Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Nov 22, 2010

Koei and Omega Force give the Dynasty Warriors treatment to yet another unsuspecting classic anime and the results are entirely predictable. Run around and mindlessly bash brainless enemies as Ken and a variety of other characters from the hyper-violent 1980's Japanese cartoon. And that's about it.

The Pros
  • Faithful to the anime series
  • Provides extra missions for side characters
  • Lots of levels
The Cons
  • Ugly presentation
  • Terrible, repetitive gameplay
  • Everything else

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage

There’s a simple rule in the gaming industry that says if your dead horse keeps making money, you should keep kicking it. Koei seems to have taken this ideology to heart with their endless stream of consistantly awful Dynasty Warriors games. The company even took ancient Asian warfare into space with multiple and amazingly bad Mobile Suit Gundam games, and now they’ve put their crosshairs of mediocrity on the more obscure Fist of the North Star series.
 


 
You Are Already Bored!


There are two distinct game modes in Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage: The legend mode follows the adventures of post-apocalyptic bad-ass Kenshiro’s quest to rescue his beloved and then prove that his Kung Fu is greater than everyone else’s Kung Fu. Either way, it all amounts to running awkwardly around beating mindless thugs to a pulp, usually until they--quite literally--turn black and explode.

The second part of the game is the dream mode where you can take on the role of secondary (and usually dead) characters from the anime and main game mode. The dream mode is straight-up Dynasty Warriors gameplay: you wade through hordes of enemies, repetitively cutting them down to reach more important enemies. If you’re into this sort of gameplay, the dream mode adds plenty of play time, but not much in the way of actual value.

For fans of the anime, Ken’s Rage does a serviceable job of summing up the whole series. It covers Ken’s timeline in legend mode, but allows players to spend a bit more special time with side characters they might have liked in dream mode. That's great for fans and paying lip service to fans seems to be the only goal here since everything else about the game is sluggish, unpolished, and devoid of any inspiration or creativity.

Indeed, the biggest feature of the game--one splashed all over the back of the box--is the outrageous level of violence and gore. Sadly, even this feature is lackluster. All the developers really did was add extra gooey blood effects that absurdly fly out from every landed attack. Punch enemies enough and they start to boil and then explode, but it’s all canned gore and it never varies.

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Punch, Kick, Rinse, Repeat

While you can upgrade your character’s power throughout the game, it barely amounts to anything meaningful in the gameplay. Combat is a lifeless cluster of punching and kicking, with the ability to grab and throw as well. You can destroy certain parts of the landscape, and pick up objects like light posts, but the combat never rises above the complexity of a mediocre arcade game from the early 90’s.

Different characters have different styles of combat and special abilities, which in theory should break up the action a bit. Sadly, while the combat upgrade system hints at the possibility of depth, none ever surfaces. You’d have to wade through the entire game just to make Ken powerful enough to feel like the character from the anime, although you can then start a new adventure with him already powered up.

To make matters worse, the presentation is terrible. The graphics are strictly PS2-level, with blocky characters and stilted, awful animation that runs at a snail’s pace. The environments are a bare bones take on post-apocalyptic clichés, and the camera is amazingly adept at providing the most unworkable angles possible to prevent you from effectively tracking foes. The voice acting is painful, but that’s to be (somewhat) expected.
 


 
This is Not a Dynasty

Perhaps releasing a game like Ken’s Rage says something about Koei’s opinion of their audience. Virtually every flaw and contrivance from even the earliest Dynasty Warriors games remains intact. The combat is utterly primitive, the camera is awful, there’s no targeting, no variation of gameplay, no multiplayer, and the graphics are sub-par to boot. In short, there’s really nothing to make Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage recommendable at all.