February 19, 2013
As with the original title, the main experience takes place in Legend Mode. This offers a rather lengthy campaign, that attempts to retain a consistent structure despite focussing on lots of different characters. It works, for the most part, but due to the developers attempting to get as much of the Manga's story in as possible, it does feel a little bit segmented sometimes. You'll quickly go from scenario to scenario, with some very loose ties to keep everything together.
The main characters is, of course, Kenshiro, but throughout the adventure you'll meet many different characters - both good and bad. You'll often get the chance to control them too, at least on the friendly side.
Given that this game has been tied in with the 30th anniversary celebrations, such an extensive story mode is understandable. It's only natural that the developers would want to include as many of the game's memorable characters and story arcs as possible. However, given the nature of the gameplay, it does drag on a little bit. You'll face more bosses throughout this campaign than any other game in recent memory - they just keep coming and coming. It's not a terrible thing and if you love the franchise, you'll enjoy getting to the next story segment. It's more that the gameplay makes it turn into a bit of a chore.
Still, the story has some good source material to draw from, and there's always a good enough reason to want to kick people's asses in this post-apocalyptic world of madness.
In the sequel, gameplay has been changed to bring it more in-line with Koei's other Warriors titles. During the skirmishes, you'll often face hundreds of enemies at a time and they will spawn rather quickly as a result. As with the other Warriors titles, you will also have three different attack types - normal, strong and special. These can be chained together to create the maximum effect, with the amount of normal attacks you deliver determining which strong attack will be used by your fighter. As you progress through the story, you will also gain different special attacks.
It's a tried and tested formula, but you will often end up just using the same attack combo over and over again. To counter this, the ability to control different characters throughout the campaign does help as none of them have similar attacks - even if they have the same fighting style.
To make things more dynamic, the ability to jump has also been removed from combat. Instead, you can now evade. This keeps things rather interesting, especially in the various boss fights, as you'll be shifting your body around everywhere. This can also result in a counter-attack, if done correctly. However, overall it's a rather underwhelming mechanic and it's better to just plan your attacks, than worry about evading.
The boss fights are, as expected, the highlight of the experience. While the generic fights don't require too much thought, the boss fights do at least warrant a little bit of strategy. They are also rather different too, which the developers deserve credit for. Given that there are so many bosses, it must have been very tempting for them to just copy elements from previous fights, but amend them a bit - they didn't. It's just a shame that the same care wasn't applied to the rest of the missions you encounter throughout the campaign.
Outside of Legend Mode, the other big draw is Dream Mode. Here, you'll take on a range of scenarios that focus on a common theme. For example, one of them looks at the Honto Shinken fighting style of Kenshiro and his brothers. Another looks at the Nanto Seiken fighting style and its various members. You can play through them as different characters and if you do so, you'll also experience a new twist, with a new ending. This gives the game a ridiculous amount of replay value and fans of the series are bound to eat this right up.
When it comes to the game's presentation, things get a bit disappointing. A lot of the story cutscenes are done in a weak graphic novel style, where the game's character models are used, but in still form. There are full cutscenes too, but they are quite infrequent. The enemies you face in the game are also very generic. Outside of the bosses and special enemies, you will fight the same looking enemy over and over again. This isn't too dissimilar from other Warriors games, but with Ken's Rage 2 it isn't as easy to ignore. Considering the bosses have such strange personalities, it seems odd that they would all employ exactly the same cronies.
In many ways, Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 is a rather fitting way to celebrate the Manga's 30th anniversary. The story is very extensive, featuring many of the game's famed protagonists and antagonists and with Legend and Dream mode, fans will get plenty of game time. However, the gameplay suffers from severe monotony, which isn't helped by the lack of challenge posed by the various enemies. The change-up in characters does help a little bit, but the gameplay may make experiencing all of the story quite a challenge, but not because of its difficulty.
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.