Going in to Ken’s Rage 2, the only thing I knew about the widely popular manga from the ’80s was the internet meme revolving around the main character of the series; Kenshiro. Games in line of the Dynasty Warriors series have yet to evolve and Ken’s Rage 2 is no different. Games have been able to provide players enjoyment, even when facing hordes of the same mindless look-alike foes again and again by adding new elements into the mix and dangling a carrot for the player to chase. It could have been anything from new moves/combos or ways to improve the characters. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 however, fails to do anything to keep the player wanting to play the game.
Legend Mode runs through the basic premise of the Fist of the North Star manga, although it felt lacking in details for those that don’t know anything about the series. Seeing hundreds of bad guys explode in each stage, should be exciting, but for some reason it becomes even more mundane as the game progresses. There aren’t many different combos to use and essentially you can get through the game mashing a single button. After fighting a few groups of enemies, you’ll find an old man or another helpless villager that requires assistance, although not everyone can be saved, which enrages Ken – not a good thing for the bad guys. The same mode can be played through multiple times with unlockable characters, which change the perspective on the story, but still revolves around the same plot each time.
Mid-stage bosses help break up the monotony of stages, but are underwhelming and essentially feel similar to the enemies slaughtered dozens of times over already, but with a bigger health bar. At the end of the stages, you are pitted against a boss character, which can unleash unblockable attacks and basically can withstand any attack you can dish out without even flinching Their own special attacks do quite a bit of damage, which forces you to rely on hit and run tactics. Essentially these boss fights are no fun.
The presentation for the game is flat-out abysmal, with almost zero redeeming factors, save for the music. The post-apocalyptic environments are comprised of bland, uninspiring flat textures and besides a palette swap of browns to greens each stage looks the remarkable similar. The part that hurts worse that being on the receiving end of Kenshiro’s fists, is the price point. On the upside, the rockin ’80s metal music fits the gameplay perfectly. What else would you expect to hear in the background as you are literally punching dozens of enemies into a bloody pulp.
Within the first ten minutes of the game, you will experience everything the game has to offer. No new moves can be learned or purchased, and simply nothing unpredictable ever happens. Button mashing is just as productive as trying to pull off different combos – considering there are less than a handful of combos at your disposal.
Picking up scrolls scattered throughout allow set abilities to be increased, by unlocking Nexus skills, which activate by matching rows of similar colored scrolls. I ended up finishing Legend Mode with Kenshiro without even messing with the scrolls. It’s basic at best.
On the multiplayer side of things, six players can fight against each other online or you and a friend can run through stages cooperatively. For obvious reasons, local multiplayer performs better than the online modes, since it doesn’t have to contend with connection issues, which were frequent when I was playing.
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 doesn’t feel like a $60 game. Poor framerate, stuttering and abysmal camera controls compounded with the lacking aesthetics, result in a genetic feeling brawling wrapped in a popular manga shell. I did enjoy my initial impressions of the game, punching literally hundreds of enemies at a time, but as I progressed, it became obvious that nothing in the formula changes. The upgrade system never feels like it adds anything to the game and the lack of new moves to learn hurts the longevity of the product.Note: Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.