In 2010 the popular 80’s Manga and Anime series Fist of the North Star was re-born. Koei created a game that not only threw more punches than Kenshiro on a bad day, but also breathed new life into a Manga franchise which so many assumed was dead and buried. Three years later the highly anticipated sequel to Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage has finally punched and kicked its way on to European shores, promising to pack even more punch than it’s predecessor.
Much like the first game Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is primarily split into two modes, Dream Mode and Legend mode. Legend mode follows the story of Kenshiro, a man with a shadowed past who wields a deadly fighting style known as Hokotu Shinken. Each cut scene is played through a series of comic book panels. This pays good homage to the original Fist of the North Star art style and is a joy to watch. If you’re a fan of the previous game then don’t expect any brand spanking new story lines here, as Ken’s Rage 2 follows the same narrative as its predecessor. This game has however expanded the story with over twenty unlockable characters, (compared with only eight unlockable character in the first game), new missions and even more epic boss battles. This adds a good dose of variety for fans that have already played through the first game.
Dream mode is where Ken’s Rage 2 really comes into its own. Each playable character has his or her own story line to play through, and these story lines have been created specifically by Koei to interlink with the events going on in the main storyline. This interlinking of storylines is new to Fist of the North Star and brings the whole game together nicely. Dream mode also focuses more on the lesser known Fist of the North Star characters giving them a chance to shine, and with over twenty characters to play as you have a lot of game play to work through. When playing Dream mode players must first choose the fighting style they want to use, and then choose the character within that fighting style that they would like to play as. This gives players the option to either sit in their comfort zone with their favourite fighting style, or challenge themselves with a style that they are not necessarily as familiar with. This method of mission selection gives Dream mode some great variety and lets you explore each fighting style at your own pace. Missions within Dream Mode are much more tactical than missions in Legend mode. There are often missions where you have to complete tasks such as overthrowing your enemy’s army by capturing bases and destroying anyone that gets in your way. Even though this game type may sound relatively simple it can get very challenging, especially in later quests where the game will decide to throw in a variety of increasingly hard bad guys for you to defeat.
Much like the last game in the series multi-player has been incorporated into Dream Mode. Unfortunately the 2 player split screen has been taken out and has been replaced with online co-op and team match mode. Team match is a brand new multiplayer mode for Fist of the North Star where up to 8 players battle it out in two teams. Each team is scored throughout a set of Dream Mode missions and teams can earn points by capturing bases, killing enemies and fulfilling mission criteria. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner. It is great to see Ken’s Rage 2 supporting online play as this is something that the first game lacked.
The combat system in Kens Rage 2 has been fleshed out since the first game. Much like its predecessor well-timed combinations of light and heavy attacks are the perfect way to vanquish the smaller enemies. Combos seem to flow a lot easier in Ken’s Rage 2 as you kick and punch your way through hordes of bad guys. Signature moves also make a welcome return. These moves are unique to each character and dish out an excessive amount of damage. Unlike the first game the signature moves don’t break the flow of combat meaning you can add a signature move into combos for even more variation. You also have special moves which are also character specific. These moves can either stun any number of enemies in close proximity, or deal massive damage if you find yourself surrounded. The ability to jump has been replaced with a dodge move. You may think this would be a problem, but isn’t really that noticeable and the dodge move can be very handy in sticky situations. Overall the combat feels a lot more fluid than the last game which will make any wannabe Hokotu Shinken master smile from ear to ear.
Character development in Kens Rage 2 has been changed for the better. Instead of using skill trees to level up your characters like you had in the last game, you can level up each of your characters five parameters individually as you play. These parameters (Life, Aura, Attack, Defense and Technique) all have their own individual level, so the experience points you earn are dependent on your play style. For example, if you like to use a lot of heavy attacks in your combos you will gain a lot of Attack experience points which will level up your attack parameter. This allows for your characters to be moulded to your play style which is a really cool feature.
Throughout the game you will also collect scrolls. Scrolls can be equipped to give you a little bit more of a boost. Each scroll has its own set of parameters, for example a scroll can have a health parameter and a technique parameter. Once equipped the scroll will then boost you characters parameters accordingly, and you equip up to three scrolls with the same parameters this will create a Nexus which will give your character a massive boost. Each scroll also has a level, so the greater the level the greater boost you will get from it. There are a vast variety of skills that can be associated with scrolls. Skills could either boost your health recovery, or increase your attack strength when your health is low for example. So it is a good idea to mix and match your scrolls accordingly. You can equip up to 5 scrolls at a time and have a maximum of 21 scrolls in reserve so mixing and matching scrolls every now and again is essential to developing your character. Scrolls can also be passed around between characters meaning you can perfect your whole character roster to your liking as and when you want to. The scroll system is a great departure from the skill tree system in the original game as it gives a great deal of customisation to your characters attributes.
Graphically Ken’s Rage 2 looks great. The environments have been given more detail since the first game and everything just generally looks more polished. Koei have really gone into visual detail with boss battles as well, as each character now receives battle damage during these epic encounters. All these graphical improvements makes Ken’s Rage 2 a joy to look at as well as a joy to play. It is worth noting though that all dialogue in the game is Japanese with English subtitles. This may be a sign that the game is trying to stay loyal to the original Japanese Manga, but can be slightly frustrating at times especially if you are not a fast reader. It’s a shame that the game doesn’t come with an English Dub option like the first title did, as it does become a bit of a chore reading all of the subtitles after a while.
+ Good dose of unlockable characters
+ Combat system is more fluid compared to the first game
+ Scroll system is a good improvement over the skill tree system in the last game
+ Graphics are polished
+ Awesome comic style cut scenes
- No English dub
- Legend mode follows the same story line as the last game
- No split screen multiplayer
Overall Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is a great game for any fan of the original Manga and Anime series. Even though Legend mode’s story line is the same as its predecessor, it is clear to see that Koei have spent a considerable amount of time on the game mechanics and the amount of unlockable content in the game. This title comes across as more of a worthy replacement than a direct sequel, so don’t expect to pick up the first game again once you get hold of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2.
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is out now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U
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