Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2, developed and published by TECHMO KOEI, is a fast paced action beat-em up game that immerses the player in the world of Kenshiro and his duty to protect the post apocalyptic wasteland. The game in comparison to the original is a great improvement, however it should be noted that the game still has its flaws. So does the power of Hakuto Shinken stand up to par, or does it cower to other games out there? Let's cut to the chase and find out.
The game focuses on showing the narrative in two ways, Legend Mode and Dream Mode.
First let's look at Legend Mode. This mode takes the player on a journey through the main storyline of the Manga and Anime involving the lone master of Hakuto Shinken, Kenshiro. Ken goes on a mission to make the post apocalyptic wasteland of the world a safer place by ridding it of anyone that uses power for personal gain. During this mode you will be going against some iconic villains in the series all with their relevant fighting styles and vocals, such as Shin, Devil Rebirth and Souther.
In Dream Mode you have a few options. Depending on the character you have chosen to play as, you can either play through the characters personal back story, seeing how they became the hero or villain they now are, or go into a non-story driven scenario that just has your completing a mission whilst beating down and a horde of unsuspecting foes. The mode gives players that are fans of Fist of the North Star the chance to have a look at the backgrounds of some of their favourite characters as well as see some of the Legend Mode missions from their perspective.
The story is well presented with cut-scenes between each arc presented in a manga book style with panelled stills. Occasionally there will be cut-scenes done in real-time that will immerse you either into the level you're in or into the boss battle your about to jump into. This blend of scene presentation works well for the game, it respects the source material of the manga as well as also getting the player pumped up for the level they are playing. There will be some people out there that will not like this style of presentation but that might be due to not knowing of the manga/anime or a personal preference of in-game rendered scenes.
Overall the story sticks very true to the manga and has a large array of arcs and stories for the player to immerse themselves in. The cut scenes are presented in a unique way although I can see some fans of this genre finding the cut scenes a little tacky and lazy.
The gameplay is a great improvement from the first game. Where the original felt kind of slow and clunky, the sequel speeds up the action to make it feel more like Fist of the North Star. When you punch someone you truly feel the speed and power that the punch has as well as the insane damage and strength of the many special attacks that are in the game as well. There are many characters all with their own unique fighting styles and types to choose from.
Upon first playing the game one of the first main characters that was unlocked for Dream Mode was Shin. Initially after unlocking him his fighting style was a BIG difference to that of Kenshiro's Hakuto Shinken. Since Shin is the master of Nanto Koshūken, there wasn't supposed to be an immediate similarity to the move set that Kenshiro has, however there was an expectation that the style of combat would be just as fast and fluent. Instead of this it just felt slow and out of place, just like in the original Fist of the North Star Game. Although after playing the game for a while with Shin it came to the attention that his fighting style is supposed to be played like that. It's supposed to represent the accuracy and timing it takes to hit the mark of his attacks whilst over character move sets can consist of just wailing all out at an opponent with disregard to form and precision. This makes the combat truly unique between each character which is a plus for the game. It gives the player more replay ability by wanting to try out all the fighting styles and character move sets for themselves.
Although the combat is nice and unique there is one major complaint about the game which is also a major dislike from many gamers out there, loading screens. Loading screens are in most games, even some games manage to get rid of loading screens all together, but in this game the term 'too many' still doesn't seem right. There are a lot of loading screens, so much so that in between each cut-scene, menu and fighting sequence you will get one. The two most annoying parts with these screens are that they remove your immersion and they seem really inappropriate at times.
The removal from immersion is a big problem as you want to experience the game in full and not be pulled out of it every so often. Sadly in this case you are pulled out, a lot in some cases, and it takes away from the games experience as well as how long the player would play the game per session. The initial run of the game tallied up to 45 minutes which in comparison to similar games such as One Piece: Pirate Warriors, where the initial game session added up to 3 hours, is pretty bad and is to be blamed on the loading screens for the most part. The second problem, being the inappropriate nature of these loading screens, is another issue with the game. Sometimes ther will be a loading screen that lasts five seconds long and when you have text on the loading screens that are supposed to give you helpful tips with getting better in the game, you can't read them in that time. It would have been a better option to have a small loading indicator in the bottom right of a black screen rather than a wall of text that can't be read in five seconds.
Overall the gameplay is pretty sound. The fighting styles and variety of characters makes the game work really well and makes it run much better than the original. The major problem with this however is that the player is being constantly drawn out of the immersive experience, meaning lower game session times and generally a more aggravating gaming experience.
The game is a great play for fans of the Fist of the North Star Manga, fans of TECHMO KOEI's games and people that like beating up horde's of enemies. Although the game has its flaws and annoyances, it should be noted that this doesn't take a lot away from the game. In comparison to the original, the sequel does a much better job with presentation, gameplay and satisfaction. It is a great representation of the manga and a complete show of respect for the manga's 30th anniversary.
So there you have it, a review into the pulse pounding, fist fest of Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2. If you have enjoyed the read and have your own opinions on the game, whether you have played it or not, why don't you voice your own opinions in the comments. I personally look forward to seeing where TECHMO KOEI go with the series next and whether this is the last time we are going to be seeing Kenshiro and the power of Hakuto Shinken.
The structure for levels and the amount of characters at your disposal are very good. Some people might not like all the characters and some of the characters might not necessarily feel right but the overall experience is a good one.
The Grapics are good. Nothing in particular stands out in comparison to the original. There were only a couple of times when the textures seemed very bad or low quality but overall the asthetic of the game was really nice and suited the style.
The soundtrack is good but has flaws. In Legends Mode there will be the same tracks rolled again and again and that will make your ears bleed sometimes. In Dream Mode you do get variation which is why the score is as it is.
The game is represented quite well. The lack of an intro to the game and a large amount of inappropriate, five second long cutscenes do hinder the overall presentation. But the game is still presented to a good standard regardless.
After the initial run of the game there are options with the online multiplayer and the Dream Mode battles the player can take part in. However the combat does not change unless you are playing a character you have never played before, so there is some replayability but not a whole lot.