Fist of the North Star Ken's RageESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
In game Dolby Digital
6000 KB game save
Game content download
The ultraviolent manga series Fist of the North Star is rightfully no stranger to videogame adaptation. It centres on Kenshiro, the successor to a fictional branch of martial arts that can heal physical and psychological wounds. This power is usually harnessed for its capability to explode Mohawk-sporting henchmen into bloody corpses… hence Ken's Rage.
The game's graphics have come a long way from the early Dynasty Warriors games. They have been improved greatly over the older style titles. All the character models are well detailed, and the surrounding bleak landscape offers better resolution textures overall. However, while the texturing is nice they do repeat quite often, with some really ugly looking spots scattered throughout the game. But when fighting the red blood spray from enemies seems to really contrast the bleakness, and I think this look may have been done on purpose. I noticed the game has some interesting details, with the regular ripping of clothes and some image intensive scenes after a boss killing. It adds to the story well, gelling together the fighting and scenes. One exception would be the terrible camera; more often than not it will be out of position setting some tough battles. This is complicated with the dodgy auto lock-on feature; it really hinders the flow of the game at points, enough to make you want to scream after some time.
One minor grip is the bouncy frame rate. The game runs pretty well most times but hits a brick wall in others. There are some signs of clipping mostly when you are swarmed by hordes of enemies, but nothing to really complain about.
If you like cheesy rock tunes then this game is for you. It’s really a perfect match for a game of this type - the tunes will either drive you, or drive you round the bend. It's personal taste, as anime and rock seem to marry well together.
It feels and sounds like the anime we have all seen on DVD, although the game has some decent voice acting to offer. Sometimes it feels as if there are translation errors with how the narration is delivered, occasionally coming across quite awkwardly.
The sound effects are as you would expect with lots of hacking and slashing and copious amounts of blood splatter. Be prepared though - your character will repeat his lines many times, as do his enemies almost to the point ad nauseum.
The game uses in-game Dolby Digital, which makes great use of all your speakers with crystal clear audio and deep booming bass. It kind of takes the sting out of all the repeated phrases.
For those familiar with Koei's Dynasty Warriors series you will feel right at home here as the game is pretty much identical in design. There are two main modes of play: Legend and Dream Mode. Legend follows the original story of Ken and supporting cast, through their endeavours. The characters' stories intertwine with each other along the way in some shape or form and give greater perspective into the motives and motivations of the fighters in the Dream Mode. The Dream Mode is most like the Dynasty Warriors modes you may be familiar with. It involves large battle grounds with the aim of defeating key characters to progress, with a boss fight at the end. The game has additional mission objectives that increase your stats for battles and are often tied to your success in the field. The game is very repetitious as you will be kicking and punching various groups of bad guys, capturing key points and taking down mid level bosses. While doing so your character will continue to search for perishable crates that might contain some much needed goodies.
The fighting is very simple in either mode; you will often end up button mashing over the course of the game as you are thrust into the thick of battle against swarms of AI opponents. They aren’t very smart or skilled for that matter and they seem ripe for being splattered by you in a wall of blood. Your fists and power moves are all you will ever need throughout the game. You have got two main attack buttons; if your attacks remain uninterrupted some powerful moves can be unleashed. Unfortunately at times you can mobbed by the enemy masses so trying to utilize these powerful attacks can be a bit challenging. I found saving the bigger attacks for the tougher enemies is the better way to go; it’s also a bit easier to unleash them as it won’t be as hectic.
Dream Mode is the more familiar playing ground, and it's here where you're able to upgrade your character's abilities by spending the skill points you gain by playing. There's plenty of room for growth as your character is not as strong as he can be. However, this set up does mean you're more likely to want to plough through waves of enemies over and over to build up your character's stats for the Legend Mode. This does get tedious as fighting wave after wave of bad guys gets boring fast, but persevere and this does pay off in the long run.
While there is promise of content downloads there is no online play to speak of. The game supports local-only multiplayer Dream Mode. The mode is restricted to being unlocked first, so multiplayer is not available until the mode is unlocked. It seems like a bit of a cruel joke since the point of the mode is to play as characters that would otherwise be dead. But each character in Dream Mode needs to be unlocked by playing through Legend Mode - Dream Mode doesn't even exist until you've unlocked one of them. It seems a bit confusing, and believe me it is, I think you would really have to be a fan of the game and DVD’s to really appreciate the added work it will take to enjoy the mode fully. There's really no reason why you and a friend can't select Kenshiro and Rei and start kicking ass from the moment you pop the game in. Disappointing.
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