Nuclear War has turned Earth into a barren wasteland where food and water is scarce. Law and order is now a thing of the past, and the new rule is survival of the fittest. Kenshiro, the master of a martial art called Hokuto Shinken stands up for the weak. At some point his woman was taken from him by a man named Shin whom mastered the Nanto art. Kenshiro embarks on a personal mission to rescue her. -summary
There's really no other way for me to start this; I must come out and say that Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage is the worst game I played for the PS3 to date. I can't remember the last time I wanted to quit a game so bad because I was soooo bored. The game play is lacking so horribly that I began to skip cutscenes because I wanted to get this shit over with already.
I must also point out that this is one of those very strong occasions where blind followers of a franchise, character, and the easy to please should be completely ignored, because they are being so forgiving here it borders towards being dishonest. The Fist of the North Star fanboys are in full gaga mode. I took a look at reviews on other sites, and these people are completely ignoring this games flaws, only because of the name and the history behind the franchise. I don't care if Fist of the North Star has been around since 1983, or the possibility this game closely follows the manga. It's a very bad game because the execution is poor, and as a brawler, this game's fighting engine would have felt dated 15 years ago despite it being a 2010 release.
Fist of the North Star is a third person action/brawler, that begins with Kenshiro fighting his way through hordes of enemies for 13 chapters. Along the way additional characters will be unlocked for play, and each of them will have their own story to get through. While the story begins with Kenshiro searching for his lover Yuria, which leads to the battle with Shin, that storyline is quickly concluded and new stories begin with battles against Kenshiro's two evil brothers, Jagi and Raoh the Conqueror, as well as with other would be kings and thugs. The game tells this story through various cutscenes, plenty of dialog, and it has a fair amount of interest. Unfortunately, the game play is the definition of one dimensional and it's so boring you may not even care about the story. Around the sixth chapter, I didn't give a damn about Kenshiro, his world, his allies, etc.
This game is a sluggish button masher and that's it. You will find yourself spamming the same destructive combo over and over, and not at all because it's the best one for the situation, Ken's arsenal is just so limited. The combos you will be using register something like this: square, square, square, triangle. The only difference is dropping a square and the combo is somewhat different, or you can just press square continuously. When Ken kills his enemies, he will be able to earn Karma points which can be used to upgrade his arsenal, health, attack, and even defense, but these things are barely noticeable and they do very little for the game play. He can also equip up to four Signature Moves he learns along the way, which can be chosen by pressing either direction on the control pad and later pressing circle for use. Unfortunately, like his attacks, these devastating moves do very little to relieve the boredom of such bare bones game play, at least that was the case with me.
The game is all about killing waves on top of waves of enemies through various sections. There will be some weird stipulations that have nothing to do with the story at hand, such as time limits to defeat enemies, or chase enemies down before they warn someone of your presence, but at the end of the day, it's all about killing your enemies with the exact same boring attacks. Speaking of the enemies, there is almost no variety within their ranks. Even though their armor will change probably once, they still fight the same way; you have your melee fighters and distance crossbow shooters, assisted by the over-sized grunt who's tougher than the rest and that's about it. The boss battles aren't much better, in fact, I think they suck just the same since they all require the exact same strategy to beat them. You just dive in with your combo string and start pummeling the bad guy for what seems to be an eternity.
The combat just doesn't get any better; there are steel girders to swing around and throw, along with explosive oil drums. These are even less fun to play with since Ken is so slow using them. Plus the fighting engine is pretty shaky here, for example, whenever my attention was towards the enemy and I picked up an oil drum with them dead in my sights, Ken would always shift to a completely different direction, then I would have to find the enemy, which saw them already being on top of me and the oil drum exploding in my area resulting in unnecessary damage. The targeting is off, and sometimes Ken will miss the last part of his combo since he drifts a little away from the enemy, plus the fighting mechanics are annoying as hell. On some occasions you approach a group of enemies, and they would all just jump out of the way to some place else, and you have to run over and finish them off. It looks so silly to see more than 20 enemies jumping at the same time to avoid you. During certain parts of the game, Ken will receive assistance from others like Rei and Mamiya; not that you actually need it, but they don't do a damn thing besides standing around in their poses. The villagers you save later in the game fight more than they do.
The game makes a lousy attempt at platforming, by forcing Ken to utilize a very floaty jump to leap across obstacles in order to avoid a poisonous swamp. And damn dude, the so-called puzzles or whatever, if you get lost, try punching a wall, I am dead serious here. Ken is treated as a dim-witted simpleton. There's one segment where he comes across a draw bridge that needs to be lowered for him to cross. I'm not kidding here, this is his solution to lower the bridge. " hmmm, perhaps I can get across if I use my fist." He punches the bridge, and he can now cross over.... Yo, what in the hell were they thinking when they made this game? He also runs around punching random gates, doors, and more walls to pick up karma. This is just awful video game production. The game has auto save but I always quit after finishing a chapter. I don't know how far Ken is put back after being killed in a boss battle, because I didn't die once at any point on Normal difficulty.
This game was a very bad experience for me since I got bored so quickly. I prefer action games the likes of Soul Reaver, God of War, Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta, the point I'm making, I need a deep fighting engine for games like these, as well as other things besides running around killing the same guys over and over. I need boss battles, high octane, kick-your-ass-rage-quit boss battles. Not this... whatever I did at the end of these chapters. I can't imagine anyone who prefers the least bit of creativity in their games enjoying this for too long if at all.
The game uses all of the buttons and Ken moves with the stick. I like the set up and there's no real learning curve. It takes a little while to understand the Rage and Spirit Meter's which enhances your attacks, or allows you to use Signature Moves, but you will have plenty of opportunity in the first chapter to get these things down. My only problem is the sluggish feel of the character, however, this has everything to do with the game play engine and not the controls. The controls work well enough.
Visually this game is far from great, it borders towards below average. The backgrounds really stood out to me as a problem. They all look the same, taking place in the same valleys or ran down towns. There really isn't much range or detail here, and nothing noteworthy really comes to mind. The camera is very, very bad, there were times during deep combat where I completely lost my character, and I had to unleash a Signature Move to regain focus. The animation is clunky, stiff, and slow. This game moves like bullet-time if it was to be compared to Ninja Gaiden.
Since this is a Fist of the North Star game, then the gore, violence, and animation depicting these things should be on point right? Well don't come into this part with high expectations; you will get to see Ken's super fast punch attack which heavily resembles the anime, and it does look cool along with several of his attacks. The problem is all the carnage. The characters do explode into pieces, but the gore is pretty stale. It feels tame compared to Ninja Gaiden 2, which is kind of crazy since Fist of the North Star has always been synonymous with over the top violence. The CGI cutscenes are the best this game has to offer visually. Characters like Raoh, Thouzer, and even Jagi look great. The male characters are all extremely built with superhero physiques. The female designs are good, but there aren't enough of them at all.
There's maybe only four instrumentals that are made up of metal tunes and they are complete trash. They never really got me into a fighting mood, and the boss theme is even more forgettable. I couldn't feel a sense of urgency once the boss theme appeared, and this made them feel even worse. The voice overs get old quick, as the grunts regurgitate the same lame lines over and over until they're dead, then the next wave does the same. The voice work for the main characters does capture the feel of the anime. Several times I felt like quitting this game and watching the show instead. I can barely remember the sound effects, which is pretty damn weird because you punch and kick about a million times in each stage. I guess that's just how non existent they were to me.
The main game takes place in Legend Mode, this is where as Ken you unlock many characters. In the same mode, you can play as Rei, Mamiya, and several others. I played with Rei for about ten minutes and I just couldn't deal with this game anymore. I don't care about his or the other characters stories. The game play is redundant and just too damn boring. Dream Mode offers more characters and I gave this a shot as well. I played as Jagi and his story partnered him up with another villain named Amiba, and in co-op they run around the city and begin a war. This part was fairly fun at first, because you take on one of the local villages, and once you defeat them, they become your army and you run around the city taking over land. Jagi was fun to play with, as he relies on firearms and he goes berserk firing his rocket launcher as a Signature Move. Unfortunately, I got bored with this by the 2nd chapter, and I really don't know how I made it that far. There's no online play and if it was I wouldn't bother with it anyway.
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage's biggest problem is the one dimensional game play. On top of this with a 8 hour play time which felt like 20 for Ken's mode alone, this game is just too damn long with so little to do. It was very tough for me to finish this game, and I can't see myself trying to unlock the other characters endings. The only people getting into this exercise on redundancy are the die hard fans. Unless you're a fan of the franchise don't even bother with this. I'm strongly advising everyone who prefers some type of depth in their games to completely ignore the easy to please and die hard fans. You are throwing money away if you listen to them. There's a sequel scheduled for next month. I won't be playing it.
Pros: - Dream Mode is somewhat fun
Cons: - Horrible and sluggish game play, average graphics if that, for fans only
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