Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 is a monumental contradiction with itself: it's a title so mind-numbingly simple, yet one that requires a review so very difficult to write. What you're reading now is probably my fifth attempt at an opening paragraph, a bunch of lines that is usually so easy to formulate. But that's the thing with Ken's Rage 2: it makes you question why you play games in the first place, why millions sit for hours and hours on end killing both soldiers and egos online, completing puzzles much harder than the Sudoku in the daily newspaper and crossing the finishing line to the cheers of others because surely, surely a game could not exist that is this bad. Right?
According to extended searches into the internet, Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 is based on a Japanese manga series that originated in the eighties. After exhausting other mediums such as television, novels and even a live-action film, the franchise took to the world of videogames in the form of a spin-off of Dynasty Warriors. In terms of plot, Ken's Rage 2 features a mystical warrior called Kenshiro who travels a post-apocalyptic world using his powers as a successor of a deadly martial art called Hokuto Shinken to rid the land of evil beings and save its innocent inhabitants.
It's clear from very early on in Ken's Rage 2 that this was not a game where delivering an emotional and complex storyline was at the heart of development and there's nothing wrong with that. If any form of media should worry about delivering a good narrative then that is the mediums of movies and novels, not games. Videogames should give the player a good time, regardless of whether the plot is good or awful. It seems then that Ken's Rage 2 was built from the ground-up with one target market in mind: fans of the original manga. For someone who has never heard of the source material let alone read it, I quickly found myself lost in the multitude of names I was consistently being bombarded by and the history of the land was a complete mystery to me. Whilst this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it could ensure that some players quickly find themselves overwhelmingly intimidated by the plot and lore, putting them off completely. Although, in all honesty, the gameplay does that well enough.
Before Ken's Rage 2, I had not taken the time to play a title of this format. I had heard of Dynasty Warriors and knew that claiming it was a game constructed through constant and unforgiving bombardments of enemies against the player was somewhat of an understatement. So with Ken's Rage 2 being a slight spin-off of the aforementioned franchise, I was fully aware of what I was letting myself in for. I had seen various screenshots and a trailer for Ken's Rage 2 so was led to believe that it was a game of madness, where you're constantly on your toes, the threat not being so much about what will appear next but instead how many of them. So, with these expectations in my head, why was I greeted with tedium, repetitiveness and laziness?
Whenever the player runs into a new area, they are greeted by two lines of text on the right hand side of the screen: a timer that either ticks up or counts down and a fraction, indicating how many more enemies Kenshiro must plough through to finish the section. The moment it is revealed that the player must dispatch one-hundred enemies it's clear that something is wrong. Gameplay is very simple in Ken's Rage 2: walk into a room and kill whatever comes in your way. This should never be a problem as it serves as the crux idea in a majority of modern-day titles: where the game fails is in its laziness and seeing a hundred or so copies of the same character model illustrates this.
There were genuine moments when literally fifty enemies would jump in and try to kill me and they all looked exactly the same: same hair style, same skin colour, same clothes, same voice. Whenever this happened, I had the image of lots of game developers sitting with a mug of coffee in one hand and their other hand working the paste button on a computer. I shouldn't feel like that. I should be able to see the time, effort and dedication it takes to create a game bleed through every single facet and moment of this title. Instead, I spent about ten hours with a game that, once the characters and environments had been 'designed', was completed in about an hour.
So what exactly is the gameplay of Ken's Rage 2 like? Well, limited. It's a simple hack and slash title and that's where it ends. There was next to no moments where I performed a move that made me nod in acceptance of how cool that was. Sure, God of War gets repetitive at times but it never forgets to make the player's jaw drop and I know that that series benefits from a budget the size of some of the creatures in it but surely it wouldn't be too hard to impress the player. Right?
Graphically, Ken's Rage 2 is hardly inspiring. I understand that it's meant to be a post-apocalyptic setting but surely there are other colours in the world than browns and greys because this game seems to think otherwise. If you're not fighting in a crumbling village then you're fighting in fields and both seem exactly the same visually. Character models are eccentric and quite creepy at times but that's come to be expected from Japanese titles and the brilliantly mad voice-acting works well to compliment this. But the whole thing feels very simple with textures being particularly empty and bland. And the hundreds of repeated character models don't really help much.
Simply put, Ken's Rage 2 is an awful game. It's a title that not only bores the player but also probably does disservice to the source material. I have no idea of the quality of said material but it can't be bad enough to require a game this lazy to be based off of it, yes? Hopefully. With bland graphics, appalling gameplay and a story that confuses all but it's most loyal fans, Ken's Rage 2 is a game that makes getting excreted on by a bird or splashed by a car as it goes through a puddle a lot more exciting and interesting. And I've had both of those things happen to me. It was not good.
- Eccentric character models
- Lazy game design
- Repeated character models
- Bland graphics
- Repeated character models
- Unexciting gameplay
- Repeated character models