The original Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage proved two things: that fans of the Fist of the North Star manga were keen to see the franchise expand and that players of the Warriors videogames did not see the gameplay as being as disposable as many might suggest. Here in the sequel, the development team at Omega Force seem to have disregarded all else and pushed forth in those two aspects alone, for better or worse.
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 offers just two gameplay modes: Legend Mode and Dream Mode. Legend Mode tells the story of the original manga, with players taking on the role of the titular Kenshiro and fighting their war across a decaying post-apocalyptic Earth. Every major event from the manga will be experienced, and every key character either fought or rescued. There is no English language voice acting, just subtitles (which themselves often suffer from sloppy translation) but the delivery of the plot between animated storyboard style cutscenes and short movies using the in-game graphics is well presented.
The gameplay feels very much stuck in a rut. Much like how Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 blindly followed its predecessor, so too does Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 offer very little variation in the combat system. The addition of new signature moves (switchable in-game via the D-Pad) is welcome, while the inclusion of a new scrolls system that allows players to boost certain statistics is blunted by the overcomplicated sharing system. The rigid combat design isn’t likely to win any new fans, and the half-baked level design is more likely to lose some.
The Legend Mode, in an effort to appear different to that of the first Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage videogame, features an entirely new layout. However, the smaller arena based levels simply mean that Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 falls foul to the ‘kill everything to continue’ school of design all too often. In fact, many times per level in most cases. More successful then is the Dream Mode, which offers brand new stories for the characters that you unlock during the course of the Legend Mode, and a more freeform level structure more akin to a modern base capture orientated Dynasty Warriors mission.
The increased range of characters and handful of new mechanics is a surprisingly weak update from Omega Force, playing directly into the hands of those who would suggest all of their videogames play exactly the same. The level design appears to be considerably lacking compared to the original Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage, with the Legend Mode is noticeably weaker than that of the original’s campaign, and as welcome an addition as Dream Mode is, it doesn’t warrant purchase by itself. As a result, Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 is a videogame that is only very likely to please fans of either the Fist of the North Star manga or the Warriors videogame franchise; the exact same audience that enjoyed the original videogame.