When Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage first came out in North America for consoles, I played it like crazy. Sure, it was another Dynasty Warriors clone and it didn’t look that great, but I forgave its flaws because I’m a big fan of the source material (sue me) and loved the fact that I could bash foes faces in and make them explode using forbidden martial arts. I played through the game with every character, beat every scenario, and leveled up most of the cast, much to the dismay of my fiancé. I was a sucker for the game, and it consumed a great portion of my game time.
Developed by Koei/Published by Tecmo Koei.
Available on the PS3, Wii U and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
*Review copy provided by Tecmo Koei.
When Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 was announced, I saw great potential. The game could have re-invented itself, perhaps fix all the issues that were present in the first, and continue the storyline where the first game left off. I hoped for improved graphics, new combos and awesome gameplay.
What I got when the game was released was less than I expected. There are some new combos here and there, and some new additions to the gameplay and systems, but it’s still (very much) the same game we played a couple of years ago. And I do mean the same game.
You see, instead of continuing where the game first left off in Fist of the North Star 1 – when Kenshiro defeated the main bad guy Raoh – the sequel restarts the story, presenting players with the beginning of the series all over again. This requires players to play through scenarios and battles already touched upon in the first entry of the franchise. It’s kind of disappointing when you want to start out the game playing through subsequent storylines like the Celestial Emperor, only to have play through everything once again, and see the same drab environments that you walked through before for hours on end.
The developers do try their hardest to keep the experience fresh this time around, as the storylines are now presented via in-game cutscenes that mimic comic book panels instead of the static, text scrolling images found in the first entry. These are very welcome additions that really capture the vibe of the original manga and anime, and are pretty fun to watch. Some of these scenes are also quick-time events, requiring the player to press buttons in order to progress. The QTE’s are very easy, though at least they don’t prevent players from continuing with the gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, it remains largely unchanged here. Players choose from various characters, most of which are locked during the first playthrough, and go through chapters busting up baddies and completing a number of objectives, usually revolving around defeating a number of enemies, protecting NPCs, and pounding on bosses. Combat is faster and more fluid this time around, but the combos remain mostly unchanged. Players still have access to normal and strong attacks, and signature moves, but now lack the option to pick signature moves and a jump button, which has been replaced by a new dash ability. Enemy A.I. has been unchanged as well, and typical of a Warriors game grunts mostly just stand around and occasionally take potshots at the main character, while bosses are more menacing figures.
Despite the overtly repetitive nature of the combat, there is still fun to be had here, if you are into this type of game.
Skills and leveling up in Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 has been revamped, dropping the old ‘points-for-skills’ for collectible scrolls hidden in chests and boxes around the stages. Each scroll improves certain aspects, like strength, musou, speed, etc., and each character can only each a certain amount of them. It’s up to the player to customize characters as they like, and combining scrolls effectively can lead to characters gaining bonuses and unique skills. Combating enemies then grants experience points that level up these newly gained attributes. It’s a cool feature that has players searching the stages for collectibles, and really turns the player into a powerhouse if the effort is put into making them grow.
Campaigns also come with a couple of new features, like interim saving, which is done by walking into a floating, angelic figure, and context-sensitive actions, like leaping across rooftops. These attempt to add some freshness to the game, but they really don’t change up the formula that much.
As always, there’s plenty to do in this game. Both Legends Mode (the campaign that follows the Manga Storyline) and Dream Mode (campaign Koei created) make a return, as well as online and offline multiplayer. Over 20 characters – including a couple of new ones – are available, so if you’re one of those who like these type of games, you have plenty of characters to develop and explore their side of the story
Overall, Tecmo Koei’s Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is more of the same old stuff. While they did add some small new features, like the new cutscenes, QTEs, and scroll upgrade system, the game largely remains the same as the 2010 entry. There’s no real innovation here, and unless you love Warriors games and Hokuto, you might want to skip this one. Otherwise, embrace the cheese and have some fun.