"You've Already Played This Game"
Despite all the flak that the Dynasty Warriors series and games of similar ilk get, there is something quite cathartic about absolutely mowing through legions of armies while controlling a lone character. With no real sense of strategy to employ, you are just a loose cannon with incredible powers taking on the world. It is the stuff of fantasy and a pretty good reason why people play video games in the first place. Where else could you cause limbs to explode into bloody chunks with some accurately placed punches? You would not dare take on an absurd amount of well-armed and well-trained opponents in real life, but in Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2, there is no better recipe for success.
Ken's Rage 2 comes from a very similar gameplay cloth as the Dynasty Warriors games. Endlessly replenishing foes literally just fall from the sky ready to fight (which is perhaps unintentionally, but humorously in tone with the ridiculousness of the anime and manga it is based on). They do their best to try and slow you down as you cut swaths through each level to face some more formidable opponents.
A nice change of pace from the Warriors games is actually the "change in pace". In Ken's Rage 2, enemies appear in more numerous packs while the player character is impressively fleet-footed in control. There are dozens of playable characters to test out, each with varying martial arts techniques and special moves, and thankfully, most of them are playable without the need to download them.
To try and help break up any monotony that might quickly set in with the stylish, yet rote kicking and punching, doling out and taking damage helps you build up toward special attacks that obliterate larger groups of enemies at a time. However, there is little variety in the enemies you face and the environments you traverse.
The presentation of Ken's Rage 2 is a sad state of affairs. Gone is an English voice track that the original game sported. Cutscenes are told in a similar fashion as 2010's Bayonetta, with still frames composed of in-game character models. However, at least Bayonetta had stellar voicework during these sequences to offset that presentational hiccup. With a sizeable chunk of the visuals being just reused assets of the first game, it is astonishing how little effort was seemingly put into any other aspect of the game.
Should you want a small semblance of strategy, the ability to jump has been replaced with a dodging mechanic. While this may seem like a thoughtful change to the gameplay, it actually reinforces the bland level design, relegating you to wander environments that amount to little more than reskinned corridors.
Do not be fooled by the title's suggestion that this is a sequel. The inclusive "2" is actually a misnomer, as much of the narrative presented here is just a fine expansion and retelling of the first game's storyline. If you have played the first game, well, there will little new for you to glean here from a presentational perspective. In stark contrast with Dynasty Warriors, which has the ability to reinvent and reimagine how its characters are portrayed, Fist of the North Star is built on established characters and personalities. There is little wiggle room for overhauling.
If there is a bright spot to be had in this cyberpunk dystopia, it is within the Dream Mode. In this mode, you can take control of side characters and enemies through missions that actually offer some decent background to further flesh out their stories. Slogging through waves of enemies could be a good time with friends, and Ken's Rage 2 offers the opportunity to do so with an online cooperative element if you are lucky enough to find someone else to play with.
If you have already beaten the first game, there is nothing beyond the Dream Mode offered here that can be considered new enough to earn that sequel billing. Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 is the premiere definition of a phoned-in game meant to lure in unsuspecting fans of the first.
GameDynamo's Score for Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 (PS3)
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