(Wii U eShop)

Game Review

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

This game is already dead

The Fist of the North Star manga series turns thirty this year, which is certainly cause for celebration. It also seems to be the sole reason for the creation of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2, because when placed alongside its predecessor from 2010, it offers precious little in the way of fresh and original features and instead seems content to merely retread everything that has gone before.

Those of you that played the first Ken’s Rage on PS3 and Xbox 360 will likely be aware that it was quite a repetitive slog, based on Koei’s popular Dynasty Warriors series. The company continues to befuddle many by churning out the same game engine time after time again, stopping only to scoop up a familiar licence to skin over the creaking skeleton.

Ken’s Rage was mildly diverting fun however, purely because it was a Fist of the North Star game which didn’t totally suck. If you have a good memory you may recall the risible Last Battle on the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis (the Western release was actually a Fist of the North Star game with the licence and gore removed) and the equally repugnant entries on the Game Boy and Super Famicom; like so many manga and anime adaptations, Fist of the North Star has suffered some terrible video games. Ken’s Rage did atone for these crimes in a small way; while it was samey, limited and incredibly basic, it felt empowering to have the power of the Hokuto Shinken at your fingertips. If ever there was a subject matter which suited Dynasty Warriors’ “one man army” ethos, this was it.

Fast forward to Ken’s Rage 2, and very little has changed. The game’s “Legend” mode merely repeats the core story of the original game, albeit with some enhancements (not to mention a few negative changes, too). This is understandable, to a point — after all, liberties can’t be taken with the original story, as it is set in stone and beloved by millions of fans the world over. To make any massive changes to the narrative would be akin to saying that Darth Vader wasn’t Luke’s father, or that it was Samwise Gamgee who dropped The One Ring into Mount Doom. Fist of the North Star is a legendary franchise in its native Japan, and its plot is untouchable. Sadly, that means that players who experienced the first Ken’s Rage will have to sit through it all over again in this outing.

There are other issues, such as the endless conveyor belt of lookalike enemies lining up to run into your fists, to the downright laughable stealth sections, which ask you to attack enemies without being detected and alerting the attention of others. Just think about that for a second. You’ve spent the past hour fighting hundreds and hundreds of enemies single-handedly without batting an eyelid, and now you’re expected to worry about fighting ten or so more? It just doesn’t make sense on any level, and is a perfect case of a developer trying to shoehorn in a game mechanic that has absolutely no right being there. If Koei had incorporated a mine cart level it would have attracted less derision than this.

Thankfully, the “Dream” mode is a little more exciting, as it not only features all-new back-stories for all of the major characters (as well as some all-new faces created especially for the game), but also follows the more traditional template laid down by Dynasty Warriors. While the Legend portion of the game apes the linear format of the original Ken’s Rage, in Dream mode you’re fighting to control a massive battlefield by taking down enemy bases and defeating powerful commanders. It’s somewhat ironic that the best part of Ken’s Rage 2 is such a slavish clone of Koei’s previous titles, but that should probably suggest that the company should stick to what it knows best.

There are some moderately good ideas here, too. One of the most significant additions to Ken’s Rage 2 is the ability to augment your character with magical scrolls collected during each mission, as well as during online play. These can be added to various attributes to give your fighter a stats boost, with the ultimate goal being the attainment of the “Ultimate Nexus” by linking together the most potent scrolls available. It’s an intriguing concept but the manner in which the game explains the needlessly complicated process is shoddy to say the least, and before long you’ll just be randomly adding and removing scrolls in the hope that it makes any kind of difference — which it usually doesn’t.

Visually, Ken’s Rage 2 offers no advancements whatsoever over its forerunner. In fact, in many ways it looks worse; shadows are particularly poor, manifesting themselves as odd-looking crosshatch textures laid over the super-shiny skin of the character models. Speaking of which, Ken and his co-stars are almost unchanged from Ken’s Rage, but texture quality appears to have suffered. Cut-scenes are portrayed in static images which pay tribute to the original comic book, but instead of using 2D art (which would have been infinitely more interesting), Tecmo Koei has decided to use in-game models frozen in various poses. The effect is unconvincing, and merely serves to highlight the deficiencies of the game engine. Add a terrible in-game camera which requires constant manual adjustments and an abysmal frame rate which makes it feel like you’re battling in slow-motion when the screen is packed with enemies, and you’ve got a pretty wretched package from a purely visual perspective. This is not a game which shows off the Wii U’s raw power, to say the least.

An online mode attempts to liven things up a little, but there’s literally no one playing this game right now; we were unable to test it effectively. Aside from the introduction of a second player to share the suffering, it’s hard to see how it could possibly redeem things anyway.

Conclusion

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is a fine example of how not to do a sequel. While Tecmo Koei’s hands are tied when it comes to tinkering with the source material, that’s no excuse for feeding fans an almost-identical version of the original game.

The only aspect which saves Ken’s Rage 2 from being a complete disaster is the Dream Mode, which channels the spirit of the Dynasty Warriors series quite effectively and offers hours of playtime for those brave enough to give it a chance. However, what it doesn’t solve is the poor visuals and mind-numbingly repetitive gameplay, which is visceral and engaging for about ten minutes, but quickly descends into into braindead button-bashing exercise by the time you’re an hour into the experience.

After thirty years of fame, the Fist of the North Star series deserves a much better celebration of its history than this sorry piece of software. Hardcore fans of the series may find that their love of the source material helps paper over the gaping cracks — the same goes for dedicated followers of the Dynasty Warriors lineage — but if you don’t fall into either of those two camps then you should leave this well alone, and simply track down a copy of the 1986 anime movie instead. It will provide more enjoyment during its 110 minute running time than Ken’s Rage 2 can muster during several days of gameplay.

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User Comments (33)

MAB

#2

MAB said:

Yeah the trailer had me bored out of my skull just thinking of all the crappy button mashing mixed with a dodgy frame rate ;)

Will-75

#3

Will-75 said:

I totally disagree with this review this game is a great time I hope they put a demo out I think alot of gamers would find alot here to like this game is easily atleast a 7 out of 10 - this review is way to harsh and I've not noticed any frame rate issues or drag and I've played through the whole game . I mean a 3 for this title come on are you serious THIS IS A GOOD GAME ! I've played bad games this is not a bad game, just look on Mii Verse at some of the player ratings and you'll see the game is getting GOOD REVIEWS from PLAYERS .

Burn

#5

Burn said:

If KR2 was a retail release, I would feel safe renting it or waiting until it hit the bargain bin. The eShop price of $59.99 is completely unjustified. Maybe we'll see a price drop or sale in the future.

Nintenjoe64

#6

Nintenjoe64 said:

I thought this looked like a good £5.99 title. Then I saw £49.99 in the eShop and was glad to have money saved for Lego City. This will be free to play soon enough :)

FullbringIchigo

#7

FullbringIchigo said:

shame really i enjoyed the first not like i can get this one anyway no disc version and i can't find eShop cards in my town for the life of me even though we have the shops that are meant to stock them and i am not putting my card details on the Wii U i don't even do that on the 360 or PS3

guess i'll just stick with the first game then

drunkenmaster76

#8

drunkenmaster76 said:

Game Uk - Assassins Creed 3 £22.99
Shopto.net - Batman Arkham City £19.85 & Sonic all star Racing £17.86
if you havent already got these i suggest purchasing them instead, until this drops in price.

raguic2

#9

raguic2 said:

Now come on u guys, I bought the game last week cause I was a huge fan of the anime when I was a kid. Then it was considered too violent (?) and banned from tv in France. Honnestly it's not a beautiful game but for me the characters are very well modelled, the frame-rate is better than what I would ever get on my 5-year-old PC for a 3D beat'em all and even though the game is an ultra-repetitive button-mashing "adventure" it reminds me of the time when killing women and children was allowed on tv (especially on programms for kids lol) and I'm maybe I'm just nostalgic. I love that game, everyone who needs to kill people after a hard day of work should try it, it's a shame there's no demo for it ^^. Plus the game integrates the 2 seasons of the manga AND an awful lot of content. To me it deserves at least a 7/10.

CanisWolfred

#10

CanisWolfred said:

Even fans of the previous game are saying it sucks. It sounds like they really went backwards with it. I liked the original, but I think I'll save my money. I got One Piece: Pirate Warriors, a much better game in the same vein, to play, anyways.

Will-75

#13

Will-75 said:

I just had to post another comment this game is well deserving of a 7 out of 10 this review is so off the mark this game is way better than 3 material !!

XCWarrior

#14

XCWarrior said:

It probably shouldn't cost $60, but this seems a bit harsh.

Based on the review, it sounds like something we played on the NES. You know, Double Dragon or TMNT. And we loved thsoe games. Just endless enemies to plow away on. Or Gauntlet.

If there is co-op (says 2 players) can't this just be a beat-em-up to have fun with a friend? I dunno, I'd try it out if I could. Looks like stupid fun, so 3/10 seems a bit harsh.

Here's another problem with digital only titles if they have no demo - no way to try it out. Though I would prefer a $20 price tag for a beat-em-up, not $60.

fluggy

#15

fluggy said:

Original was crap... I know, let's make another game that's even worse than 1st and fleece people £50 for the privilege of playing it. Companies and devs like this deserve to fail. Get some integrity and introduce play testing and quality control, otherwise - what's the point??

element187

#16

element187 said:

Its made by the same team that did Ninja Gaiden 3, Razors Edge... I rented it, and after 3 hours I was pretty bored, and didn't feel compelled to keep playing... but I forced myself because sometimes it takes 8 to 12 hours for a game to open up and become fun... NG3 never did that for me.... I can't say for the life of me I will ever play another slasher from Tecmo. (I loved the NG series back in the 80's)

But I'll be interested in a Dead or Alive game if Tecmo wants to bring that to the Wii U.

CanisWolfred

#18

CanisWolfred said:

@element187 Funny, I thought it was made by Omega Force like the last game. I don't see any indication of that, though. That might explain the problem here...

Lylvia

#19

Lylvia said:

This right here is a prime example of why there should be some serious re-considerations towards what prices are being put on games. 60$ for a game that is complete garbage and gets terrible reviews. I'm at a loss, how can any marketer expect a game like this to sell when priced so high?

ultraraichu

#20

ultraraichu said:

I haven't played the past version of this game and I don't really keep track of the manga/anime, but I do enjoy samurai/ orochi warriors 3, so this game is a 7/10 on my book. Haven't tried online yet but I can imagine it being like OW3H.

@GoldenGlaive I totally agree with you on that. A 3/10 is like saying this game is short and unplayable with flaws and bugs. Its no AAA title but it's not an expensive "shovelware" either.

Marioman64

#21

Marioman64 said:

i had to carefully read the review to make sure you weren't just bashing on a game because it's the same as another (I don't mind games that act as "level packs", like Mario Galaxy 2 and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, and they should always be rated as if they are the only game of its kind)...
but this... this is garbage. it's like pokemon rumble done wrong, and with no pokemon

luminalace

#24

luminalace said:

Wow some people really like it. I think a demo would be good so I can try it out and see what I think.

Gamer83

#25

Gamer83 said:

A 3/10 here and a 5/10 from PushSquare. I was somewhat interested in this game but after these reviews I probably won't bother. At least not until the game is cheaper.

cornishlee

#26

cornishlee said:

A 3/10 is pretty damning and enough to put me off the game. That said, the only reasons I can see given for the score are a dodgy camera (which surely can't be as bad as that in the much higher rated Darksiders 2) and the fact that it's similar to the previous game. Leaving aside the fact that many Wii U owners will not have played the previous title, a game should be judged on its own merits not on its developments over previous titles. If that were the case then Mario Galaxy 2 should have scored 2/10.

Bankai

#27

Bankai said:

@cornishlee the camera is fine. I thought perhaps it was a big that had popped into the Wii U version after being confused by this review and Damo's review, but no, I can honestly say I didn't find the camera an issue.

The frame rate criticism is valid for the Wii U game, but not the PS3 version.

This is not the best Warriors game. But it is brutal, visceral and darkly entertaining. There are worse attempts at bringing this kind of game to a manga license (Bleach on the PS3, for instance).

C-Olimar

#31

C-Olimar said:

@cornishlee That's bull. When the first game was as good as Mario Galaxy (which happens to be one of the best games of all time), similarity to the first is not a valid reason to award a low score.

OnionOverlord

#33

OnionOverlord said:

A 3/10 is probably too harsh, as the game is basically Kens Rage with some improvements. Having played the 360 version and NOT the Wii U version, I have no idea how they differ, but I find myself disagreeing with the majority of the review. Either this is because the Wii U version is somehow worse than the others, or the reviewer didn't really care for the genre. The fact he refers to the previous one as a "slog" would suggest it's the latter. The fact this game has plenty of positive feedback from actual fans should also suggest the game is a lot better than most websites would have you believe. I also get the impression the people who are calling it "garbage" in the comments here haven't played the game and are basing their opinion on the opinion of the reviewer, which is pathetic to say the least.

That said, Kens Rage 2 offers plenty of improvements. For example, the AI of your army is much MUCH better this time around, as they will actually support you in battle rather than stand there blocking, and I felt more confident leaving a base behind me than I did on the first one. The combat is also much smoother and faster and has more in common with the Dynasty Warriors franchise. A dash function has also been added at the expense of the ability to jump, but it's a nice improvement and adds a much needed sense of speed to the combat.

Unfortunately it does suffer from being "too similar". Graphically it has been improved (at least on the 360 version) somewhat but it still looks pretty much the same. The music is unchanged with only a few new songs introduced here and there. Still, I don't see why these factors should be a problem when Nintendo themselves have been guilty of copy/paste tactics since the the Japanese version of Mario 2. It's also worth noting that unless the Wii U version changed something, Kens Rage 2 doesn't just "retread" the original story from the first game, it expands upon it. This leads me to believe the reviewer didn't actually play through all of Kens Rage 2 (or the first one for that matter) and is just blowing smoke. Kens Rage 2 also employs more playable characters than the first game. The leveling system has also changed but this time for the worst, as the whole "collecting scrolls" thing gets old quickly, and I think most fans would have preferred to stick with the original leveling style. Also, Legend Mode has been changed so that instead of picking a character and going through their story, you switch at various points in the game to experience the plot more fully without having to keep redoing levels with a different character. For whatever reason they ditched the English voices, but I imagine most FOTNS fans will prefer Japanese voices anyway. The "freeze" from the first game that occurred during special attacks has also been removed, keeping the action much faster and smooth. They also toned down the Finishing Move QTE's during boss battles, which is a big help.

Honestly I'm confused by the amount of negative press the game got. I found nothing to really complain about with either game. They both had a lot of content and offered plenty of action, so why Kens Rage 2 is "worse" is beyond me. If anything, it's even better than the first one. Anyone who is a fan of the manga or anime will probably enjoy it, and fans of beat-em-ups would certainly love it. I guess it all comes down to the fact beat-em-ups are dying, and the majority of reviewers these days seem to hate them.

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