Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2
This year marks the 30th birthday of Hokuto No Ken/Fist of the North Star, the chronicles of the manliest of the manly who go hard to fight for what they hold dear in their hearts upon the backdrop of post-apocalyptic 199X. Signature as well is its teaching that grown men cry, a necessary intermission taken between the violent dispatching of evildoers to a soundtrack of “ATATATATATATATATATATATATATA!”
Ken’s Rage 2 recants the story of Kenshiro, successor of Hokuto Shinken, from his chance encounter with Bat and Rin, to his runback with Shin, teaming up with Rei and Mamiya, the battle with Thouzer, Toki’s farewell, and the final showdown with Raoh, the Ken-Oh. The story mode continues onward with Season 2’s adventure with Kenshiro returning to the fray assisting Rin and Bat’s Hokuto Army and their long journey to the Kingdom of Ashura where the origins of Hokuto Shinken are revealed. This is all told through the narrative mode of manga emulation and CG’s in Japanese dub and English subs - the only way to experience Hokuto No Ken.
With that said, hardcore Hokuto fans can expect an incredibly long story mode - longest ever conceived for its genre. The overwhelming stream of storylines can be appreciated for reviewing all the general points of Kenshiro’s legacy and provides an all-in-one download for those who don’t have the time to watch the animes or hunt down the manga. Total admiration however runs shallow due to the gameplay.
I’ve never been much of a fan of the Dynasty Warriors franchise and its limited elements causes the storytelling experience to drag on redundancy. Going from one point of the narrative to the next is a path fraught with repetitive battles, often involving destroying this-many hordes of enemies to move to the next area where you would engage in doing the exact same thing all over again. Unlike the previous title, there’s very little in attack variety. Most characters are tied down to the rudimentaries of tapping square one to three times and then hitting triangle for a finisher. As you deal and take damage your spirit meter fills up, opening access to a slew of signature moves. A number of moves offer much in crowd control but it would’ve been nice to be able to jump in order to issue dive attacks.
Given the Warriors‘ confined mechanics boss fights feel less than significant. Most of the time boss battles feel the same across the board where evading and constant pummeling usually resolves the obstacle. Feelings of accomplishment from coming out as the victor are immediately extinguished - you have to redo the repetitive pattern traverse all over again thus by the time you make it to the end of the journey you’ll be feeling beyond mentally drained.
As you progress through the story, you’ll collect scrolls which help boost your stats. A number of these are adorned with symbols representing any of the stats and lining them up on your equip grid results in significant bonus boosts. Many of them also provide added features with the majority of them completely useless such as added damage with thrown objects (seldom). Additionally, collected scrolls can be proffered to a side inventory which can be accessed when playing Dream Mode - where you can play as characters unlocked during your trek through the story.
If you’ve never been a fan of the Warriors franchise, Dream Mode seems to only exist on the subconscious (next to the ghost town of Online). This is where the iconic Warriors gameplay of leading troops and capturing bases lie. All the signature moves for each selectable character are not available upfront and you will need to put in the effort to develop them with whatever scrolls proffered to help expedite the process.
Ken’s Rage 2 also sports dated graphics, perhaps a usual outcome from molding characters from the anime clay. This is most noticeable when characters weep awkward streaks of digital semen. This could’ve been a title that would’ve gotten away with being released on the PS2 and maybe then the faults would’ve been more forgivable.
In the 30 years of its career, Hokuto No Ken never had a game adaptation that stood out to do the series justice. This is me admitting to the fact that the Arc System Works fighter, despite the hilarity of its instant kills and basketball glitch infinites, never captured the Hokuto spirit. Aside from an exhaustion that I’m still trying to shake, I walk away from Ken’s Rage 2 with the realization that us fans probably won’t be graced with a well deserved adaptation anytime soon and that realization already has my eyes shedding streaks of sorrowful man seed.
Six out of ten
- LONG story mode
- Stays loyal to the source material
- Will definitely get you in the mood to rewatch the animes or reread the manga
- LONG story mode
- Repetitive gameplay
- Dry combat mechanics
- Ignorable Dream Mode and Online play
- No 'YOU WA SHOCK'
- Could've been a lot better all around