Title: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2
System(s): Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: February 7, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Tecmo Koei (Koei)
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence)
I seem to recall having read Fist of the North Star back when I was young and sometimes had the luxury of being bored. Or maybe I saw the anime. I can’t recall, I just know I’m for some reason familiar with the story. Within a couple months, I’ll have the same vague recollections of having played Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 for the Wii U. Did I like it? Do I remember anything about it? Why’s Ken so upset, anyway?
No matter. Ken’s Rage 2 is not meant to take up permanent residence in that 1/10th of our brain scientists say we actually use. You barely even need to use that while playing it.
Enemies Without Identities
Look, I loved me some Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper for the Wii U, also from Tecmo Koei. If you want throw a hundred idiotic enemies at me at once and let me tear through them with all manner of special moves and awesome weapons, then cool. There’s fun to be had there. But Ken’s Rage 2 is claustrophobic by comparison. The Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games give you open fields to explore and freedom to move around as you fight. In Ken’s Rage 2, you’re lcoked into enclosed areas where enemies fall from the sky by the dozens until you defeat about a hundred of them to unlock the next area in which you’re certain to be locked until you defeat a hundred more enemies falling from the sky.
The gameplay occasionally changes up on you, requiring some stealth, for instance. But even in that example, if you fail to eliminate the enemy quickly, he calls a hundred friends to fall from the sky. No wonder Ken’s so full of rage; he has to beat up 100 people every time he walks into another room. It has to be tiring.
Legends or Dreams, Little Variation
If you’re wondering why all of this is going on, you’re not the target audience for the game. Ken’s Rage 2 is about mindless fighting. There is a story, of course, and it’s mostly told through manga style still images that should appeal to fans of the manga.
But if you want the story, I suggest you read the source material because the fighting is just going to get in the way here.
Variation comes in the form of different bosses and different capabilities. The problem is that the bosses aren’t all that different and your capabilities are limited. Your technique for getting through the very first fight will work for pretty much everything throughout the entire game, making the scroll upgrade system your only real means of altering your characters’ capabilities. But this system is poorly explained, and since Ken’s Rage 2 is a digital download only, there’s no manual to be had. So, I had to rely on the Internet to figure out how to set up and properly use scrolls (a PDF manual can be downloaded from the game’s official website, but it’s for the PS3 version). If the industry really wants to move towards digital distribution, this is something they’ll have to figure out.
Additional game modes do squeeze a bit more life out of Ken then you’d get through the main story of Legends Mode. Dream Mode opens up characters and story lines from the books that aren’t part of the game, and you can choose to play through maps with any character you like.
Fun for fans of the story, but largely meaningless to everyone else. Online multiplayer is also available, but it’s unfortunate Ken’s Rage 2 doesn’t support local multiplayer like Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper’s GamePad/TV system.
The Post-Apocalypse Will Not Be Pretty, Even in High-Def
The graphics in Ken’s Rage 2 are decent. I’m still at the point where the Wii U high-def presentation is new, however, so everything looks decent. But the level design is largely drab an unimaginative. I get that it’s a post-apocalyptic world, but unless I’m mistaken, nuclear bombs do not destroy the color spectrum. For fun, do a search online and pull up the resulting images. If you find anything other than brown or gray, you likely need to adjust your monitor settings.
Rage Against the Game, Not the Machine
Ultimately, the fun of uncovering plot elements and meeting new characters isn’t worth the repetitive, mindless fighting of Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2. Here’s hoping Tecmo Koei soon releases some DLC for Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper to remind of what I enjoy about games like this.