
Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 however follows on from Tecmo Koei’s original game and for those that dropped in to sample the delights of its spin on the Dynasty Warriors template will more than likely be left wondering what exactly has changed in this sequel.
Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage 2, like the original Ken’s Rage, takes its inspiration from the iconic manga. Drawing on its violence and Ken’s ability to use the lethal martial art of Hokuto Shinken, Ken’s Rage 2 revels in giving the player the chance to dish out huge amounts of extreme violence.
Instead of wandering the wastes of a scorched earth and dealing with the dwindling numbers of bandits he finds, as in the manga, here Ken has to deal with hordes of muscle-bound idiots all ready and waiting to be punched in the face.
Like the Dynasty Warriors series Ken’s Rage 2 follows a simple structure and divides its gameplay into two modes. Legend Mode sees a linear story as Kenshiro deals with the lawlessness of a post-apocalyptic world (losing loved ones and friends in the process) and Dream Mode, which gives you the chance of playing with the many peripheral characters and their back-stories.
What’s immediately striking about Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is just how similar it is to the original game. Visually, and even in terms of level structure, there seems to be very little that’s changed between the two outings.
Once again, Dream mode lets you jump in and play as a range of Fist Of The North Star’s excellent cast of characters.
This sequel does boast a more streamlined storyline compared to the rambling original, and it relays its melodramatic tale through stylised comic book panels, but it’s still very familiar.
And it should be, too, as it’s essentially the same story told in a different way. It’s in-keeping with the manga’s story and this repetition perhaps wouldn’t stand out as much as it does if the gameplay itself wasn’t also so familiar and only offering marginal improvements over the first game.
With its more streamlined storyline Ken’s fists are also given the chance at avoiding combat with the occasional stealth section appearing for very little reason.
In fact, there are a number of attempts to add to the gameplay that doesn’t involve punching people to death, but rarely are they properly enforced (you can usually just fight your way through the throngs of enemies) and rarely do they add anything meaningful to proceedings.
Ken’s Rage 2 is about taking on hordes of enemies and using the titular character’s martial arts skills to deal out death. If you’re familiar with the manga you’ll know that this usually takes the form of a flurry of fists or some other outrageous special move that involves finger thrusting and exploding heads in a gloriously messy bloodbath.
The combat has undergone a slight overhaul though, and combos feel like they flow a lot easier than before. It seems like you’re able to get Ken’s legendary fists moving in his customary blurry fashion with far less effort with some of the lasts game’s special moves here rendered as part of Ken’s average output of attacks.
Ken’s special moves can be interchanged on the fly and though the characters, stages and general appearance of Ken’s Rage 2 appears unchanged, the combat has seen improvements.
The camera hasn’t changed though, and it suffers from many of the same issues as before, but much of Ken’s Rage 2’s tweaking are due to the inclusion of Scrolls that can be equipped to improve Ken’s stats during combat. Discover the chests sprinkled throughout the world and you’re able to equip ability-boosting Scrolls in something of a tricky visual puzzle within the menu.
There’s still a weighty feeling to the combat with Ken’s fists impacting on his enemies with a satisfactory ‘thump’ and gory results.
Gain enough Scrolls and you’ll eventually be able to vastly improve Ken’s fighting abilities with the Ultimate Nexus, which can only be achieved once you’ve equipped 5 Scrolls of the same kind in each of the rows. You’re also able Proffer your Scrolls for use with your other characters and each warrior can carry up to 16 of them.
It’s an interesting addition to the combat that is ultimately redundant. With so much of Ken’s Rage 2 feeling, as well as appearing, like the first game it’s difficult to really see what justifies its sequel status. Additions to the story such as the odd QTE do little to make the clichéd (but wonderfully Eighties) story any more interesting.
And when Ken’s Rage 2 is making many of the same mistakes as its predecessor, fans of the first game are given very little incentive to dive back into Fist Of The North Star’s action.
Though the Dynasty Warriors action translates reasonably well into Ken’s world, and with focus on singular boss battles a unique take on the genre, Ken’s Rage 2’s rough edges and re-treading of familiar ground won’t be enough to pull in new players.
Version Tested: PS3