Review – Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Beat em Up
Release Date: Out Now

Fist of the North Star, also known as Hokuto no Ken. It’s one of those series you can’t help but love despite being old. For the longest time I thought it was from the 70s, but I was recently corrected, it was released in the 80s. The Fist of the North Star franchise has been going on for years, bringing with it movies, spin offs and video game tie-ins. Ken’s Rage is the first Fist of the North Star game to be released in Europe with the franchise name intact, and hopefully the first of many. Hit the jump for the full review on Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage!

It kind of goes without saying but Ken’s Rage is an anime/manga tie-in, and as such follows the story of the series. To cut it short, Fist of the North Star is about a man named Kenshiro who has trained under the art of Hokuto Shinken, a deadly killing technique. After being left to die and having his fiancé Yuria stolen from him, Kenshiro is on a journey to take her back. Stuff happens, the plot advances, your usual shounen series storyline.

In Japan, Ken’s Rage was released under the name of Hokuto Musou. Musou being the brand name for the Dynasty Warriors series. If you’re familiar with these kind of games then you’ll adapt easily. You have a choice of a handful of characters from the Fist of the North Star series, including the likes of Rei, Mamiya and Raoh. Each character has their own storyline which is stretched out through levels and in-game dialogue. Fans of the series will be happy to know that the storylines stay true to the source material, so you’re getting the full package. No filler included.

Levels consist of you running around a map killing enemies and making your way to the end of level boss. You are given several missions per level, which award you with power ups for finishing them. These missions can range from protecting villagers to defeating a certain amount of enemies. However, the missions don’t necessarily come to you. You’ll have to go out your way to explore the map to find them. It’s up to you whether you feel it’s worth it or not. Who knows? The reward might come in handy.

Boss fights don’t always happen at the end of a level. During several stages you’ll be put against several bosses, sometimes all at once. The fights are quite simple, but can be equally frustrating. Your enemy has a shield gauge which slowly depletes as you pummel them with attacks. Breaking this shield leaves them temporarily stunned which gives you a big enough opening to do some damage. However, if it’s the end of level boss you’re fighting, you’ll be given a Quick Time Event once you empty their health bar. Several inputs will appear on-screen and you are given a short period of time to press the correct buttons. Making a mistake or taking too long results in your opponent regaining some health. It all boils down to a case of rinse and repeat while taking a couple of beatings here and there. Nothing too complex.

Since it wouldn’t be Fist of the North Star without it, your character can be equipped with different moves, all taken from the series. The most well-known being Kenshiro’s “Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken”, complete with ATATATATATATATA! Each special move has different effects and damage outputs based on how much energy it requires. As you pummel your way through enemies, you’ll gather spirit energy which can be used to power up your character and enable them to use an even more powerful special move. These special moves kill smaller enemies in one blow and deal massive damage to boss enemies.

When you kill an enemy, you are awarded with Karma, symbolised by small orbs. Collecting enough Karma awards you with stat points which can be used to purchase upgrades for your character. You can raise their health, increase their attack power, purchase new special moves and even give them certain abilities. While upgrades are useful, you never have to go out your way to get them. So don’t worry about having to grind, that’s not needed. Unless you’re going for achievements and trophies that is.

As well as the main Legend Mode, Ken’s Rage features a Dream Mode and a Challenge Mode. In Dream Mode, you are given a chance to play as some of the other important characters, such as Jagi, Shin and Souther. Dream Mode gives the characters alternate stories, following a “What-If” motive. It’s a really interesting look on the storyline, and results in some unexpected storylines. You can’t help but enjoy Jagi’s Dream Mode story, it’s just one huge gag reel. I love a game that has the balls to mock itself.

Challenge Mode works as the Survival Mode of the game. You are thrown into one of several maps, where the goal is to kill as many enemies as you can and defeat the themed group of bosses. I believe that there is currently DLC available which adds a new map or two to Challenge Mode, along with a new character. Challenge Mode didn’t leave much of an impact on me, but i’d imagine it’s a fine time waster for when you’re bored.

Unlike the folks over at Capcom, Koei know how to appeal to both sides of the fanbase. By that I mean the game features both English and Japanese voice casts. Both are very well done but I had to side with the Japanese audio. Why? Well, Norio Wakamoto is the narrator. Do you need any other reason? The soundtrack is very, very well done. Featuring some fantastic tracks and a certain remix that fans of the anime will adore. I sure know I do.

It’s the same with almost every Dynasty Warriors title, but Ken’s Rage is a case of “love it or hate it”. Button mashing lovers will have a field day, where as the novelty will wear off quite quickly for those who aren’t too big on the genre. Of course, if you’re a Fist of the North Star fan then that’s a bonus too. As for me, I’m in the crowd who loves mindless button mashing. It’s not for everyone, but I had a hell of a time with Ken’s Rage. So many fantastic titles this year and another had just been added to the list. I was going to make a “You Are Already…” joke but Destructoid’s Jim Sterling got there before me. Damn it.

Final Score – 8/10

Not the greatest Fist of the North Star game but certainly one of the best. The game doesn’t appeal to everyone but Musou fans are in for a treat. It’s just too bad the haystack scene wasn’t included.


2 Responses to “Review – Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage”

  1. […] of many. Hit the jump for the full review on Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage! … More: VN:F [1.9.6_1107]please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)VN:F [1.9.6_1107]Rating: 0 (from 0 […]

  2. Keep up blogging! its getting through the tough times that make you stronger and then the good times will follow, keep working about your experiences and we should all pull together.

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