Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage
Reviewed by G. Williamson
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2011-02-19 Xbox 360 Action M (Mature) Tecmo Koei

A variation of the Warriors series, Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage is Tecmo Koei's spin-off based on the events from the long-running manga series, which featured unforgettable characters starring in a story dealing with mature themes such as violence, love, betrayal, honor and revenge.

In a post-apocalyptic world, main character Kenshiro (Ken) is a master of Hokuto Shinken, a lethal (fictitious) martial arts style that allows him to kill his opponents by simply touching their body's vital pressure points, basically causing them to explode into an entertaining bloody mess. Ken's focus is to save his fiancée Yuria, who was abducted by his rival martial artist Shin. On his journey, he must defeat several enemies who attempt to gain power over what remains of the world.

In the game, you play initially as Ken, unlocking more characters as you complete the story. The gameplay follows the Dynasty/Samurai Warriors model, but with less crowded fights and somewhat slower progression.

There is a skill system similar to that found in the Warriors games, but here players need to equip their fighter with a particular skill to expand on it. As you fight and defeat enemies, you collect skill points which you use to learn techniques and abilities to improve your fighter with. Using special techniques during battle is what makes the game seem slow, since there will be a pause in the action until this special move is completed.

Each character also has a legendary technique which is used to obliterate several weaker enemies at once.

Another available skill functions much like in the duels in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, where you must press a series of buttons as they appear on the screen to deal a finishing blow. Missing a button causes your health to go down though, and by the time the button-mashing combo becomes complex enough, you're brain is probably confused enough to not know where the X button is anymore.

The game is comprised of four game modes. Introduction is just that, a tutorial for those who are not familiar with the Dynasty Warriors mechanics (where have those people been anyway, living under a really heavy rock?). Legend is the actual story mode, following the events that took place in the manga. Dream mode is a separate chain of events, offering players an entirely original story with additional playable characters. Challenge mode is basically a gauntlet that places you against a continuous stream of opponents, some are time-based, others have you protecting innocent citizens. There is also a Gallery containing art renders, music, in-game movies and a terminology database, just the right bonus for Fist of the North Star fans.

For some, the simplicity of the Dynasty Warriors model may be a turn-off, while for others it's that simplicity and familiar gameplay style that will make them try out Ken's Rage. For the rest, it will be their interest and enthusiasm for the Fist of the North Star series that will make them pick up the controller and give it a shot. Since I fall into both categories, I guess this was just the game for me.