GAMES - Article
10:38 - 8th February 2013, by Matthew Edwards

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2

If ever there was a manga series that was tailor made for video game adaptation, it has to be Fist of the North Star. It features everything from unfathomably powerful fighters who pummel each other into oblivion with godly martial-arts, to a post-apocalyptic setting where the scattered remnants of humanity struggle to survive in a barren wasteland. While the series has often been cited as an ingenious fusion of Mad Max meets Bruce Lee, it's fair to say that Hokuto no Ken's legacy is as much to do with manly tears as it is with Jeet Kune Do and the original road warrior.

Despite a sizeable back-catalogue that includes an awesome arcade cabinet with motor driven punch pads, the North Star games have tended to remain in the east. Or at least, they did until Tecmo Koei sanctioned Ken's Rage for an international release back in 2010.

As the creative talent behind the inherently familiar yet progressively evolving Dynasty Warriors series, Koei took its experience with adapting the Romance of the Three Kingdoms into a wrecking-ball simulator and applied it to the North Star mythology. The result was a game that - much like Dynasty Warriors: Gundam before it - played out in traditional Dynasty fashion, while emphasising the strengths of the accompanying license. Heads exploded on cue when Kenshiro unleashed his machinegun-like punches, the opposing style of Nanto Seiken let you slice-and-dice with blade-like fingers, and the 64th successor of Hokuto Shinken was once again decided in a bloody brotherly brawl.

It felt like a gaming offshoot that told a contained story from start to finish, but as Hisashi Koinuma, producer on Ken's Rage 2, reminds us, Kenshiro and Raoh's final showdown isn't the end of the North Star saga. "The main objective was to cover the entire storyline from beginning to end based on the original manga," Koinuma explains. "On top of Raoh's episodes, the second half of the story - including the Celestial Emperor and Land of Shura - now makes an appearance. The episode of Bat and Lin has also been visualized for the first time in Hokuto history, allowing players to battle it out with Bolge. This concludes the original story."

Ken's Rage 2 will build upon the foundation of its forbearer by offering a complete take on the original story, more than double the playable characters, and a less scripted fighting system. But what hidden extras will there be for steadfast North Star fans to unearth? "We believe the Gallery mode will be another area of interest," Koinuma muses. "Not only can you check the latest gaming stats, but you can also watch all the unlocked movies which will re-tell the original storyline once completed. An encyclopaedia and post-apocalyptic panel can also be viewed which will be more for the core Hokuto fans."

This year is also a special milestone for North Star, as it marks the 30th anniversary of the series' first chapter and Kenshiro's inaugural battle with the titanic Zeed. So what does Koinuma think has been the key to the series lasting appeal? "I believe the personalities associated with the individual characters and the numerous scenes that stay in the memory are the franchise's strength," Koinuma concludes. "Even the villains have their individual personalities, so it's no surprise that if you ask ten fans for their favourite scene, you'll get ten different responses. This is something that's really remarkable."

We tend to agree - and we look forward to reliving the brutal ballad when Ken's Rage 2 explodes onto our consoles in a torrent of warm entrails on the PS3 and Xbox 360 on 8 February (7 Feb for the download only Wii U version!).
This is an extract of a larger feature that appeared in NEO 107, on sale now.

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