You know the usual spiel about how Dynasty Warriors is just repetitive button mashing with no depth?
Well, it isn’t true of this game either, but it is a lot closer to being the case. There isn’t enough depth to warrant how much you’d have to play to actually get everything. Mostly the problem is how the depth comes into the game, unlike Dynasty Warriors 7 where the depth is all about character development, weapon choice, what you equip your character with and of course, the character itself, and the permutations there of, in Ken’s Rage, not so much. It has some of those things, but with only a handful of characters and three main character types. There’s a little less to play with, and the main problem is despite all the character growth it does have, the real meat of the initial play before you really open up other modes properly is the Legend Mode with Kenshiro.
That’s right, you just play Ken.
Who’s actually not really one of the more fun characters, and for much of the game you’ll find yourself repeating the square, square, triangle, triangle attack over, and over, and over, and over again. The depth is provided in Legend mode by the maps and how parts of them will open up once certain actions are completed. Which only sounds good until you realise that means going back on yourself – backtracking entire empty levels just to get to the bit that you’ve just opened up. It isn’t very well balanced either, having that infuriating habit of giving you less experience in lower difficulties – stunting your progression speed so you can’t topple that final boss. The enemies, even the same enemies, get harder the later in the game progression you go, finishing with a rather over the top boss battle at the very end. On your first playthrough, chances are that you won’t be so picky about finding every extra skill point and bonus possible, and you’ll just have to grind earlier chapters to gain the experience needed to keep the endgame fun.
That’s really the big shame about Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage. All the best stuff is hidden behind a campaign that’s too long and too repetitive. Once you’re past that then you get to the fun Dream mode where it’s a big map with lots, and lots going on. Is it worth it though? Well, that’s the thing, it really isn’t unless you’re a huge fan of the material, and I mean a huge fan. I’m a Fist of the North Star fan, but a rather light one. I liked the feature-length film, I’ve seen a few episodes of the animated series, I know who most of the characters are, and I didn’t really think it was worth it.
However, that is the one thing the game does do very well – its faithfulness to the source material. The characters really do look and sound like the Fist of the North Star characters. The conventions, move-sets, even that rather corny way that the voice-over says the name of a performed move are all faithfully reproduced. Personally, I would have liked the option to turn that off as per the feature-length version. But if you are a big, big fan of the source material the game is definitely worth at least a try, just to see how they handle extending each story, but it won’t be at all a pleasant journey at first. For everyone else – honestly, I wouldn’t bother, everything that Fist of the North Star does better than earlier Koei games has been superseded by Dynasty Warriors 7.
Just a note here at the end in case anyone else has this strange sound problem I encountered.
When you set up your PS3’s sound through HDMI and you use the automated set-up, generally, it just everything through PCM, right? That’s how I’ve had mine set-up and it generally works fine and gives me correct 5.1 surround. With the exception of this game. Fist of the North Star oddly sends signals to the left and right speakers and nothing to the others whilst being in 5.1 surround. In other words the voices that you get from every other speaker are just absent. This isn’t like the Rock Band problem where they haven’t really added a bass channel, this is just not working right betwixt game and PS3. The solution: enable Dolby Digital 5.1 from your console’s sound options.