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Ken's rage 2: You are already dead, Atta!

On 07/23/2014 at 12:21 AM by BrokenH

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I really love beat em ups. In particular I’ve enjoyed how Tecmo/Koei takes the very simplistic beat em up formula and adds a couple of shakes of actual strategy and rpg mechanics into the mix to ramp it up a bit.

Despite my bias love of Dynasty Warriors, I felt apprehensive going into Ken’s Rage 2. Jim Sterling thought this game was “trite shit” and that’s a pretty low blow considering that Jim is one of the few gamers out there willing to give Musou games a fair shot. Certain people even believe Ken’s Rage 1 is the better contestant between the two them. So, what are my two crack-fists on this topic? Read on to find out,gentle readers!

What I enjoy

"It’s a harsh sad world"

Many beat em ups back in the day implied more than they showed us. In Double Dragon we saw Marion get punched in the gut and kidnapped. Certainly there was the possibility she could have been tortured but it was left up to our fevered imaginations. Heck, maybe Marion’s captors adored her and all they did is watch cartoon re-runs and play a few rounds of Mario Bros! It’s a pleasant after-thought but at the same time beat em ups degenerated into such over the top cheese it became increasingly more difficult to take them seriously. While the first couple Double dragons, Golden axes, and Final Fights had a more serious tone, the genre became more bright, colorful, and “kid friendly” with future inclusions such as TMNT,X-men, and The Simpsons.

By contrast, Ken’s rage really puts it all out there. Kenshiro faces crazed soldiers kidnapping women for breeding camps and deals with gangs who work innocent children to death building grandiose temples for their decadent war-lord masters. It’s much darker than it’s predecessor and more true to the actual manga.

What we have here is a post apocalyptic waste-land after a nuclear war where the strongest martial artists are pretty much super-human gods of death and destruction. Yet amidst all the fighting themes of love, friendship, betrayal, loss, family, benevolence, survival, sacrifice, ambition. and hope shine brightly. Ken’s rage 2 is violent but it’s not pointless violence.

As with other musou games, I appreciate how Ken’s Rage 2 is not too afraid to set aside a few moments to actually flesh out characters and to tell a touching tale. It’s a nice evolution from beat em ups in the past which conveyed mostly nonsensical plots with a few vague still images dispersed between the levels.

"Bloody fun"

Admittedly it’s fun to punch or kick mohawked minions to watch them inflate like balloons before they explode into a shower of blood or dice unruly raiders up into tiny perfectly symmetrical meat cubes that eventually fall apart into a gooey mess! If you love violence and need to unwind after a grueling day of dealing with annoying people, Ken’s Rage 2 is a therapeutic catharsis!

"More characters"

Ken’s Rage 2 throws in more playable characters. In the first game Kenshiro, Rei, Raoh, Toki, and Mamiya were the main protagonists but bosses such as Shin,Thouzer,and Jagi could be unlocked for dream-mode and free-mode. This time around Shew (The blind Nanto master),Rin (After she grows up into womanhood),Fudo, Juza, Ryuga, Ein, and a slew of other characters from the manga join the ranks as well! 20 something characters is certainly a more impressive roster but frankly I was not bothered by the smaller cast of the original. “Ken’s rage” did so much that was different from the typical musou entry that it still managed to wow me with its’ over the top violence, plat-forming adventure sections, and nice presentation.

"More varied goons"

The baddies still come at you in repetitive waves but this time they are more diverse. Ken’s rage 2 introduces new enemy fractions and they have more diverse weaponry. (Be wary, some of these crazed lunatics even have their own signature super moves!) But uh, you’re still going to slaughter repeating character models by the tens of thousands! On the plus side many general types are more threatening too . (Such as the “blade warriors” who wear welded swords on their armor that damages you each time you hit them or the heavy weight “fire-breathers“ that remind me of Karnov from the good old nes days!) This makes encounters of roving bandits more challenging and varied overall.

"More boss battles"

There are more boss confrontations in Ken’s rage 2. The fight with Devil Rebirth is especially epic and Kenshiro’s confrontations versus Jagi and Shin are still just as satisfying.

Command prompts to administer the finishing blow were made significantly easier and there are even certain hidden “quick time counters” that can be triggered by standing at exactly the right place or doing exactly the right move at the right time. The lessening of difficulty will be nice to some gamers but a disappointment to others. Regardless, it’s neat to see newly introduced adversaries added to this second installment!

"More speed"

Ken’s Rage 2 is significantly faster. The characters move akin to living bullets that can change their trajectory and Kenshiro is finally as quick as he should be! I also like the inclusion of the handy dodge maneuver. If you time everything just right it is possible to weave around several strong attacks to avoid taking a severe beat down.

"Gods and Goddesses of metal"

I swear Tecmo/Koei has some of the best composers of heavy-metal music to ever have lived! For me a good soundtrack in a game keeps me motivated and the music in Ken’s rage 2 is as splendid as ever!

"Match the symbols on your board and get those sweet bonuses!"

At first I thought the new leveling up system was kind of lame. Put simply, you can assign scrolls that boost your attributes in battle. But after awhile I realized matching up symbols on each scroll would in fact give better rewards in battle. For example lining up three hearts will give you that much more of a health bonus whereas lining up three fists will greatly increase your power output per hit. Certain scrolls not only come with symbols but also their own unique abilities such as regenerating health, improved speed, and making enemies suffer from paralysis once their defense has been broken. No, it’s not as deep as the most complex of rpgs but it is an incentive to improve every character to their maximum potential.

 Things I didn’t like so much

"Too much of a good thing"

I thought Ken’s rage 1 was the perfect length. It touched on enough of the good parts of FOTNS to weave a satisfying story without overstaying its’ welcome. Kenshiro and Yuria being able to live out the rest of their lives in peace and happiness was an ideal place to conclude the adventure.

Ken’s Rage 2 on the other hand drags on at certain points and the beat em up action is made that much more repetitive by the sheer longevity of it all. At least to me the Shura arch felt as if I was fighting clones of Roah, Rei, and Kenshiro himself for a second time. The characters in that particular chapter re-used a lot of themes, philosophies, and ideas already introduced by other fighters in previous episodes.

"I’m dying?! Wha?!!!"

In the first Ken’s Rage it was more clear when you were getting hit and sustaining damage. In Ken’s rage 2 you often seem to be pummeling hundreds of dudes into a fine crimson mist whilst simultaneously seeing your health gradually drop for no apparent reason. As such, I wish playable characters would react more visibly to enemy attacks and that those same attacks were more pronounced. Sometimes there’s too much chaos on screen at once to see what is going on! Perhaps having more enemies on screen does not work as well for Ken’s rage as it does for other titles.

"Not as much platforming/exploration"

Truth be told, Ken’s rage 1 was no less linear than its‘ sequel. However, I liked how Ken’s rage 1 was experimental with platforming sections, traps in the environments, and larger areas with more hidden secrets. These things seem scaled back in Ken’s rage 2 and that is a pity.

"Press X to win!"

In Ken’s rage 1 you had to press multiple buttons in sequence to inflict the killing blow. If you failed the boss would regain a portion of his health and you would have to whittle down his life bar all over again. While I personally detest most quick time events, I confess there was more of a risk and more of a thrill when fighting bosses in Ken’s rage 1 compared with fighting their far less challenging counterparts in Ken’s rage 2. Still, the fact there are many more bosses with their own unique and sometimes weird fighting styles sort of sweetens the bitterness in this case. Big baddies are easier to pummel into oblivion but it’s nice there are more of them!


Ken’s rage 2 is a good musou game that made a few mistakes. It’s not as “ballin” as Warriors Orochi 3 or Dynasty Warriors 7 but it does enough right to avoid the pitfall of being a dismal disappointment.

I believe fans of Fist Of The Northstar will appreciate the faster combat, manga styled presentation, and more in depth narrative but the cakewalk boss battles and simplified maps nonetheless make this reunion one of mixed feelings.

Personally I don’t understand why Jim was so hard on Ken’s rage 2. Perhaps like someone gorging themselves on good pizza or delicious chili-dogs he simply had too much of a particular flavor and couldn’t take it anymore. I can understand that but it’s weird he liked Ken’s rage 1 when it is obvious the second entry is better with more content in most areas. Ah well, to each their own!




07/23/2014 at 03:03 AM

I want to play this game more than ever now. I also want to become Ken in real life. AHH TATATATATATATA WHUA TA!

The music in this trailer is SWEET! Also, online co-op? Oh now I HAVE to play this.


07/23/2014 at 03:07 AM

I want to be Roah....his horse Kokuoh is f%in amazing!

 But yeah,it's a great beat em up,Knight! Certainly no Godhand but it has tons of content and the violence makes the fighting a lot more satisfying. It kind of makes me wish Tecmo/Koei would apply the same approach to Dynasty Warriors. (As well as mature themes willing to touch on the more unsavory aspects of war & rebellion.)

 Don't get me wrong, I "love" DW but often times I feel as if T/K wears kiddy gloves whenever dealing with The Romance Of The Three Kingdoms era. (Certainly there's tragedy and people die in DW but it still comes off as this flamboyant fairytale pageant not willing to go into the darker side of ancient feudal Asian culture.)


07/23/2014 at 02:57 PM

Raisins and lemonade. That horse really is awesome!

Cary Woodham

07/23/2014 at 07:46 AM

Huh, I didn't know this Fist of the North Star game was like Dynasty Warriors.  When I was in college and watched more anime, I couldn't make it through the movie because it was just too gross and violent.  Yeah, I know, I'm a big baby.

I'll be taking my first stab at Dynasty Warriors games when Hyrule Warriors comes out in September.  Too bad they didn't make a Kirby Warriors game instead!

OK Ben, your job now is to pick out a Fist of the North Star character you think I would like.  --Cary


07/31/2014 at 12:06 AM

Fudo. Big guy,strong as an ox,and a kind heart. Smile


07/23/2014 at 07:49 AM

I've only played the demo for the first game.  I would like to add these games to my collection and hopefully play them. Laughing


07/31/2014 at 12:09 AM

They're good stress relief,James! Playing the FOTNS musou games made me reminisce strongly about Streets Of Rage and Double Dragon. And dat soundtrack! 


07/23/2014 at 09:28 AM

Dood, that hair... 


07/31/2014 at 12:07 AM

80's hair-metal fashion returned from the grave!


07/23/2014 at 11:22 AM

While I'm not a fan of manga, or japanime, this looks like it could be fun


07/31/2014 at 12:10 AM

I'm not as much of a Japanophile as I used to be. When most of my otaku friends talk about anime or the newest Jrpg I find myself lost. lol. 


07/23/2014 at 12:36 PM

I never really gave this game much thought. I thought it would be nothing more than a cash grab on the anime or manga itself. Plus I never got into the prior offerings so this really didn't hit my radar. I think I'll need to look more into this game.


07/31/2014 at 12:12 AM

Ken's rage 2 is very faithful to the manga and all the characters look very authentic. It's also much more violent than other musou games that's a guilty pleasure for me. Still, it suffers from the shortcomings of most beat em ups. In other words,it can get a tad repetitive sometimes.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

07/23/2014 at 09:03 PM

good review.  I remember watching the old Fist of the Northstar movie.  Lots of exploding people.  Can't go wrong with that.  


07/31/2014 at 12:12 AM

Indeed,Matt! And all in the name of sweet justice!


07/26/2014 at 07:07 PM

This kind of games are grabbing my attention. Hopefully I can have my first piece of it once Hyrule Warriors comes out and/or get Dynasty Warriors 8, which got recently released on Steam.


07/31/2014 at 12:14 AM

It's a good time to experiment,Alejandro. If you end up enjoying Hyrule warriors and DW 8 you will probably like this one too but if those games end up boring you to tears the only thing Ken's Rage 2 has over them is the insane violence factor and the more mature story telling.


07/31/2014 at 10:39 AM

I think I'd have a lot of fun with this game, I've been wanting to play a beat-'em-up for a while now.

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