Fist Of The North Star: Ken’s Rage Review
In 1983, Tetsuo Hara created a manga series that people would never imagine to be popular or even good for that matter, that manga sent martial arts animation to a new level. That manga is Hokuto no Ken or Fist of the North Star in english, even though it’s extremely bloody and full of gore, it has depth and has content inspired by real life such as the vital points which was inspired from the chinese needle theropy, acupuncture.
In 2010, 27 years later from the manga’s first apperance, popular gaming company, Koei, released a game to the popular series called Hokuto Musou or Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage in europe, australia and america, this game is based on the entire original series of the anime and made for the next generation consoles, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
The ployline is focused around a warrior, trained in the assassin’s art, Hokuto Shinken, a man who would use his fighting art for the greater good and vanquish evil. That man, is called Kenshiro
In a post-apocolyptic world, nuclear fire rained down and ruined the planet, leaving the remaining human race in a dire need for food and fresh water, but in such a world, power and domanince rules this world and many are made slaves just for the sake of some water.
Kenshiro is a man on a mission, to rescue his love, Yuria, from the cluches of Shin, once friend, now rival, after kidnapping her and left Kenshiro for dead, leaving 7 scars on his chest in the shape of the big dipper. Meanwhile, there are other forces at work….
Ken’s Rage is very much like Dynasty Warriors in terms of controls but the game has a slightly more realistic feel to it, the martial arts moves have been carfully motion-captured and each character has a different move-set so you don’t feel bored after using a character with the same move set.
The graphics are actually, very surprising, good detail on the level layout, characters and outfits, the character may move slowly unlike Dynasty Warriors but this gives a sense of realism and natural speed of a human, it may take some getting used to but you’ll get to understand in time and you’ll soon forget about the sluggish nature of the character’s running speed.
The fighting itself is quite accurate, hitting enemies fills both the spirit gauge and focus bar and then when full, you can unleash your character’s almight fury upon any nearby, once you fill your spirit bar once, you get a spirit reserve, as you spend skill points, you can increase the amount of reserves thus using more signiture moves. These signiture moves are alot like the musou attacks in Dynasty Warriors, however, you can’t hold the button to make it last longer but you can do multiple attacks one after the other depending on how many spirit reserves you have.
Also unlike Dynasty Warriors, you can have more than 1 signiture move in your arsenal, you can have upto 4 in one level, some of these moves can cost 1 spirit reserve, some cost 2 or even 3 reverses and each move varies in distance, width and attack strength so having one that focuses on each area is a good way to balance you attack plan.
Boss battles are tough, each boss has a health segment, so when it reaches that point, their health doesn’t drop anymore until they are given space to recover and get themselves sorted, this is a good way to make boss battles fair and challenging at the same time, when a boss is out of health, you then go to a button combination mini-game, where you have a set amount of time to press the right button combination and you will have to do this several times, get it wrong and the boss recovers half of his/her final segment.
Also during their final segment of health, bosses begin to auto-heal when not being damaged and also become weak to a certain signiture move, if you get the right move exicuted, it will perform a critical hit, meaning more damage and bonus skill points.
The skills list or Meridian Chart as the game calls, is built like a tech tree, to progress in getting more power ups is to purchase skills in a chain from the Harmonic Center, if you don’t link them, you can’t purchase or even find out what the blank points are.
Plot and Modes
The story in the game is very accurate to the manga, lots of depth, likeable characters and easy to understand and you can experience the story via 5 sides, this is when we come to Legend Mode or story mode is you will put it in a simple manner.
Legend Mode is a mode where you experience the story of the original manga, you get to experience it through 5 sides, Kenshiro, Mamiya, Rei, Toki and Raoh, each one of these characters played a vital role to the anime. The game mostly ends with you facing Raoh since he is the main antagonist to the series and Kenshiro is the main protaganist of it. Kenshiro’s story is no short stick, with a shocking 14 chapters to play through, you won’t be able to complete his story in just a few hours, it could take several hours to complete his story mode, unlike Toki’s story which is a mere 3 chapters and can be done in an hour or two.
Challenge Mode is pretty much a survival mode, it’s self-explanitory really, you choose a challenge in the mode and you must try to overcome it.
Dream Mode is like Legend Mode but with a twist, there are armies and bases involved in this mode, those who know Dynasty Warriors: Empires games will know this pretty well, you defeat officers while keeping yours alive, take bases to expand and defeat the enemy commander to win the level. This is also the only mode in the game that allows co-op which can make the mode a little more fun and better coordernated, its good fun is Dream Mode and you can play most of the major characters from the series in this mode.
The music is made by MASA, well known musician who makes the music to Dynasty Warriors but this music to Ken’s Rage is composed by Haruki Yamada.
The music is orcestral metal, it suits the theme of the game but there is some bits wrong with it, some of the music chosen for certain areas like character selection, its the wrong mood making the player question how the overall mood of the music suits the theme of the game. The music itself is great stuff, classic instrumental rock/metal music with some soothing orcestral music when not in combat.
After completing Dream Mode with one character, you unlock the music option in the game, allowing you to listen to all of the music in the game
There are DLCs coming out for the game, for both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, these DLCs are
- Original costume for Kenshiro
- Playable character – Outlaw
- Playable Character – Heart + 2 new missions
These DLCs are already out for Xbox Live, the outfit for Kenshiro on Xbox Live will cost 240 MSP, the Outlaw DLC will cost 560 MSP and the Heart character and new missions will cost 560 MSP.
Only the original costume for Kenshiro is out on PSN at the moment at the cost of £1.99/€2.49, no news of the other DLCs but I guess they aren’t far away, give it a week or two and they might start appearing.
There are a few bad points to this game:
- Movement is sluggish which can annoy some people
- Some level layouts can be either confusing or bore people do to it’s massive structure
- Music is good but in some areas, the music doesn’t suit the situation right
- English voice acting is poor, switch it to Japanese and it’s not so bad but still not best
- There is a bug in levels where you face Uighur in Legend Mode, if you don’t let him finish his speech when you defeat him, the level never ends after his death so your left standing around and having to reset the level
- Riding motorcycles and Kokuoh, controls are arkward, you have better chance getting off them to pick up items or you’ll just circle them for ages
- No online co-op or verses modes, local co-op only which is a shame
The game offers alot and has great potential, if you can ignore some or most of the bad points, it’s a great addition to the Hokuto no Ken collection, Dream Mode is fun, especially in co-op, Legend Mode is quite involving, Challenge Mode does what is says, lots of information about the world of Hokuto no Ken, characters, fighting styles, signature moves, involvements and many more so there is plenty to look and learn. The music is good, characters are likeable, skills chart is huge and will take quite some time to fully fill them, so there is plenty of replay value.
In general, it’s good for both fans of Dynasty Warriors and Hokuto no Ken lovers, anyone new to this might be split down the middle for it but it’s worth a shot at, rent it to be safe incase you don’t like it. Tetsuo Hara should be proud of this achievement and its not a serious disappointment, it’s actually quite good so ignore what those websites and magazines say, you’ll either love it or hate it.
Ziedrich’s rating: 8.5/10
It’s true to the manga and is a job well done for both Koei and Tetsuo Hara for working together and making this possible, Dynasty Warriors and Hokuto no Ken fans will enjoy this and with DLCs close to arriving, it should expand the experience that little bit more