Crushing Skulls in the Nuclear Apocalypse Never Felt So Good
I’ve been a huge fan of the Fist of the North Star franchise for quite some time. Seeing huge dudes fight and slay each other with crazy martial arts in a nuclear wasteland went together like peanut butter and jelly for me. Unfortunately, the series hasn’t always been treated the best when it came to games. Aside from a couple of decent entries on home consoles and an excellent fighter in the arcades, they’ve actually kind of sucked. Thankfully, Sega and Yakuza Studio came up with the brilliant idea to use the Fist of the North Star franchise set in the Yakuza series style world and gameplay. They made a great call, as Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is, for the most part, a wonderful game.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise closely follows the story path of the original Fist of the North Star TV series. The premise is Kenshiro, a master martial artist and successor of the deadly killing art known as Hokuto Shinken (Sacred Fist of the North Star, loosely translated) has his fiancée Yuria abducted by his close friend Shin, a master of the rival art Nanto Koshuken (Lone Eagle Fist of the South Star) out of jealousy. The conflict is taboo between the two schools and sets about Kenshiro’s path for revenge, as well as his fellow Hokuto Shinken brother’s ambitions to take his place as successor to the deadly art for losing in combat. The game begins right at the tail end of the first arc of the TV series, where Kenshiro finally confronts and exacts his revenge on Shin for defeating him and stealing his fiancée away. Much to Kenshiro’s dismay, he discovers Yuria is gone and supposedly dead.
Right at the start of the game, you can feel the Yakuza vibes flowing through Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. Combat flows mostly the same, and many of the same voice actors fill major roles. Takaya Kuroda (Kazuma Kiryu) voices Kenshiro, Kazuhiro Nakaya (Akira Nishikiyama) voices Shin, and, most fitting to me, Hidenari Ugaki (Goro Majima) voices Jagi. Every major cast member in the Japanese voice cast has had a role in at least one Yakuza game, and that’s definitely a cool touch in my opinion. It really helps tie the two universes together nicely. Unfortunately, I can’t personally recommend the English dub. It felt really lackluster to me and definitely could have used more polish. Both options are available to you out of the box though, which is also a nice gesture on Sega’s part. It all boils down to personal taste, but Fist of the North Star has always sounded better in Japanese to me, despite its more western setting.
“Tell me, why does he wear the mask!”
Jagi’s a pretty big guy…for you.
After wandering the wastes for what feels like an eternity, Kenshiro finds himself in a small town where, after helping out some villagers as he usually does, he learns that Yuria is actually alive and had passed through their area recently. Learning all this, Kenshiro immediately sets out to find her. The villagers point him towards a giant city called Eden, “The City of Miracles”. The catch is no one can get in without a pass, and on top of all that, no one can get one anymore. After some back and forth with other hopefuls outside the gate hoping to get in, Kenshiro plays a little bit of 4D chess and gets himself arrested to get inside the gates. He eventually wins his freedom gladiator style and this is where Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise REALLY begins.
While Eden is decidedly more condensed than Yakuza’s Kamurocho, there’s still plenty to see and do, and the Yakuza-style wandering and interacting carries over wonderfully. There are side jobs to work at, shops to spend your hard-earned money at, a casino to gamble your hard-earned money away at, and a coliseum to fight in. While your arts are primarily used for killing, you also have techniques you can use to heal people and get bonuses and items to help you out on your quest. Along with thugs and bandits wandering around and plenty of sub-stories to tackle, Lost Paradise feels exactly like a Yakuza game with a Fist of the North Star coat of paint, and it works almost perfectly.
MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX MIX!!!
You thought Kenshiro killing bad guys was hardcore? Wait till you see him go all mixologist on you.
One of the primary differences between Yakuza and Fist of the North Star lies in the combat. While things mostly feel the same, there aren’t as many weapons and items to pick up during combat, and your Heat Moves have been replaced with your arsenal of Hokuto Shinken finishing moves. The finishers have QTE style button prompts to hit, and when properly done they usually result in a one-hit kill, with enough proper moves resulting in a leveled up killing art. These leveled up killing arts require more button presses during the move, making them more difficult to pull off, but they also do more damage. In order to do the killing arts, you have to do enough damage to an enemy to stagger them, where you can press circle to hit a pressure point and start the move. Where you press circle during a normal combo determines which killing art you use. The combat flows pretty well and you get used to it before long. There are some things like enemies with spears and hammers that prove to be a huge nuisance, and it can prove to be a little difficult at first to regularly get S ranks or better during combat. Still, finishing your enemies with a flurry of punches only to watch them explode into chunks is utterly hilarious and never gets old.
Cool Guys Don’t Look at (Blood) Explosions
Kenshiro Blows Dudes Up and Walks Away!
Aside from the story and side tasks available in Eden itself, there are a number of things to do in the vast wasteland surrounding the city. Shortly after arriving in Eden, you get access to a buggy that you can build up and customize to explore the apocalyptic desert (along with races you can participate in later in the game). The wasteland is enormous, and you need to watch out for bandits as well as your own fuel supply while wandering about. Aside from finding items and taking out thugs, you’ll find a few areas to explore as part of the story and other side distractions for fun. For instance, your first task going into the desert is to break your Hokuto Shinken brother Toki out of prison to heal one of your friends. The breakout plays exactly as it does in the original TV series, with Kenshiro fighting the prison warden Uighur to break Toki out of his cell. It was a stellar fight and just another example of the heaps of fanservice Lost Paradise has in store for fans of the Fist of the North Star series.
Nothing says you care by making sure you kill two buddies at the same time.
After saving Toki, we went to an old baseball field the Eden town watch uses as a watch post for approaching bandits. A guard sees some bandits on bikes approaching, so Kenshiro does the sensible thing and picks up a steel girder to play some baseball with the bandits trying to rush the stadium. In usual Sega/Yakuza Studio fashion, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise breaks up the seriousness of the core story by showering the player with absurdity dialed up to a hearty 11. Your first big boss after the prologue is a 60-foot-tall giant named Devil Rebirth (also from the original series), you can work at a bar as a side job and you mix drinks using your Hokuto Shinken techniques to try and appease customers, you can kill thugs in one quick hit with a perfectly timed pressure point strike. With a perfectly timed strike, your enemies let out a word bubble, manga-style death cry and you can use said word-bubble to attack your enemies. I also found a music track for my buggy while wandering the desert that played Magical Sound Shower from Sega’s classic arcade game Outrun. All the checkboxes have been ticked to make Lost Paradise as ridiculous as it can be serious, and I laughed the whole way through.
Yes, this is as awesome and ridiculous as it looks.
If hitting guys with a steel girder like they’re baseballs is something you need in a game, boy are you in for a treat!
I’d say that Lost Paradise is ALMOST as good as a core Yakuza game, but some things got lost in translation with shaping this game in a Yakuza mold. The move to make the game be more manga/anime-like is admirable, but some of the details get lost in the landscapes as a result of the more painted style approach they take, this makes the characters and their wonderful details sort of stick out and those more familiar with the Yakuza franchise will be yearning for more details and graphical polish that those games are known for. The aforementioned English dub is a nice inclusion but as previously described it could have used some more work as well. Also, while the game is perhaps the best Fist of the North Star game to date, if you’re not too familiar with the franchise you may be a bit lost at some of the nods that the game gives to the original source material. Speaking of source material, a couple of the translation choices stuck out as rather odd to me (Thouzer? really?), but at the end of the day these are all relatively minor gripes and complaints.
Sticks and stones might break your bones…
But Kenshiro can also hurt you with your own words!
Still, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is a fantastic game well worth the price of entry. Yakuza fans and Fist of the North Star fans can both find plenty to enjoy here, and although new players might be a bit lost at first, hopefully, the game will serve as a good entry point into what is considered one of the great classics of the anime and manga world. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna watch Kenshiro and Raoh fight for the umpteenth time.
FINAL VERDICT: 4.5/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (Reviewed); Publisher: Sega ; Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studio, Amusement Vision ; Players: 1; Released: October 2nd, 2018; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise