Simple logic denotes that the violence-imbued Fist of the North Star manga and anime would make for a categorically sound brawler, but unfortunately 2010’s Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage virtually invalidated that sensible theory outright. When news of a refined follow-up broke, it restored the hope of series loyalists that durable developer Koei could deliver the proper Hakuto no Ken undertaking they’ve always desired. Sadly, in the vein of recent Dynasty Warriors continuations and spin-offs, Ken’s Rage 2 is a disappointment in the very sense of the word, a lusterless sequel that not only doesn’t attempt to fix the problems that plagued the original, but phones the entire package in across the board. Unforgivably, the game is sloppily designed, graphically lacking, and, most egregiously, an unconditional bore to play.
Ken’s Rage 2 feels like Koei took the mold of the first game and filled it with wet sawdust, resulting in a barebones, bottom-rung beat ’em up that comes close to shaming its culturally significant source material. Much of the fighting mechanics from Ken’s Rage are recycled and reapplied, with only a slightly varying central-story progression through the standard single-player Legend Mode and flanks of playable secondary characters to lighten the burden. The process is devoid of any visual flair or imagination as you tirelessly pummel your way through hordes of bland enemies, requiring hardly any dedicated cerebral activity. The smattering of extended boss battles, which were the singular noteworthy aspect Ken’s Rage had to offer, are considerably degraded here, each one representing a mere fraction of the rambunctiously formidable foe encounters that kept the original game from being a complete letdown. Wild button mashing, dodge-spamming all the while, is yet again the uninteresting route to securing many yawn-inducing victories. The joy of amassing enough energy to pull off a signature special maneuver is essentially absent; the unpolished lighting and movement effects exude a grating choppiness and heavy lag that renders such tactics an annoyance rather than an advantage and the ocular pleasantry they once were.
Koei is known for being kings of the melee-fighter genre, but they were clearly asleep at the wheel when assembling Ken’s Rage 2. A new setting called Dream Mode could have had promise, but is far too underdeveloped, as its focus on fleshing out the stories of satellite characters, both hero and villain, quickly crumbles beneath the weight of a negligently plotted base-capturing structure. A technique scoring system, quota/time-limit challenges, and the addition of online cooperative capability are meant to add spice to the tasteless proceedings, but, with little incentive to see them through, their existence conclusively proves irrelevant.
Like the exhaustively dull main campaign, the alternate modes of Ken’s Rage 2 are interspersed with unsightly cutscenes to match their indistinctive environments and character models. From top to bottom, gone is the accomplished workmanship that maintains Koei successes like Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi; all that remains with Ken’s Rage 2 is a rudimentary empty frame of a Hakuto no Ken game, lazily constructed with very minimal attention paid to building a superior product and delivering the kick-ass Fist of the North Star experience devoted fans deserve.