HOKUTO 100 CRACK FIST!
…you're already dead.
I hope you think that's a funny or awesome set of lines because you're going to hear it more times than you or I care to count in Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage for the Xbox 360. Developed by Omega Force and published by Koei, this game puts you in control of one of the most powerful and recognizable characters in manga and anime history. Is it worthy of playing and more importantly is it worth paying for? Read on young one, read on.
Now, I do consider myself an anime buff. A fully integrated into society otaku of sorts, which I know sounds hypocritical, but it's true. I watch and have a massive anime library, I talk about Japanese culture a lot, and I've been there twice. Considering all this, I've never actually seen or read the Fist of the North Star story. Yeah, I knew of Kenshiro, Raoh, punches making heads explode, and "…You're already dead", but that's about where my knowledge ends. This was my long crash course in FotNS (Fist of the North Star) and man, do I hope that the manga/anime is better than this game.
Visually, this game's characters are polished to a spit shine. Kenshiro looks just as you would imagine he would in a 3d environment. Big and bulky and yet amazingly detailed. Everyone worth noting looks just as good as Ken; from Rei, to Raoh, Jagi to Shin, and even Ms. New Booty- I mean, Mamiya; all the notable characters are amazingly represented. Everyone else however, could use some work. The goons/gang members/fist fodder, whatever you want to call them, look about the same. They come in 4 sizes and various color schemes depending on the stage. There's normal, which is about Ken's size. Then large which have the same build but are taller, next is extra large, which are mammoth sized men and fat that look like Rufus from SSFIV. After a few stages, I wasn't able to tell them apart. And the Villagers, GUH! There is one character model and one hi-res render FOR ALL VILLAGERS. Every single villager you save or have to talk to looks EXACTLY the same. C'mon Omega Force, you seriously couldn't make at least one other villager model? Not one?
The environments are also well modeled, but the big problem here is that, again like the fist fodder, it all looks and feels the same. There were times where I forgot where I was because it all looks the same. Seriously! Every stage is the same rocky wasteland in the same light sandy color, with the same ruins of buildings scattered everywhere. I know it's supposed to be the post apocalyptic future and all, but damn, can I get an indoor stage please?
The game play of FotNS is just as painfully repetitive as the environments it takes place in. To put it another way –
THIS IS A DYNASTY WARRIORS GAME
That's usually all that needs to be said, but I'll explain it a bit more for the uninitiated. There are a few modes, but Legend is the main story mode that I worked through. Ken moves pretty sluggishly for my tastes. I'm not sure if that's how he actually moves in the series, as the only clips I've ever seen have flying fist and exploding heads. Even when he speeds up to "run" it doesn't seem that much faster. His combos are slower than I expected. I mean, with the blur of fist that Ken is known for; I was disappointed when I found his normal combos lacking the same fury. Ken's throws are a fun, but the animation for the grab is a joke. The speed of his grab is at most ½ the speed of any other normal attack. I was surprised that I was actually able to grab enemies with it. He also has a plethora of super moves that culminate with something called "Hokuto Dubhe [Double] Shattering Palm" which is essentially Ken's signature move, but with fireballs shooting from his fists.
There are some RPG elements to the game, mainly the fact that you have to collect orbs to buy new moves and stat upgrades for Ken. It's hard to notice the immediate effects of status upgrades, but you have to buy them anyway to get new moves. There's also an unnecessary amount of things to keep track of for a FotNS game. It racks up to 6 gauges to track. Four of them are for you and the other 2 are for enemies. All this game needed was a health bar and super bar. The end. There's no need for all the extra extravagance.
There is an option to turn the gore up or down, depending on the fortitude of your stomach. I played with it on max, and let me tell you, its blood and some guts by the bushels. After a while though, it does get old.
The enemy's A.I patterns seem to be working pretty well and have come a long way, with enemies not doing the same animation at the same time. At least for the most part, some of larger enemies would do the same thing almost at the same time.
Finally we come to the music. It's all a mix of heavy metal and heavy metal with a hot side of heavy metal. Yeah… It definitely fits, but for my tastes it was a bit much. By the end of the game, I had turned off the music. It's badass, for sure, but the game drags on for too long for all the badass music to be playing ALL the time. I wanted to tell the music to sit down and take a breather before it hurts itself.
All in all, Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage is a good looking game, but as soon as you start playing it, those Dynasty Warriors roots are staring you in the face. If you read Valkor's review of Quantum Theory and were hoping that this game was going to be as awesome as it sounded, I'm sorry to disappoint, but it's not. By the time I finished playing this game, I kind of wished I was already dead. Out of TOV 5 stars, Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage gets a 1 out of 5.