Although most gamers will be familiar with popular animé characters like Goku, Tetsuo and Naruto of Dragon Ball Z, Akira and (surprisingly enough) Naruto fame, Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star has to rank as one of the most brutally badass creations in the history of Japanese manga. Not only can he punch with more force than a speeding wrecking ball, but by being the chosen successor of the ancient Hokuto Shinken assassination style, he can cause his opponents to erupt in a violent explosion of their internal organs. Suddenly the fireball from Street Fighter doesn't look quite so impressive.
When playing a Fist of the North Star game you have to be prepared for two things. One is a steady flow of manly tears that are shed as the sentimental characters fight each other to the death, and the other is the savage butchery of whole motorcycle gangs. Ken's Rage 2 ticks both these boxes as you play through its expanded Legend Mode. The first game only covered about two thirds of the original storyline but this sequel retells the whole tragic saga from Kenshiro's first battle with the lumbering Zeed, to his final confrontation with the demonic Kaioh.
Fists of Fury
In addition to Legend Mode, Ken's Rage 2 brings back Dream Mode, only instead of letting the player rewrite North Star history, the focus is now on telling the untold stories. Considering Legend Mode already offers around 25 hours of goon-shredding action, it's fair to say that Dream Mode really ups the mileage with its capturing dynamic. It's also similar to Dynasty Warriors in the sense that you have to fight through a group of guardians before you can successfully capture a base, and then once you near your final target, more powerful characters from the opposing schools of Hokuto and Nanto will stand in your way.
While the first game limited you to just eight fighters, Ken's Rage 2 includes a more comprehensive selection of 22 - including lesser known characters like Ein the brawling bounty hunter and Kenshiro's long lost brother, Hyo. The combat system has also been reworked in a number of subtle ways. Instead of being able to jump, every character now has access to a special dodge ability that lets them evade an incoming strike before delivering a suitable counter-attack. With an even wider selection of signature moves to choose from - including the infamous 100 Crack Fist of the North Star - revenge is a dish best served like a pneumatic drill that knows kung-fu.
All The Rage
As brutally barbaric as Ken's Rage 2 is, however, it's not without its limits. The worst culprit is the formulaic combat system. It doesn't set its sights anywhere near the lofty heights of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta and instead offers something comparatively dated. Most missions boil down to hammering out the same combo against similar groups of mindless enemies before standing off against the big bad boss, and while the game includes online co-op and team battle modes for up to eight players, the absence of two player co-op on the same console is a bit of an oversight.
Recommending Ken's Rage 2 is therefore a question of personal expectations. If you're after a sophisticated brawler that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the current cream of the crop, then this North Star sequel will only disappoint - it's just not that type of game. But if you're looking for an old-school fighter that puts a modern twist on arcade classics like Streets of Rage and Final Fight, then Ken's Rage 2 is a nostalgic road-trip that you won't want to miss. We just hope that Hokuto Shinken is eventually fashioned into an awesome game, rather than just a good one.
- Over 20 North Star characters
- Fighting styles feel more varied
- The whole unbroken story
- The combat isn't very challenging
- We miss the two player co-op
- The missions are all very similar