And other such Bruce Lee noises.
So here we go with the first Gamefreak review of 2011 (i'm still getting to grips typing out the two 1's at the end of the date). What better way to start off the gaming year than with some ultra-violent martial arts battering in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Based on the famous Manga by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara, developed by Omega Force and published by Koei of Samurai Warriors fame, it's a sprawling adventure and the first take on the North Star series on current consoles.
I'm a huge fan of the Manga....so....let's see if it's any good.
Nuclear war has blown the living crap out of everything on the planet, money is useless, and the only thing of importance is food, water, and the X-factor (still). Survivors are holed up in villages, fearing attacks from bandits who look like a cross between your average Mad Max extra and Twisted sister. Among these survivors are groups of martial artists who use techniques that are so powerful they could probably kill you just by thinking of you. Our hero, Kenshiro, travells the land searching for his missing girlfriend, and to confront his numourous martial arts brothers in order to....well....see who is the greatest ever. Many other characters join Ken in his mission, each of them having their own story to tell, and countless thousands die on each side. Will Kenshiro save the day? Probably......
What I liked:
Firstly the game is extremely authentic to the Manga. The characters look just how they do in the cartoons and books, Kenshiro, Jagi and Raoh especially. The story is well paced, following through the various arcs of the story. New characters crop up in almost every new chapter, some of them, such as the long haired Rai, have some great scenes that they play out and interesting stories that intertwine with that of Ken. Combat is well done, with buttons for weak and strong attacks, blocking, countering, throw moves etc. A great upgrade system comes in the form of the "Meridian chart", a secret martial arts chart full of new moves, techniques and abilities. Filled by earning points from combat and collectables in the game, you can customise techniques to your heart's content! Once tooled up and out on the battlefield, you can smash, crack and cut your way through the vast numbers of enemies on screen (I haven't counted, but one battle pits you against at least 30-40 guys at once), launching combos and special techniques. Once you unlock these special techniques on the meridian chart, you can really go to town. And it's the special moves that really look the business. Everything from popping your thumbs into some poor sods temples until he explodes into a shower of red mist, Ken's infamous punching at 3,000 punches per second, to jumping 30ft into the air and blowing up the floor killing everyone....the special moves are something to behold. Add to this multiple campaigns, dream modes for several characters, unlockable characters and a survival mode, and you do get quite a bit of game for your money.
What I loathed:
Firstly, and surprisingly, the game can be quite boring at parts. Streched over around 13 chapters, the game goes on FOREVER! It took me around 13-14 hours to go through the campaign. I usually moan like a girl with a skimmed knee if a game only has a few hours playing time. Here though, just when I thought the game would end....BANG! Another chapter. The combat, whilst good, has a few issues. The grab/throw function is painfully slow...you usually take a battering if you try to grab a bad guy in a huge group. The combat, whilst fun, doesn't really start to take off until the final chapters, after you have earned enough points to unlock the interesting stuff. That's the problem with the game.....the first few chapters are well done and interesting, the middle of the game is drawn out and boring, and towards the end, when you unlock most of the better powers the game takes off again, with you riding around on motorbikes and giant horses, blowing peoples bodies apart with a finger. The game should have given more opportunity to get a steady progression of powers, rather than just have the better stuff two levels before it ends. It's hard to mark a game down for being too long, but I feel cutting out a few chapters and giving access to the better moves earlier would have resulted in a better game.
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage is not an awful game. Fans of the series will get a whole lot out of it. It's fun, quite emotional in parts of the story line and fantastically violent. That being said, the main campaign drags on and on, and once you have played through it there is no real reason to go back.
(Xbox version reviewed. Also available on PS3)