I’ll openly admit right now, Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 was not a game that appeared on my release radar. As a fairly naive manga viewer and someone who never tried the original game, I was not sure what to expect when this title fell on my lap but with an open mind and some excitement of finally having something new to play on my Wii U, I gave it a shot.
For those in need of a quick lesson in Fist of the North Star, it’s a 1980s manga and animé starring the muscular Kenshiro fighting off numerous bandits in a Mad Max style post-apocalypse. As the true successor of the deadly martial art Hokuto Shinken, Kenshiro must contend with gangs, tyrants, and his fellow brothers who were denied succession of the art.
You wouldn’t be blamed for not knowing there was a video game sequel released as the launch appears to have been fairly confounding. The Xbox 360 and PS3 version are available as a retail disc while the Wii U version is digital-download only. Whatsmore the Wii U version costs a hefty £49,99 on the eShop! So is this frantic fighter worth investing in?
Ken’s Rage 2 is primarily about punching and kicking your way to the stage’s end while endless hordes of enemies attempt to take you down. Killing enemies rapidly builds your combo streak and an aura meter for special moves, but overall the game never really feels like it neither requires nor amounts to more than mere button bashing. Hammering on a particularly effective move over and over is often the best option to control the crowds and send them into sprays of red mist. Rarely did I ever find myself experimenting too much. Enemy count is surprisingly high though as you find yourself constantly outnumbered by swarms of tyrants; sadly though this comes with a price as each fighter looks very similar to the last with little to distinguish them.
Randomly places scrolls offer a means to upgrade your characer as you play through the game. Combining said scrolls in various orientations boosts a character’s primary stats and grant specific abilities, like receiving a heightened amount of defense when your health is low.
Boss battles attempt to add some variety and challenge to the proceedings requiring guard breaks and an awareness of your surroundings to succeed. They’re mostly forgettable but the cutscenes that follow, depicting a gross over the top finisher make up for the repetitive venture you had to endure.
While the gameplay may feel like a dumb button basher, the ensuing chaos that unfolds is pure entertainment. Watching as a group of thugs fly backward after a particularly powerful kick or a lone warrior explode in a bloody mess in front of you is always fun. Cutscenes too feature the same gory action often raising a smile or two. When you watch Kenshiro stick his thumbs into the temples of an enemy, telling him he has mere seconds to live before he then explodes in a shower of crimson, how can you not laugh? It’s just a shame these scenes are broken up by such excruciatingly long load times. For a game released with wait times of around twenty seconds is ridiculous and halts the momentum of battles to a standstill.
Fans of the series will be pleased that Ken’s Rage 2 goes through the manga’s full five-year run, with a Legend Mode that extends well over 20 hours. Cutscenes are a little on the lengthy side, but with every arc from the series covered, fans are sure to be pleased. Stages offer the same mish-mash of post apocalyptic style settings complete with plenty of browns and other dark, dull colours as well as some very unimpressive textures. You’ll head from A to B usually finishing in a boss battle and sadly there’s little to surprise or mix things up along the way.
Dream Mode meanwhile extends things further by focusing on other characters in the series and filling you in on their stories. Each one has their own fighting style, so there’s a nice amount of variety between each of them and doesn’t just amount to a palette swap.
An online co-op mode rounds off the package and overall offers a decent amount of good, stupid fun when you can find a partner that is. Unfortunately, the lack of players to be found on the Wii U is disappointing at the moment and I can’t see the Xbox 360 or PS3 fairing much better.
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is a dumb, repetitive brawler that features an equally dumb (but nonetheless entertaining) story fans of the manga series might get a kick out of. From a gameplay perspective though Ken’s Rage 2 is an often repetitive experience full of average boss battles and a general lack of freshness and surprise. When coupled with some ugly looking visuals and load times that border on mind-numbing, you’re probably better off sticking two thumbs directly into the temple of this adventure.