KOEI and Omega Force have certainly been on a winning streak as of late with their various Warriors brand of video-games. Dynasty Warriors 7, Warriors Orochi 3, DW: Gundam 3 and One Piece: Pirate Warriors have all had uniquely fantastic aspects, shining as an upswing in the genre. Never one to rest between game releases, KOEI announced Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 sometime last year which shocked most fans. The first title was generally received rather poorly, and a sequel seemed outlandish to some given the genre’s exploration to various other time periods and anime series.
I have many gripes with 2010′s Ken’s Rage, and I can happily say that this year’s sequel has patched up nearly every single specific problem I had with the first game. The overall pacing of the game’s combat has been ramped up, seemingly about five times as fast as before. Given the source material and considering playability, this was a much needed update- Ken’s Rage (1) was painfully slow and cumbersome. Special attacks no longer display title-cards after being performed, standard combos are better at hitting multiple enemies simultaneously and even sprinting is enabled faster. There are a plethora of other minor details and updates, but it’s clear that attention was paid to criticism towards the first game’s snail pacing.
Unfortunately with the removal of so many unneeded aspects came more, equally bad, unneeded concepts. While the sluggish vertical climbing segments were mostly removed, mandatory timed sections to farm kills were included numerous times in close to every mission in the game. While non-fans of the Warriors genre might not understand what is bad about “just killing enemies” in this kind of game, understand that this is literally forced. You cannot skip the enemies; the game starts a clock countdown and for that duration you are to kill ever-spawning enemies in a limited space. The parallel instance involves the game telling you to “Kill X Enemies” as fast as possible. On one occasion I was ordered to kill 50, 80 and then 100+ enemies all within a one mile radius. This lack of freedom echoes into the entirety of the game, as you’ll be killing 95% of the enemies you ever see. When combining this aspect with the game’s limited amount of combos and attacks, excessive amounts of talking and pitiful enemy-level scaling; you’re in for a long, painful, ride.
Many of these aspects help to give Ken’s Rage 2 a much more thorough and understandable plot. KOEI has done a great job of making the source material better represented, but at the cost of making a less fun experience. Hundreds of unskippable dialogue-only cut-scenes were strewn about the game’s lengthy Legend Mode. What initially helped direct the player as to what to do in a particular section, later became a host to virtually unneeded speech scenes. Dialogue between main characters is one thing, but hearing each and every vandal and bandit threaten unnamed villagers is painfully repetitive and boring to sit through. As a gamer, I was offended to be told to save civilians who were directly blocking the way of my linear path of progression. The CGI cut-scenes and expansive amount of levels both aid in the game’s story-telling, killing excess renegades for the hell of it does not. If anything, that could have been saved for the game’s other primary mode, Dream Mode, which serves as the local variant on classic Musuo game play.
Initially I was excited to delve into the game’s expansive character roster. Ken’s Rage (1) had eight playable characters, with two available for purchase as DLC. Ken’s Rage 2 has 20 playable characters, with three incoming as paid DLC. The doubled-roster is nice and all, and while characters all do play very unique from one another, I simply do not see the point in combat. Progression only comes from getting stronger base stats, both through leveling up and taking advantage of the game’s scroll system (very similar to Pirate Warriors’ coin system). Upon becoming stronger, your reward is fighting enemies on later stages who scale at a rate to nullify your progression – similar to other Warriors games, but far more noticeable. While the other recent KOEI/Omega Force releases have been focusing on what I’ve coined as “Content Celebration,” (constant unlocking of characters, moves, weapons and costumes) Ken’s Rage 2 primary incentive of combat is itself. Perhaps if move sets were larger than ten minimalistic combos I’d be more intrigued.
Surprisingly I even ran into some problems with the game’s engine. During sequences of mass killing, the game’s spawn rate could not keep up with my rate of dispatching enemies. I would need X more kills to continue onwards, and the cannon fodder were nowhere to be seen; causing myself to backtrack and wait for the enemies to spawn out of thin air. Other minor tidbits of problems include abysmal stealth sections seemingly straight out of Samurai Warriors 2 (2006) and one specific part of the game that forces you to throw boulders in exact locations to kill enemies within a time limit. Oh, and at one point I forcibly killed over a hundred peons by spinning in a circle while riding on a horse for three straight minutes, lovely.
Saying I’m disappointed by Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is an understatement. I’m a die-hard fan of the Warriors series and wherever KOEI/Omega Force takes it I tend to follow. Given a recent track record of amazing releases, Ken’s Rage 2 is stricken with far too many flaws to be deemed acceptable. This sequel is better than the first game, but that’s largely a case of a big fish in a small pond. After two flop releases, it’s safe to say that the Ken’s Rage series should be put on a hiatus.
What We Love:
- Fixes Issues with the first title
- More characters are playable and are unique additions
What We Hate:
- The game’s engine struggles to keep pace
- Forcing the player to kill practically everything, and usually on a time limit
Score: 3 / 5