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Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage Preview

Nick_Tan By:
GENRE Beat Em Up 
DEVELOPER Koei, Omega Force 
M Contains Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

You're already dead.

You only need to watch five minutes of the anime Fist of the North Star, or five seconds of this video game adaptation, to understand what it's about: Mad Max Martial Arts. Any deeper explanation warrants a flying kick to your head.

click to enlargeKenshiro plays the archetypal role of a wandering hero with kick-ass Hokuto Shinken martial art skills that are more than ready to find their way into the faces of fifty unfortunate spike-adorned, denim-wearing, punk-rock, tough guy wannabes. Add some post-apocalyptic mountainous deserts and Super Saiyan-sized energy auras coupled with high-flying, blood-splattering punches and kicks, and you've got yourself a beat-'em-up whose insanity can only be trumped by God Hand.

Since this has Tecmo Koei written all over it, you can expect more than several ideas to come straight from the good-ol' playbook known as Dynasty Warriors. This means lots of (loud) combos, lots of (loud) enemies, and lots of (loud) sadism. In other words, this is for people who think a Bruce Lee action figure should never come without sound effects that are either sharp or elongated and nothing in between.

Turning groups of shirtless, mohawked henchmen into Pollock-esque pressure-point blood explosions is as easy as pressing the buttons for weak or strong attacks in almost any conceivable sequence. Depending on how many times you hit the weak attack before the strong attack changes the ending move, which can be anything from a short-range, high-damage uppercut to a crowd-clearing flying roundhouse. Each move has a recovery time, when you can't block or evade, so picking the right move at the right time is key.

click to enlargeBut since The Fist of North Star: Ken's Rage focuses on a small group of heroes, primarily Kenshiro, the moveset is much greater than, say, for a Dynasty Warriors character. Not only does he know a wider number of combos, but he can also store up to eight specials so that he can unleash his signature flurry punches (Ra-Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta-TAAAA!!!!) on a boss in quick succession.

While most enemies drop red orbs that will improve Kenshiro's stats, partially by igniting all of the stat-boosting stars on his famous chest marks of the Big Dipper constellation, a healthy percentage of red orbs can be simply knocked out of objects in the environment. Kicking stone pillars, bashing a gated fence, dismantling obstacles that your enemies think will somehow slow you down - red orbs can be found everywhere if you're willing to explore.

To cut down on the walking time between battles, Kenshiro can find a stray motorcycle or whistle for a black stallion in gold-trimmed regalia. Then, if the case warrants it, he can leap or dive off his "vehicle of choice" right into kick-ass fighting mode.

Created in 1986, the Fist of the North Star manga has been turned into numerous video games, dating as far back as the Japanese PC-88, and all of them were hard-bitten, visceral, and hyper-masculine. Tecmo Koei's Ken's Rage is no exception. And we wouldn't have it any other way. Be prepared for the fury when Ken's Rage arrives this Fall.

More GR previews for this game:
Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage preview posted on 08/12/10.

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