Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage Hands-On Preview



Fist of the North Star: one of the most famous manga and anime series to ever be drawn. Over 240 chapters of manga, 150 episodes of anime, and countless spinoffs, games, and full-length movies have been based off of this classic. The problem is, unless you’re a die-hard anime fanatic, or you’re from Japan, you’ve probably not heard of it.

Thankfully, your salvation is coming, as Tecmo Koei is bringing Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage to North America.

Fist of the North Star follows Kenshiro, or Ken, who is wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland known as Earth after it was destroyed by nuclear war. Food and water are limited, and the survivors of the war are fighting to survive. Ken is a successor of the martial art Hokuto Shinken, or "Divine Fist of the North Star," and he has been separated from his fiancee by a rival martial artist. Naturally, he wants to see her again, so he fights his way through the wastes in search of her.

The game follows the story of the anime, from Ken’s beginnings to his final battle with Raoh. Though the story is faithfully followed, the game is considered to be a spin-off of Koei’s Warriors franchise (Dynasty Warriors). If you’re familiar with those games, you’ll know what to expect here: tons of enemies, lots of fighting, and in Ken’s case, lots of blood. See, Hokuto Shinken is essentially the art of making your opponent explode in a bloody mess. Ken can do this effortlessly, so as you’re fighting, expect a lot of bloody bits.

Fist of the North Star

The developers in charge of this game obviously spent a lot of time watching and reading Fist of the North Star, because the authenticity the game exudes is extraordinary. All of the voices are right, all of the death cries are right, and all of the moves are right. Players will perform all of Ken’s famous moves, from the North Star Hundred Crack Fist (Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken, or ATATATATATATATATATATATA) to the North Star Shoot Down Finger (Hokuto Gekitsuishi, or the Finger Poke of Death). It feels like you are controlling the anime itself as you play through the game. The only thing missing is the hand-drawn art, but the visuals in its place are more than suitable.

The game looks fantastic (or as fantastic as a wasteland can). EVery character model shows great detail, every punch thrown is perfectly animated, and every exploding body is as gruesome as it should be. I particularly like how Ken’s clothing will tear and show signs of battle the more he is damaged. If, for example, he is hit with an explosion, his clothes will show signs of it, from burn marks to rips and tears. The clothes will regenerate over time, so the damage doesn’t last forever.

Fans of the Warriors franchise will feel right at home with the control scheme, as it’s essentially the same. All attack and evade buttons are where they were in previous games, so the learning curve will be very small. The battles do seem to progress slowly though, as I found myself locked in one particular fight for quite a while during my demo. Also, the vehicle handling is a bit frustrating, so be prepared to yell at your newly-foudn motorcycle.

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is looking very promising both as a game and as a catalyst for giving the series as a whole the proper Western attention it deserves. If you’re ready to learn Hokuto Shinken, look for the game this fall. Just remember one thing: before you even pick up the controller…

…You are already dead.



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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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