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PlayStation 3 Review: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage

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Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is, for the most part, about killing people with the most horrific tool possible, fists. There is a subplot about a global apocalypse and worldwide disaster, but really it’s mostly about punching people until they explode like bloated ticks caught under a steamroller.

You play as Kenshiro, asswhooper extreme and practitioner of a martial arts technique that turns a man’s intestines into explosive blood bags. Actually there is some nonsense about hitting pressure points or some such, but when I see a man explode from punching him in the face, explanations take a back seat. To be fair there are a lot of story sequences in Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage, but for most it makes absolutely no sense.
The whole game is supposed to be based off the Fist of the North Star manga/anime series. In the manga, there was some context when it came to making decisions such as recovering a townsfolk’s seeds for farming or the various other errands the game assigns, however it’s presented in too straightforward a fashion in this game. “Hey, those guys stole mah seeds! Can you get them?” “Sure bro, no problem. They look like extras from Mad Max anyway, so I’m sure they deserve their insides exploded.” “Awesome, thanks dude!” Insert your own images of flying blood and teeth. These nonsensical requests are essentially what players should come to expect when playing Ken’s Rage.

Thankfully the gameplay itself is pretty fun. Combat comes down to alternating between light and strong attacks, while throwing in the occasional grab. There are a few gauges involved that allow Kenshiro to perform special attacks that decimate a wide group of enemies. It is pretty straightforward, with the occasional strong guy thrown into the mix to change things up a bit. The bosses generally boil down to dodging their slow clumsy attacks and retaliating, some have guard gauges that must be emptied before delivering the real pain. An upgrade system is incorporated as well, enabling players to power up and learn new attacks.

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is absolutely great if you enjoy beat’em ups. The attacks feel good, combos can be tricky and somewhat complex, and there are plenty of physics-enabled objects in the environment to throw opponents through. The real issue with Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage’s gameplay is that it’s all the same. The enemies don’t really change, the environment is post-apocalyptic (which is apparently every game designers term for a war-torn desert setting), and it goes on for awhile.

There is some added replay value to the title though. Not only do players have the main game to beat with Kenshiro, but as one plays through the game, they unlock other characters to take through the main story line. Additionally, there are a slew of additional story chapters contained in the game’s Dream mode. Unfortunately it can all get boring. The extra characters (with new moves) go a long way to make the combat feel fresh, but always fighting enemy model X in sandy desert town Y dulls the experience.

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. This game can also be found on Xbox 360.

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