Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage Chris Stone Hot

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Written by Chris Stone     November 05, 2010    
 
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Release Date
November 02, 2010
MSRP $
$59.99
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Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is an interesting case, to say the least. The game targets a special niche, one that loves the rhythmic repetitiveness of the modern beat ‘em ups that follow the Dynasty Warriors model. Those that hold dear the classic man-battles of the Fist of the North Star manga should take notice as well, as Ken’s Rage spews forth enough post-apocalyptic bikers that serve as limp fodder to the Houkto style as it follows the manga’s story.

You’re already broken

Unlike Gundam Musou, Ken’s Rage can’t seem to recapture the oddly hypnotic core loop of the prior entries in the Musou continuum. While not universally lauded, the Dynasty Warriors (Musou) brand brought the simple pleasures of a beat ‘em up game and combined them with large maps featuring hundreds of jugglable enemies. The series never succeeded in fulfilling the promises made during its inception, but it at least catered to its niche by not-so-subtly iterating and remaining playable. Ken’s Rage misses on almost every cue left my dozens of Musou games that came before it, and fails to add anything new or interesting.

What came out of the collision of the two properties is just short of an abomination. Aside from the apparent lack of polish, part of this problem seems to hinge on the slow and narrow attack patterns and the sometimes sparsely-placed enemies. It is certainly difficult to create meaningful level design within a barren wasteland, but the effort in Ken’s Rage is sloppy at best, as evidenced by ruined buildings that crumble in the laziest manner that a building can crumble. Even the slightest amount of effort could’ve helped, but it’s just not there, and the geysers upon geysers of blood and gore can’t hide any of its flaws.

Though it is more apparent in the slower characters (namely, Kenshiro), an unforgiving momentum-breaking movement delay becomes glaringly apparent after certain movesets. This nearly-fatal flaw breaks the seamless flow of combat that has served as mindless, combo-juggling therapy for Dynasty Warriors fans throughout the years. Granted, the appeal has always been somewhat niche, but the fact that Ken’s Rage forgets what it is supposed to be is perhaps its biggest flaw. Long, annoying delays emerge after almost every action that break any sensible flow.

Barren, dusty

The majority of the story-focused missions are linear, thus eliminating the large-scale battle feeling that runs prevalent in other Musou games, yet things are too open to feel focused and thus most maps feel as dry as they look. Peppered throughout the stages are various iterations of the typical Fist of the North Star bad guys: buff, mindless, idiotic biker thugs and the like. They’re a little more active than you’d think, but with the relative inability to guide your characters movement during combos, I often found myself finishing my combos in the wrong direction.

Movement is almost as insufferable as combat. With little fluidity in hardly any of the characters’ actions, the transition from movement, jumping, and fighting is convulsed and erratic, as evidenced by the two or three second lull that occurs between the completion of a leap or a combo. The upgradable skill grid or the unlockable special moves are a nice touch, but they don’t remedy the unfinished-feeling mechanics of the combat.

Ken’s Rage also lacks any consistent physics. I am not trying to imply that a beat ‘em up game needs a real physics engine; it just needs to remain consistent in its animations. When Kenshiro’s flying jump kick jolts across the screen from a complete standstill and is unaffected by contact with any object, or when enemies sloppily jump down from ledges at variable falling speeds, I have start layering my suspension of disbelief over top of my disbelief that was previously suspended. Ken’s Rage fails to be consistent within its own universe, and it’s obvious.

Editor reviews

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is so terrible that it can’t even satisfy an established template. As a fun idea targeted at a specific niche, it even fails to iterate an iteration and cannot even achieve mediocrity. Unpolished visuals and unfinished mechanics create an overtly disjointed feel. This is a game that clearly lacks direction, effort, and even a twinkle of promise.
Overall rating 
 
4.4
Gameplay 
 
4.0
Presentation 
 
5.0
Value  
 
4.0
Fun Factor 
 
4.0
Tilt 
 
5.0
Chris Stone Reviewed by Chris Stone November 05, 2010
Top 50 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (24)

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is so terrible that it can’t even satisfy an established template. As a fun idea targeted at a specific niche, it even fails to iterate an iteration and cannot even achieve mediocrity. Unpolished visuals and unfinished mechanics create an overtly disjointed feel. This is a game that clearly lacks direction, effort, and even a twinkle of promise.

Videogames

Gameplay
The jolty, delay-ridden combat flows like concrete through the standard hack-and-slash formula.
Presentation
The game looks fine until it starts moving. Once again, bland and brown environments full of stagnant eye-sores.
Value
Possibly admissible as a PlayStation 2 launch game.
Fun Factor
The aforementioned poor gameplay is a huge barrier to entry, and doesn’t make for a good time.
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What are you going on about? Not being able to direct your movements? An unforgiving momentum-breaking movement delay?

The game plays great, and music fits with a beat 'em up. I'm not familiar with the North Star anime except some youtube videos, but I really enjoyed this game. I think what's really "broken" are your arguments. The signature moves are awesome, the boss battles are awesome, your normal movesets are great too.

Comparing this in far lenghts to the weak hack-and-slash series Dynasty Warriors is an insult, they have less in common than you think.
Overall rating 
 
8.6
Gameplay 
 
8.0
Presentation 
 
8.0
Value  
 
9.0
Fun Factor 
 
10.0
Tilt 
 
8.0
Reviewed by Chris W November 06, 2010

FOTNS

What are you going on about? Not being able to direct your movements? An unforgiving momentum-breaking movement delay?

The game plays great, and music fits with a beat 'em up. I'm not familiar with the North Star anime except some youtube videos, but I really enjoyed this game. I think what's really "broken" are your arguments. The signature moves are awesome, the boss battles are awesome, your normal movesets are great too.

Comparing this in far lenghts to the weak hack-and-slash series Dynasty Warriors is an insult, they have less in common than you think.

Owner's reply

Thanks for reading. There's not much else I have to say that I didn't state in the review, but I will respond to your comments.

I've always had a soft spot for Koei brawlers, but I would argue that the short delay after the end of combo or a jump breaks gameflow. It's difficult to change the direction your character is moving whilst he is in the middle of combo -- this makes mob control very difficult for characters that can't cancel out of their combos. It's very relevant to compare this to the Dynasty Warriors series, seeing as it uses it as a template, and was developed by Omega Force. Even their games from 6 years ago played better than this one.

Agree to disagree on this one, it seems.

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