The number two in Fist of the North Star: Kens Rage 2 is a misleading one. Your initial reaction is that this is a sequel to the original Kens Rage. It’s not until you take the Japanese title of this game that things become clearer.
In Japan the game is called Shin Hokuto Musou which is along the lines of New Fist of the North Star and that is pretty much what this game is. A new version, a re-imagining, a reboot if you will, of Fist of the North Star Kens Rage.
The story remains the same, that of the successor to the ancient martial arts of Hokuto Shinken; Kenshiro, and Kens Rage 2 retells the tale of the original title but now, mainly thanks to fan feedback, incorporates almost all of the story arcs and episodes from the Manga that the first Kens Rage didn’t touch upon, albeit with an upgraded game engine.
Another aspect of Kens Rage 2, that is a result of fan feedback, is the decision for the game to be dubbed in Japanese with English subtitles; just like a Manga episode would be.
There are two single player modes included in Kens Rage 2: Legend mode and Dream mode. Legend mode is your main story campaign and is based on the Fist of the North Star manga and as such all of the cut scenes progress in a comic book style on the screen. These help build a seamless bridge between the actual gameplay and various, simple, quick time events which progress the story arc.
Dream Mode is somewhat of an alternative ending mode featuring the episode and quest lines for each of the 18 individual, playable characters within the game. This allows you to play through and see what could have happened in various “what-if” versions of the characters stories.
Tecmo Koei have discovered a winning formula with their “Warriors” franchises and very rarely stray too far from the beaten path. With dozens of identical enemies greeting your hero on screen at once, the combat style for both Legend and Dream modes has its roots firmly planted in a Warriors ethos. But something is different, the combat feels a lot more free flowing and spirited – almost with a nod to the Batman Arkham games rather than the button mashing feel at times – resulting in the sense that if you try to pound the buttons to glory you will soon find yourself restarting the stage.
As with previous Tecmo Koei titles you will need to strategically utilise all of your characters skills, mastering the blocks, counters and throws as well as combinations and special power moves to ensure you complete each level with the highest ranking as possible. As such, when you do manage to hit a 500 hit combo you feel that you have earned it rather than it just being given to you.
Another aspect of the hidden depth in the combat is how you level up. There are five main parameters – Life, Attack, Aura, Technique and Defence. Utilising your standard attacks will level up ‘Life’ and increase your health status whilst using heavy attacks will increase your attack parameter and the amount of damage you can inflict will rise.
The major problem with all of the modes is no matter how different they try to be they all effectively follow the same path of beat up minions, beat up commander, beat up more minions, beat boss, go to next stage and repeat.
The easiest way of adding longevity to a game is to include a multiplayer co-op and Tecmo Koei duly oblige. Unfortunately due to not being able to find anyone else online I could only play local co-op with the good lady; whose main tactic, actually her only tactic, was to mash as many buttons as quickly as possible. This did not have any negative impact on the co-op experience as there really isn’t any tactics or strategies required within the mode but it does freshen up the gameplay a little as you encourage each other to bash the hordes of minions.
There’s also a multiplayer versus mode in which you go head to head against each other in order to capture each others bases. I say you go against each other; it’s more you go against each others minions as you battle through them in a race to capture the other persons bases.
Overall, if you like these style of games than you will enjoy Fist of the North Star Kens Rage 2. If you were a fan of the Manga or Anime then once again you will enjoy this title and the way it has tried to faithfully reproduce the story arcs in game form. However I’m not convinced that Kens Rage 2 does enough to entice any new fans to the genre.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: PlayStation 3 / Wii U / Xbox 360 Release Date: 08/02/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Fist of the North Star: Kens Rage 2 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.