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GAMES OF 2010: Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage

I don't know... there's just something about this game that I really like.

I know, I know... a lot of you probably think I'm nuts for acknowledging this one but I gotta say, even though this is absolutely NOT one of the best games you will ever play, it does have a delightful feel to it at times. What I mean by that is that it's got a retro twist to it, especially if you are a fan of the Fist of the North Star manga series.

It's your basic beat-em; the gameplay is what you would expect from an old-school beat-em-up on like the Super NES which is both a good and bad thing. Bad because it gets kind of drab after a while but good because it's got that same old-school feel like Flying Warriors on the original NES. You'll perform combos which often cause your opponents to deform and then explode like a blood filled water balloon. Enemies will say something like “What is this!?” or “I'm too young to die!” just before they explode which is funny at first but the problem is that they won't shut the hell up! Also the same sound clips will often play over and over again to an annoying degree.

The skills upgrade system is a big redeeming factor because it allows you to unlock more moves and passive abilities as you progress during the game. Speaking of progressing, you also begin to unlock more characters to use in the game. Ken encounters other pivotal characters in the story mode and soon a few of them are made playable such as another guy who's attacks are faster and more agile than Ken's (a la air combos!) and a girl who fights with a crossbow and a chain among other characters and each of these characters all have their own skill trees.

The levels are where things start going downhill; linear and uninteresting. However, giant size destructible items are everywhere and will spice up a dull level every once in a while. Beating up on enemies is pretty satisfying and watching them explode is good for a laugh, especially when it's a lot of them all at once. Over the top special attacks can focus on a group of baddies or just one but the cinematics of the special maneuvers can sometimes seem way too long.At the end of each level you fight bosses who range from not so hard to stinkin' annoying. Bosses need to be finished off with a quicktime event that pummels them in a very “overkill” fashion.

Non-fans of the FotNS series might not be satisfied with Ken's Rage. It's missing a lot of the ingredients that make a fantastic action / adventure game. However, FotNS will find merit in it's old-school attributes. Honestly, I would wait until it goes down in price first. Mind you, I still like it.