Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 Review (PS3)

The games industry is at an exciting crossroads. Potentially, we're a matter of days away from witnessing the revelation of the next-generation. A host of big name products, from Bioshock Infinite to Grand Theft Auto V, are ready to usher us into gaming's long-awaited next chapter. It's time to enjoy the last stretch of releases before the transition is made. It's time to celebrate. It's time to completely dismiss Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2.

Somewhat ironically, I was thrust back towards the PS2 days when firing up this sequel. Tecmo Koei's decision to base a series around Kenshiro (Fist of the North Star's manga hero) was a logical one. Utilising the large-scale battles of Dynasty Warriors made even more sense, especially when you consider the series' continued success over the past 15 years. Players know what they are going to receive: a challenging, context-driven quest against an endless array of baddies.

Cutscenes are often still images with throwaway text

Dynasty Warriors has always been remarkably epic. Even if you aren't a fan of tactical hack 'n slash, there's no denying the series isn't afraid to chuck cannon fodder on screen with sadistic eagerness. Ken's Rage 2 follows suit, but there's a reason the sequel has arrived with little fanfare or promotion. Although the original received mixed critical reviews, there's always been a sense that the game should exist. The same cannot be said for the follow-up.

Similar to most DW games, Ken's Rage 2 features many of the same narrative and encounters as the original. This is nearly acceptable if massive improvements are made, but rather impressively, Tecmo Koei has laid chunks in a pair of pants that were already soiled. The term 'underwhelming' doesn't do the game justice as everything is stripped back to a basic level. As the adventure progresses, you have to wonder if this regression is due to dwindling finances, as Ken's reappearance seems to be largely unfinished.

This indication arrives early on. Cutscenes are realised through cheap storyboards with non-existent animation. Art is reused alongside dialogue that suspiciously overlooks the English language. The scripting is terrible, with characters resorting to petty curses within the first two minutes of play. Perhaps the frustration is implemented tactfully. Perhaps Tecmo Koei want to get you so annoyed that your only option is to punch lots.

Cheap animation effects corrupt the entire game

Trust me, you will punch lots. Expect to encounter one hundred enemies at a time with little difficulty. The usual array of light and heavy attacks form simplistic combos that build towards special moves. In most games, these advanced techniques would feature some sharp animation or memorable deviation from standard combat. In Ken's Rage 2, it'll make you punch lots, quicker. Repetition sets in within the first five minutes, as you easily blast through hordes of mohawked foes without needing to take a breather.

Ken can now dodge incoming attacks, but this technique aids the sense of sloppiness. Bosses often unleash inescapable moves that will catch you out after an unfair block. At times, it seems they can halt any manoeuvre before smashing you about with a charged hit. At other times, you'll slap them around with ease. These battles have a hilarious way of feeling like you are facing another hundred enemies in an alternate form: this time the conglomerative health is stored in the gut of one foe.

Believe it or not, this screen doesn't come from the PS Vita

A handful of new characters are available to use, but eagle-eyed players will recognise them from the first title. Legend Mode adds extra missions for those who can't get enough of the manga and Dream Mode throws bases into the mix. As usual, all objectives revolve around causing mass genocide and protecting painfully annoying innocents. If you were looking to buy this game for the online multiplayer experience, don't bother. At the time of writing, it seems nobody across the world wants to punch with friends.

It's extremely difficult to recommend Ken's Rage 2 to anyone. Even hardcore fans will struggle to grasp any enjoyment from this disappointing furore into a licence that holds great potential. Tecmo Koei have tried to be sneaky with this one, but we're not fooled. The company's repackaging of Ken's original outing amounts to nothing more than an ugly twin brother. Unfortunately, this sibling was obviously punched lots at birth.

Top Gaming Moment: Using the same special move 10 times in as many minutes.

Platform Played: PlayStation 3

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By HenoKutus (SI Elite) on Feb 15, 2013
Dynasty warriors clone with a better title.