“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is a game that long time fans will be proud of. It’s a game that manages to bring Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s popular, violent and exciting manga series to the video game world with efficacy and combining it with KOEI’s “Dynasty Warriors” style of gameplay. Unlike the first game, these are the characters and the battles that fans want to see and play! If you are a fan of “Dynasty Warriors” games and a big fan of the manga or anime series of “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star”, give this game a chance, because I really enjoyed it!
Images courtesy of © 2013 KOEI. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO GAME TITLE: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2
TYPE OF GAME: Fighting
PLATFORM: Sony PS3 and XBOX 360
PSN DOWNLOAD SIZE: 9GB
COMPANY: Koei Tecmo
RATED: M for MATURE
RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2013
Kenshiro and over twenty other characters from the Fist of the North Star series are ready to unleash rage in another game from Tecmo Koei. Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 has Legend mode that covers the entire manga storyline from the Raoh Saga to the Land of Shura. Dream Mode has original storylines made just for the game that often focus on minor characters from the Fist of the North Star series.
“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is back! And with the sequel comes a whole lot of changes to the overall gameplay but most importantly, an epic storyline that is heavily-based on the popular “Hokuto no Ken” manga series from Tetsuo Hara and Buronson.
The second video game adaptation features legend mode, over 20 playable characters, new moves, dream mode plus online co-op and versus play.
“HOKUTO NO KEN/FIST OF THE NORTH STAR” HISTORY
In 1983, the manga “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) was unleashed in Japan. Illustrated by Tetsuo Hara and written by Buronson, the manga series was serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump” from 1983-1988 and has spawned anime TV series (one which lasted over 150-episodes from 1984-1988), two films, OAV’s, novels, video games and more.
Needless to say, in Japan, the story of “Fist of the North Star” has been a big part of Japanese pop culture as it was a story that showcased good vs. evil in a post-apocalyptic era in which the world is now unstable with fear running rampant across the land. Where power is justice and power ruled. Those without power are left in fear. Those who have power command great armies or a ragtag group of the men who have succumbed to evil.
So, popular the manga/anime series, the antagonist Raoh can be seen like a Japan equivalent to characters such as Darth Vader, Cobra Commander or even Megatron. Villains with power and despite being evil, their fan following is tremendous. In fact, Raoh is so popular that back in 2007, a mock funeral was held for the character in order to promote the theatrical release of “Raoh Den Gekito no Sho” (a retelling of the final battle between Kenshiro vs. Raoh). And thousands of people attended the mock funeral, and many genuinely mourned Raoh as a man who touched their lives (despite not being a real person).
And suffice to say, both Kenshiro and Raoh are the two primary characters that are featured in this latest video game, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.
The storyline featured four adoptive brothers who were taught the “Hokuto Shinken” (aka “God Fist of the North Star”). The four are eldest brother Raoh, Toki, Jagi and Kenshiro. With the main storyline focusing on the eldest, Raoh and the youngest Kenshiro.
In the series, Kenshiro has been chosen as the successor to the martial art known as Hokuto Shinken, a martial art that is 18-centuries old and involves using the body’s 708 vital pressure points to either destroy or heal a person from within. Kenshiro is a man who is in love with Julia and instead of having a happy life, his evil brother Jagi uses his influence over Kenshiro’s good friend Shin, who is from a family which is a rival to “Hokuto Shinken” known as “Nanto Seiken” (aka Sacred Fist of the South Star). If Hokuto Shinken is the Yin, Nanto Seiken is the Yang. Two can’t exist without each other.
In the storyline, Kenshiro has been seen as the younger brother who is not at all strong. His brother Raoh has chosen the path to be a conqueror of lands, Toki who is the healer is thought to be dead (due to radiation poisoning) and Jagi, the jealous older brother of Kenshiro who is upset his younger brother is thought to be a better fighter than he is.
So far in the storyline, Kenshiro’s girlfriend Julia was kidnapped by Shin and Shin defeats Kenshiro and leaving him for dead.
The first video game “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” is similar to the Dynasty Warriors games from Koei Tecmo. The game introduced a LEGEND MODE which followed the original manga series in which you played Kenshiro (or other characters) as the story progresses, building up your characters skills and your character while gaining additional special moves. With each character you encounter, once you beat a level, the key opponent/major character will be added to DREAM MODE, and those characters will be playable. And an additional CHALLENGE MODE in which one can play Kenshiro and take on a string of opponents.
The game was released for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360.
And now, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of “Hokuto no Ken”, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” has been released courtesy of KOEI TECMO.
FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: KEN’S RAGE 2 is the second game of the series which was developed by Koei, not Omega Force (who did the first game). Unlike the first game, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is available for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Wii U (digital distribution only), while available as a physical release for the XBOX 360. Also, the release was only two months after its release in Japan.
I will be reviewing the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
There are slight differences between the first and second game. While the game keeps to the “Dynasty Warriors” theme, the game has removed the option to jump and is replaced by a dodging system. During a game, characters can find hidden scrolls to help add to their character’s abilities. After each battle with a key rival character, one can learn a signature move. Saving the game takes place after a major chapter and while a chapter can be long, there are interim saves, but unfortunately, interim saves will not start where one has left off but at the beginning of a chapter.
As for the modes featured in the “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”:
This is probably my favorite part of “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”. The first game didn’t really explain characters all that much, but this time around, KOEI decided that the story would be a primary focus for Legend Mode.
And instead of featuring short stories, KOEI allows for more character development, by allowing you to play these other characters. But most importantly, developing a long story that covers the remainder of the “Hokuto no Ken” storyline revolving Kenshiro and his brothers.
So, one can possibly expect anywhere around 10-20 hours of gameplay, because some of these chapters are long, cut scenes also can be long but the biggest part that made me enjoy this game even more, is the fact that KOEI featured the following the manga series:
- Kenshiro meeting Bat and Rin as children
- Kenshiro storyline involving Shin and Yuria
- Kenshiro taking on Rei and also introducing Mamiya
- Kenshiro taking on those who represent Nanto Goshasei
- Kenshiro taking on his three brothers Jaki, Toki and Raoh + other opponents
- The Golden Celestial Storyline featuring a grown up Bat and Rin and the Falco storyline
- The Shura storyline featuring Kenshiro taking on those who know Hokuto Ryuken, and introducing and including battles with Jukei, Shchi, Han, Hyoh and Kaioh
- Conclusion of the Bat, Rin Mamiya and Bolge storyline
These arcs are quite long and if KOEI wanted to, they could have easily stopped at the Raoh storyline and save the other for a third game, but instead, the Shura/Hokuto Ryuken is featured in “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.
The object of LEGEND MODE is to play Kenshiro and going through what was featured in the manga series. Similar to Dynasty Warriors, hordes of enemies come from every direction and your character begins with either 3-4 signature moves. Using your buttons, you can do straight hits, combo moves, grab, taunt, etc. Scattered in each area are chests that contain a chicken or bread (for extra health), a canister (for extra aura) or scrolls that can enhance your character.
You can equip five scrolls and each scroll may have 1 to 4 symbols. A green heart for extra life, a yellow flame aura which allows one to have a quick recharge to pull off a signature move, a red fist for attack, blue shield for defense and purple for technique.
Some scrolls allow for a special ability, such as RECOVER which can allow your character to recover faster, STAMINA for added stamina during battle, others that activate more defense, better aura when you are low on health and more. Scroll levels start at level 1 but as you progress, you eventually find scrolls that feature higher levels and adds to your character’s life, aura, attack, defense and technique points.
But LEGEND MODE is a straightforward story mode with long cut scenes after each battle or after a segment during a fight against a key rival character.
To explain the bar segment (as shown on the image above), on the bottom at the screen during a fight with a key rival character character, you will notice their red health bar is broken down by three (or four) segments.
When one bar of segment goes down, the main fight will stop, transition to a cut-scene and feature a storyline in which Kenshiro or an opponent will get stronger, question a character’s fight style or continue a storyline with a new revelation.
Because LEGEND MODE follows the manga series, this style is much different than other games which allows you to take on a key rival character, fight to the death and then a cut scene.
Some are major opponents, captains or low ranking commanders and thus, some will not have a save point until after the chapter ends. While there are interim save points, this is not one of those games where one has 10 minutes to play and hope they can find a save point. Sometimes, some chapters are quite long, so for those wondering if they can play a game and save at any point of game, this is not one of them.
The game also allows other type of gameplay instead of fighting. Some levels ask for one to be stealthy and sneak and kill an enemy guard without being detected, another allows objects to be thrown at an enemy from the distance and some enemies rely on different strategies and standard hits or kicks may not work. Other levels have you protecting a child or a wounded comrade, while moving through a violent area.
But as the story progresses for Kenshiro and friends, LEGEND MODE is the most satisfying part of “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” because of how much of the manga is presented in this mode.
Dream Mode allows one to play with characters that were opened up in LEGEND MODE. The story is similar for those who have played Dynasty Warriors in which you are presented with a map which show where enemy forces have occupied several bases. Your job is to take back five of the bases (after beating the first base, you are joined with soldiers who fight for you) which have around 50 people plus two commanders or captains and after taking back five of the bases, you then take on a key rival character (which sometimes is followed by a second key rival).
The good news is that your soldiers actually do some fighting. Where in the first game, even if an opponent is nearly dead, you could never trust your soldiers as they seemed weak. And a lot of time, you had to go back to the bases you have beaten and reclaim them. The issue is not the case with “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”.
You can play over 20 characters (which represent Hokuto Shinken, Nanto Seiken, Hokuto Army, Hokoto Ryuken, Lone Warriors and Others), many characters who are available after beating their storyline in LEGEND MODE and level them up (all are level 1 with the exception of Kenshiro who maintains the same level for those who played LEGEND MODE first).
But the object is to defeat each map level by controlling your character on the map, reclaiming about five bases from the enemies and taking on the key rival for that area on the map. It’s important to note that two simultaneous bosses/key rival characters on screen have been removed but there are two simultaneous commanders or captains that are featured during battle.
The bad news for those who loved the missions of the first game, the missions are no longer featured in DREAM MODE. It’s now focused on claiming bases and taking on final key rival in that map area.
You can choose from a STORY MODE, FREE PLAY MODE and ONLINE.
For STORY MODE and FREE MODE, you can access one of the many characters and play up to 10 maps plus a challenge level for each character. The main difference between the two is that STORY MODE contains an alternate storyline with cut scenes.
At the time of this review, there aren’t many people playing ONLINE MODE at this time (for the PS3) but what is available is CO-OP PLAY and TEAM MATCH. The benefit of co-op is that you can access high level scrolls that are not available in the offline single player version of the game.
I do feel that KOEI is taking the risk of not letting characters be available for ONLINE MODE. You are forced to play LEGEND MODE first and literally beat the entire game before going into DREAM MODE which one can play Kenshiro. But I do understand the reason for this is because of the STORY MODE, which feature characters that can only be featured if you beat LEGEND MODE. So, it’s a restriction that does hurt the ONLINE mode.
It would have been nice to have two-player co-op but because of the restricti0n, it does make people focus on the single player aspect of the game much more.
Also, available is GALLERY which allows you to view artwork and movies that were saved after beating LEGENDARY MODE or STORY for DREAM MODE. You can also access SETTINGS to change difficulty, if you want a tutorial featured during play.
Also, DOWNLOAD for DLC content is available and as of right now, the characters Amiba, Nameless Shura and Han can be downloaded for $8 each.
For controls, you use the L3 stick to control your character, but most of the time, you will be using SQUARE and TRIANGLE to unleash a string of combos. CIRCLE to unleash your signature move and other buttons to dodge, taunt or grab/strike your character (which is important in facing off against stronger, same-size opponents, as you will need to do combos such as SQUARE, SQUARE, TRIANGLE, GRAB.
I felt the fighting mechanics for the second game is much better but this is subjective as some will miss the jumping ability of the first game.
While controls are fine and I rarely had problems, I did have issues with camera. Not all the time, but a few times during a fight against a major opponent, where I try to have my character pull off a string of combos, when the opponent circles around, it becomes a first person perspective. Granted, I could easily move out and re-position my character but during battles where timing is important, especially vs. Raoh or Kaoh, you don’t want these camera issues to happen and affect timing.
Once again, this did not affect me too much but it did happen a few times.
The graphics for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” are good (don’t expect big budget graphics like “Final Fantasy” or “Mass Effect”). But I enjoyed the character designs for this game. The characters compliment Tetsuo Hara’s character designs from the manga and I was quite pleased to see how the emotion and violence was captured in this video game.
Because it’s based on the manga series, most are 3D based characters that are featured as still images, but there are moments when the characters are in full movement and are speaking.
For people familiar with the manga or the anime series, the series is extremely violent and bloody. Characters are beaten, eyes are gouged out, heads explode, one scene has a character being drilled to death. So, for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” you expect to see characters bruised, bloody and beaten and you see that in this game.
Did I experience lag? Just once, during a scene where there were a ton of characters, there was a slight lag and choppiness but other than that, I was quite pleased with the game because having played many other “Hokuto no Ken” games, his is the best I have seen of a game so far.
“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” was quite immersive. Listening it on a 7.2 system, KOEI definitely let a lot of the sound effects be utilized through the surround and rear surround channels. Dialogue was crisp and clear but probably the highlight is the voice acting. The Japanese voice acting is fantastic. From the emotion coming from Bat, Rin, Yuria and Mamiya, to the evil that comes from Kaoh. I was quite pleased with the overall voice acting for the game.
With that being said, not everyone likes listening to a video game in Japanese with English subtitles. And those who prefer it to be dubbed, like the first game, may be disappointed to find out that the game is only in Japanese with English subtitles.
While I considered LEGEND MODE to be the main mode for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”, the fact that there are over 20-characters that one can continue playing on DREAM MODE, adds to the replay value of the game. It’s been a staple of the DYNASTY WARRIORS type games to include so many characters, that you get your money’s worth and the fact that each character have their own fighting style (and these are NOT clone characters), is a plus. And the addition of an ONLINE MODE adds to the replay value of the game.
I was very fortunate to have grown up with “Fist of the North Star”. The manga series that was released in the U.S. from Viz Communications and the anime series released on VHS easily made me a fan, but it was the old Streamline Pictures animated film that introduced me to “Fist of the North Star” and that was back in 1991.
I was captivated by the Mad Max storyline, a post-apocalyptic world where power rules over cash and the world turned into chaos because of it. And like many other anime/manga fans during the very early ’90s, we also played the import games and one of the first import games that I purchased was the side-scrolling game “Hokuto no Ken: Shin Seikimatsu Kyuseishu Densetsu” for the Sega Mega Drive, which I still own today.
And when I visit Japan, suffice to say, I still tend to look for anything related to “Hokuto no Ken” (First of the North Star) and another fighting series titled “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”. And while both games have been released in arcades in Japan, I have hoped and long wished for the series to have an awesome video game release.
By 2003, with the release of the animated OVA series, “New Fist of the North Star”, I was hoping that there would be of interested in Japan for a new video game. While there was a focus on bringing it out as a game, moreso for pachinko.
By 2008, I was excited about the release of “Hokuto no Ken: Hokuto Shinken Denshosha no Michi” for the Nintendo DS, just to find out it was a digital comic which required touching vital points. In 2009, with the release of the animated OVA series featuring Raoh titled “Hokuto no Ken: Raoh Gaiden: Ten no Haoh”, I immediately purchased the video game which featured the characters of the OVA series and the game was a 3D fighting game, more on the “Street Fighter” side.
In 2010, I was excited to find out that KOEI would be releasing a “Dynasty Warriors” type of game but in the “Hokuto no Ken” universe and heavily inspired by the manga series. For me, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” was awesome to see made for the current gen consoles, but what I wanted to see and play are the characters leading up to the final half of the series. Kenshiro vs. Shin, Kenshiro vs. Raoh, Kenshiro vs. Kaoh, etc.
So, when I started seeing the promotional videos from Japan for “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”, I couldn’t wait! Because the version I wanted to see and play for so long, is now here!
Before I continue with my review, I need to say that I’m not a “Dynasty Warriors” hater. Many reviewers who dislike the game, I feel should not be reviewing it in the first place. They score the games low, they hardly play it and every year, they talk about how the game lacks innovation and can’t understand why people play them.
I’m not that kind of reviewer. In fact, I have owned and played many “Dynasty Warriors”, “Samurai Warriors”, “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam” games, for a variety of consoles, and I enjoy playing the Musou games.
Perhaps it was because I grew up with games such as “Final Fantasy”, “Streets of Rage” and many others were you fought the same looking characters, repeat the same moves. I’m so used to playing Japanese RPG’s, level grinding for hours upon hours and I don’t mind it.
And while there are a niche group who will forever support these games, I know there are people who don’t and they are vocal about it in their review.
In my case, I enjoyed playing “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2”. In my opinion, this is the best game to come out featuring the characters and how awesome is it that the video game is based on the manga series.
The character design compliments Tetsuo Hara’s style, the voice acting is incredible and while the game leans more to the easier side (which can be fixed by difficulty select in the settings), the fact that Kenshiro has so many cool signature moves and find a way to defeat these herds of soldiers or psychopaths as quickly as possible is quite fun. But what made it worth my while is the LEGEND MODE.
I realized that KOEI could have stopped anywhere after the long arc which involved Kenshiro vs. his brothers, especially Raoh. But the story continued as it goes into the Falco storyline and just when you think that the game would end on a teaser for possibly a third “Ken’s Rage”, you are then presented a new long storyline revolving the Shura and the battle against those who possess the Hokoto Ryuken.
And just when you think the game was about to end, you are then presented with a new storyline revolving around the character of Bat.
Looking at my character profile and how long I have played, LEGEND MODE, I was near 20 hours. Granted, probably 18 hours at the most as those extra two hours was testing interim save and having to replay a level again and finding a way to beat Kaoh underground in a sulfur pit, but playing this mode alone, I felt the game was worth the money because the interactive cut scenes based on the manga were fantastic and for any “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” fans, this longer LEGEND MODE was so, worth playing!
As for the DREAM MODE, this is where I can see some players being a bit upset with. The mission mode is no longer there, the hordes of enemies that are featured in LEGEND MODE are now broken up into 50-men armies, many characters are not available until you beat LEGEND MODE and because some people don’t want to get involved in a long storyline with long cut-scenes to access players for DREAM MODE, I can see a few frustrated gamers. And because of the lack of players, it won’t help much with the ONLINE MODE because everyone would have to play LEGEND MODE to unlock the characters.
So, I can see the frustration for some gamers for DREAM MODE in that aspect. But if you did beat LEGEND MODE, you realize that because the games within DREAM MODE for story relates to many characters that have yet to be opened, it makes sense why KOEI went this direction. But it was a risk for KOEI because it does hurt gameplay for those who want to play online immediately.
As for problems, the main problems that I experienced was just camera issues for a few matches against key opponents. The camera would switch to a first person view when fighting that it easily distracts your rhythm if you are trying to create a string of combos. Fortunately, it happened a few times and that was it.
As for lag, I didn’t see much of it. Only one time, where I can remember it going slow with so many things on the screen but other than that, I had no issues with the game at all.
But I think that where people may have difficulty with this game are outside of the game modes, are repetitive gameplay and the interruption of fights against key rival characters. Rarely do we see boss fights in a video game that stop the momentum and go into a lengthy cinematic sequence, but it does happen in LEGEND MODE a few times for a good reason. It adds to the storyline as it was featured in the manga, especially when it focuses on the turn of the battles. Where the opponent may be kicking Kenshiro’s butt but then all of a sudden, he finds a way to make his comeback. This is how those fights are set up, if you manage to beat the key rival character and see their health bar decrease by a segment (which I explain above in gameplay).
In the way it was implemented, I didn’t mind so much. Unless one was low on time and had to leave or go to sleep, I can see why some may get frustrated because you could only save after the end of a chapter and some of these chapters are long. It would have been great if interim saves would allow for a restart where you last saved, but because of the way the game was built, it’s not possible. That was probably the only thing that did make me frustrated, not knowing how long the chapter would be and if a save would ever come. There were times it took a long while just to get a save point.
Graphics were good, not great but the character design compliments Tetsuo Hara’s work from the manga series. Audio was very good as it utilized the surround channels, but another caveat for some, may be the fact that only the Japanese dialogue with English subtitles are included. While the Japanese voice acting was fantastic, those who dislike having to read subtitles, may have a problem with this game not having an English dub.
But the positives outweighed the negative for me. I’m an avid gamer who enjoys “Dynasty Warriors” type of games and I’m a big fan of “Hokuto no Ken”. While, I’m not sure if “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage” will continue, especially with more stories that can be explored with “New Fist of the North Star” and “Fist of the Blue Sky”, if this is the final game in the “Ken’s Rage” series, I feel that KOEI gave “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” fans a game that was exciting and a storyline that kept to the manga series with efficacy.
As for differences between the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360 version, the PS3 is not available on physical media in the U.S. but as a digital download on the PSN store, while the XBOX 360 is available in physical media. While I did not play the XBOX 360 version, I can say that the PS3 version is over 9GB long and you will need to have at least 18GB free to install it.
People who hardly play the “Dynasty Warriors” style games, may it be “Dynasty Warriors”, “Samurai Warriors”, “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam” or even “One Piece: Pirate Wars” will always complain about repetitiveness and to tell you the truth, that has been going on since “Dynasty Warriors 2” for the PS2.
“Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is not perfect but by no means is it terrible. I’ll proudly say it’s the best “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” made so far. The LEGEND MODE is a reason enough to buy this game alone and the DREAM MODE was like extra content that added to replay value and I love that. But for those in it for the ONLINE MODE, will be disappointed and will say, do not buy this game if your priority is online gaming or online co-op.
Overall, “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2” is a game that long time fans will be proud of. It’s a game that manages to bring Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s popular, violent and exciting manga series to the video game world with efficacy and combining it with KOEI’s “Dynasty Warriors” style of gameplay. Unlike the first game, these are the characters and the battles that fans want to see and play! If you are a fan of “Dynasty Warriors” games and a big fan of the manga or anime series of “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star”, gives this game a chance, because I really enjoyed it!
+ The Best “Hokuto no Ken”/”Fist of the North Star” game made so far!
+ LEGEND MODE is awesome and fans of the series will no doubt love it. 15-20 hours of gameplay for LEGEND MODE alone.
+ “Ken’s Rage 2” features more characters that many of us have been wanting to play!
+ Fantastic voice acting! And respectful design based on Tetsuo Hara’s manga designs.
+ Better fight mechanics than the previous game.
– ONLINE MODE for DREAM MODE requires one to play through LEGEND MODE first.
– Camera tends to go astray a few times.
– Mission mode removed from DREAM MODE and 50-person battles per base may seem to easy.
– Some may find the halting for more cut scenes during major key opponent battles to be bothersome.