Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Review #310: Fist of the North Star - Ken's Rage 2

 This is not the true successor.
 Let me tell you a bit about myself. I love Dynasty Warriors and I love Hokuto no Ken, which means than when Fist of the North Star - Ken's Rage was announced I was static, and when I finally got to play it... I adored it. It's among my favorite Musou games. And then Ken's Rage 2 was announced, and I got even more hyped, and then I played it.... Godammit, Koei.

 There's two modes, Legend Mode and Dream Mode, let's cover the former first. It's an extended redux of sorts of the previous game's Legend Mode, covering the Raoh, Shura and Final arcs from the series. 'More' is not always better, case in point, Shura is the worst thing to ever happen to Hokuto no Ken. Us fans have a saying 'What happened at Shura stays at Shura', it's a mess full of plot holes and stupidity. And Hokuto no Ken is filled with ridiculous, sometimes even stupid stuff, but it's good stupid, while Shura is just dumb stupid. I could've sword that Koei said that they would rewrite Shura alongside Ohara and Buronson, but its the same mess it's always been, with one of the stupidest things to happen to Rin, where she is basically turned from a badass into an object. 'Hah! I pressed this pressure point that will make her fall in love with whoever she sees first!' and then a couple of guys take turns 'She must see Kenshiro!', 'Nah, you keep her, I got better stuff to do.', etc, etc. God, I hate Shura.
 But, y'know, Shura is just one arc, even shorter than Raoh's, and then there's the Final arc which is rather good and as emotional(Manly tears will be shed) as Raoh's arc was, so it's not such a wash, is it? Wrong. The presentation is both lazy and laughable. They 'reenacted' the manga panels with the 3D models They are barely even animated. Let's play devil's advocate, let's say that they were huge fans of the manga and wanted to redo it in 3D, fine. Then why not simply use the panels from the manga? Look, these character models look fantastic in motion, but on 2-D stills? They look terrible. These cutscenes look straight out of something like Garry's mod, with laughable gestures on the characters' faces, it looks terrible. And you have to actually watch them play out or skip them, it'd been just fine if I could just tap X to advance the dialogue, since I can read faster than they can talk Japanese. Eventually I started skipping these, since nowadays I don't like having my time wasted. To be fair, there's still a few cutscenes, some are from the previous game, some are new and some have been edited a bit, and they are still fantastic. These are a joy to watch, reenacting the scenes from the manga oh so beautifully, which is a stark contrast to the other, more common manga-like cutscenes. But the problems with Legend Mode are more than skindeep, the way the levels play is a bore. Why do I play Warriors/Musou games? To bash dozens of heads in. It's cathartic, it's fun. But the game wastes your time with unskippable 'Event' scenes, where characters stand awkwardly while talking in a very drawn out way, it's so damn boring, since I can read the text oh so much faster than they speak, and it's not like it's trying to immerse me into the game, since characters look so awkward as these moments play out! But not only does the game waste my time, it also forces the player onto awkward objectives like half-baked stealth missions. Stealth missions? I'm playing a Warriors game, I want to fight, I don't want to go around stealthily, I've Dishonored for that, goddamn. And the rest of the objectives are just dull and restrictive, I lost count of how many times the game locked me onto a tiny area for two minutes with a 'kill as many enemies as you can' objective. Where's the freedom that Warriors game give you when going through battlefields? I loved going through the previous game's Legend Mode, but this time around I couldn't wait for it to end.

 Then there's 'Dream Mode' where each of the 20 characters get about 8 stages each(To be fair, some are repeated) alongside a what-if story(Told via those awful manga-like cutscenes). And... I couldn't take it. I played 5 stages with Ryuga before calling it quits and uninstalling the game. But why is it so bad? Warriors games, even those based around capture points, like the Gundam DW games, always pepper the stages with moving enemies and allies, so that it feels like a battle. Here it's you and the bases. There's no moving enemies, although every now and then an enemy commander will spawn and chase you(While not even bothering with the bases), and sometimes you'll get allies. Oh, and capturing bases makes allied NPC fodder arrive. But where's the moving enemy fodder? It's so dull, boring... Lifeless. I've never, ever had had so little fun with a Warriors game. I clocked about 60 hours, and even got the Platinum Trophy, on the previous game. I clocked over 120 hours on DW: Gundam 3, which I platinum'd as well, not to mention all the other Warriors games I've played, to say that I love the franchise is an understatement. But Ken's Rage 2 gravitated between being a chore and being a bore.
 And the saddest part about it? There's been noticeable improvements to the previous game. The previous game had only 7 characters or so(Albeit all of them very different from each other), now we get 20. There's grown up Bat, there's Shachi, there's Shew! Although, on the flip side, not all characters feel as... 'complete'. Some characters have very, very limited movesets, like Rin and Juda. Jumping has been removed entirely, which I didn't like at first, but you get used to it, and in its place now you've got a dodge, and by using energy you can use it to dodge any kind of attack. I objected to the increased speed at first, but then I popped the first game in, to compare, and.. as much as I loved the first game due to how heavy it felt, the new one feels much better thanks to the increased speed. I've read that some people said that this game looks worse... and they are wrong, no two ways about it. As I said before, I actually played the previous game again, to compare, and... the textures were hideous, PS2-level, if not worse. This time around, character models are much more detailed, much more defined and with proper textures. The special effects have been enhanced as well, there's more variety on the environments and on NPCs, and this game looks better in almost every respect.

 The way you level up your stats has also changed, while the previous game had the Meridian Chart, which I really liked, now you must collect scrolls and equip up to five of them. It's... it's not a terrible idea, but it pales in comparison to the Meridian Charts. Special Moves also work a bit differently, previously, after executing it, the game would freeze and show you multiple camera angles, while your character said the name of the technique. It was very accurate to the anime, and look really badass. Now... they work as in any other Dynasty Warriors game, without the extra fanfare, which is disappointing to say the least.
 The beauty of the Warriors games is that the pit you in large scale battles, while you get to pummel dozens upon dozens of enemy fodder before arriving to an enemy general, which actually poses a threat. They are fun, relatively mindless, but fun. Ken's Rage 2 feels like a parody of these games, like what most people think the games are. Instead of large battlefields, populated by both fodder and generals, you go through dull, lifeless corridors, searching for 'bases', the only areas where enemies spawn, and then you have to defeat 50 of them. Maybe, every now and then, an enemy commander will spawn and chase you, or sometimes one will pop up from a base. It feels so mechanic, so soulless. It feels like it was made by people that were told 'make a Warriors game' but had never played one before. Then there's the 'Legend Mode', which feels like a chore, since you are restricted even more than in the corridor-based Dream Mode, to smaller areas, with repetitive objectives. And the game loves to waste your time, with dull unskippable 'event scenes', were they state the obvious, or with half-baked 'variety missions' like the aforementioned stealth sections.

 Ken's Rage 2 is a mess. And it's a shame, because they actually improved on the combat elements, but due to its restrictive, messy nature, these changes never get the chance to shine. And it's hilarious, because in Japan it was named 'Shin Hokuto Musou', 'True Hokuto Musou'. Because it was supposed to improve upon the previous game. And the saddest part? If they had kept how the previous Legend Mode worked, how the previous Dream Mode worked, they could've had something really, really good. But they decided to fix what wasn't broken.
 2.5 out of 10

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