Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage

Kick, Punch, It's All in the Mind.

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage is Dynasty Warriors on steroids. Literally. Like Jose Canseco steroids.
Author: Scott Rodgers
Published: November 15, 2010
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Many claim that the Musou franchise of titles has become a bit of a plague on gaming. Every time you turn around, thereís a new Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam or something else that just keeps the wheels on the machine a-turniní. Sure, the recipe is simple: add a whole lot of square button mashing, throw in an occasional triangle, then finish it up with a special circle attack. Mix in some blocking with the shoulder buttons, a few tricks (riding horses, shooting arrows, opening gates) and you have a polymorphic mixture that can take many forms without needing a change in ingredients.

Fist of the North Star: Kenís Rage is just that, just with two cups of manga added in. The game is based on the highly popular Fist of the North Star series that spanned 27 volumes and helped launch anime here in the States. With that, I must make a confession: I am not familiar with the source material. Therefore, coming into the game I was looking directly at this as a Koei Musou special with some delicious fried rice on the side.

There are two main modes, legend and dream. Legend seems to follow the story, while dream is nothing but hypothetical ďwhat ifĒ modes. Thereís also a tutorial and free play, but to be perfectly honest there is not much of a reason to play either one. Initially you can only play as Kenshiro, but youíll unlock more characters rather quickly as you beat more of the legend mode. Thing is, the story itself is little to no reason to continue playing. I suppose if you knew the source material and enjoyed it this would feature some great fan service. However, I found myself skipping almost every cut scene. I guess thatís good and bad, since a lot of people will likely be in the same position (not knowing what is going on). FotNS is just fun enough to keep me coming back for more, but itís a bit shallow.

As for the gameplay, everyone knows what to expect by now from Koei. They are 3D beat Ďem ups that you can lose hours playing if you donít mind the repetitive, sometimes mind numbing action of square, square, square, square, triangle mashing. One of the major things that I found myself struggling to adjust to initially is the reduced sense of reach. When you play Dynasty Warriors and get used to the wind scroll and hitting guys half a mile across the map, relying on fists proves troublesome. And therein lies another problem: the main character, Kenshiro, initially may be the worst character in the game. Itís kind of shocking to think the guy on the cover sucks, but itís true.
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