Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage
Posted 2 years ago By - Michael Launier
YOU HA SHOCK!! Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage makes its way to western territories, bringing high caliber butt-kicking and intense shirt-ripping action to our pre-apocalyptic world! Can you handle the sheer amount of raw manly power contained within? Before you read on, here’s a fair warning: You may already be dead.
Fist of the North Star, or Hokuto no Ken as it is known in its native Japan, was a manga that started in the early 80’s and then got turned into an animated show, which became popular for its action scenes, characters and over-the-top martial arts displays. Consequently, Ken’s Rage is Tecmo Koei’s attempt at mixing the iconic epic with the Warriors-style of gameplay that the company is known for. Does it succeed or is it just yet another deceiving licensed game to add to the pile?
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is a rough adaptation of the manga it is based on. In case you don’t know the story, here’s an abridged version: Late in the 20th century, the Earth is devastated by nuclear fallout, leaving the destruction of cities and nature, the drying of the oceans and the death of most life forms in its wake. Those who are left alive now struggle to find what little food and water they can, attempting to form communities and rebuild society. Meanwhile, organized groups of thugs under of the rule of various would-be conquerors terrorize and even kill them for their resources and slave labor.
Enter Kenshiro, dubbed the Saviour of the Post-Apocalyptic World. Perhaps best described at the result of a fusion between a wise Jesus Christ and a vengeful Bruce Lee, Ken roams the land in search of his beloved Yuria. Along the way he helps groups of settlers and punishes evil-doers with the use of an ancient Chinese martial art he has trained in since a young age. Called Hokuto Shinken, this fighting style allows users to tap into their full potential and deal devastating attacks, hitting their opponent’s hidden vital points and causing their bodies to explode from the inside. Interested yet?
The gameplay is a new twist on Tecmo Koei’s standard formula used in their various Warriors franchises, such as Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors. By merging the 3D beat ’em up style with larger maps and throwing in story progression and rewarding exploration, they have managed to reinvigorate a kind of gameplay often considered stale with a new feeling of adventure, a practice which this author hopes to see make a return in future games. Indeed, whereas other games in the series use maps as arenas, Ken’s Rage has the player going from point A to point B while clearing various challenges and exploring alternate paths to find hidden bonus objectives and items scattered around.
Players incarnate any of several characters - including the main protagonist and other popular figures like Shin and Rei - all of which practice their own martial arts style or a variant thereof. This fact is reflected in-game by Kenshiro’s use of straight and hard attacks, Raoh’s displays of intense brutality and Rei’s swift and razor-sharp strikes. Meanwhile, special-type characters use weapons like rocket launchers and crossbows, which Mamiya combines with a gut-wrenching kick to the... err... south stars. All of that is accomplished by using normal attacks and mixing in special attacks in different orders, creating various combos. Adding to this are Signature Moves, powerful attacks that do anything from throwing a hundred super fast punches in a row to spin-kicking through enemy hordes. Meanwhile, even more powerful Hyper Signature Moves involve things like slamming your fingers into an enemy and proclaiming the iconic "You are already dead."
RPG-like character development can be found here as well. As warriors defeat opponents, destroy environments and find hidden scrolls, they rack up points that can then be invested in what the game refers to as a "Meridian Chart". This chart is actually a series of power ups on a grid, each boosting the character in some way or unlocking a special ability which can then be equipped before missions. Making use of the Meridian Chart is key to turning from mildly powerful to a demi-god, and even more points to be invested in it can be acquired during missions by accomplishing bonus objectives.
Legend Mode is the main focus of the game, which follows your character through the story of Fist of the North Star. Also available is a Dream Mode, which explores additional scenarios, and a Free Mode (accessible from the Dream Mode menu) allowing players to play through stories using different characters; both also support two players in cooperation. As for the unlockable Challenge Mode, think of it as a test of survival that pits the chosen character against different series of bosses. An options menu is also accessible from the title screen, which along with the usual features, lets users set the difficulty level, switch the spoken language between English and Japanese and set the level of violence to be shown in the game. Indeed setting the violence to high will let fans rejoice in the beautifully (and gorily) recreated body explosion effects the series is famous for.
While the additional modes of gameplay do a good job of both extending the game and adding some variety, Ken’s Rage undoubtedly suffers from one potentially major issue: Repetition. Even if you vary your attacks a lot, the fact of the matter is that you will encounter hundreds, perhaps thousands of baddies throughout your playing sessions and as such it won’t take long for repetition to settle in. I’m using the pronoun "you" for a reason here, because that will literally make or break the game for everyone. I’m afraid that this game is just not for you if you can’t handle repetition, but it’ll be an enjoyable experience if it’s something that you can live with. Speaking of the enemies, there’s tons of them but little variety, although that is actually pretty accurate to the anime; as for bosses, they are faithfully recreated and behave just as you would expect them to.
Graphically speaking, Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is pretty impressive. Environments look alright, but the characters are the ones who steal the show. Each one has been given a makeover while retaining their original style and adding in lots of neat little details. You can really tell that someone out there paid careful attention to perfectly capture everything from the scars on Ken’s chest to the facial expressions, character personification and Signature Moves (which climax with angle shots and big fonts detailing their names).
The music, meanwhile, is a bit of a mixed bag; it’s not that it’s bad by any means, it’s just that there’s too few songs and therefore they are repeated very often, which brings us back to my main complaint. That said, each musical piece does a good job of establishing the mood, be it the hard rock that plays during battle encounters, the tense and mysterious sounding song when exploring (a favorite of mine) or the awesome electric guitar version of the anime’s theme song. As for voice acting, it’s not bad at all; being that this is based off a manga and anime, some will be happy to know that Japanese voices are available as well.
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is an excellent game which exceeds at staying true to its roots, with extreme repetition being the only thing that boggles it down. Those who enjoy Koei’s other offerings in the Warriors franchise are bound to like it and fans of Fist of the North Star simply need it. However, being a fan is pretty much a requisite in order to properly enjoy the story, since this is a cut-down version. The adventure-oriented gameplay style is a very nice addition and contributes to making the game akin to a rebirth of the old school beat ’em up genre.
+ Faithful adaptation of the series
+ Nice graphics and music...
- Gameplay is as repetitive as the audio and visuals
- Prior knowledge of the series is a requisite in order to properly enjoy the story
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Release Date : 2010/11/02
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Koei
Developer : Koei
Category : Action
ESRB : M
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