The brilliant minds behind the immensely popular and well-crafted Yakuza series have decided to take on one of the Japanese most iconic and respected properties in the form of martial arts Manga Fist of The North Star. Let’s find out if the team can recreate the magic, they have with Yakuza with Fist Of The North Star: Lost Paradise or whether the formula doesn’t translate well to another IP.
Imagine the world as you know no longer exists. Everything you take for granted, everything you cherish, it’s all destroyed by nuclear weapons and the world, as a whole, is a lifeless wasteland. Oceans have dried up, plants have withered away, and food has become scarce. The world is in ruins and chaos. Despite this, people have survived and have found a way to keep living on. In this mad world taken to the max, you’ve been able to find some happiness. You meet the person of your dreams and get engaged, devoted to a faithful love and feeling empowered to take on anything life decides to throw your way. It’s a beautiful, triumphant, imagine. Now imagine you are confronted by an advisory, you are left beaten, bloodied, and humiliated. Your fiancée is taken from you and you are left for dead. This is Kenshiro’s story and the main plot of Fist of The North Star: Lost Paradise. After avenging himself and destroying the man who took away his beloved, he is told that she is dead but, shortly after, Kenshiro hears a rumour that she is actually alive. Thus, Kenshiro sets on a quest to find Yuria and this leads him through the wasteland and to Eden, along the way you’ll meet a great cast of characters.
One aspect of the story that Fist Of The North Star: Lost Paradise handles extremely well is, that, it’s able to tell its story without the player feeling lost if they have no knowledge of the series the game is based on. You can walk into this story with zero knowledge of the lore behind Fist of The NorthStar and still feel everything the game wants you to and be filled with intrigue. Those familiar with the franchise will see nods and references to the Manga/Anime and it’s always handled with care and respect. A scene may play exactly as it did in other material or with some minor changes. Now, you might be wondering exactly what kind of story this is. I may, or may not, have made it sound more intense or darker than it is. Don’t walk in expecting an overly deep narrative that tugs at your heartstrings and weighs down on your soul. Expect a fast paced, action packed, thrill ride with everything cranked to eleven. It’s an awesome tale with strong characters and no twenty episodes of powering up. The best part about it is that if you enjoy it, you have a ton of content you can read and watch to get more out the series.
Those familiar with the Yakuza series will feel right at home with this game, as it is brought to us by the same studio. Those uninitiated with Kazuma Kiryu’s spectacular franchise, don’t worry I’ve got you covered with this review. The biggest portion of gameplay this game offers is its combat. The game places the player in many situations in which he will battle a large number of enemies at once. In many games this may seem like a daunting, intimidating task but not with Fist of The North Star: Lost Paradise. That comes down to the fluid gameplay and the over the top nature the game portrays. It’s a formula the studio has mastered, and this trend continues with this take on one of Japan’s most beloved Manga and Anime. As Kenshiro, you have a block button, you can sidestep, you have a heavy attack button, a light attack button, a lock on, Burst Mode, QTEs, and more. The game goes out of its way to make you feel as powerful as possible, it’s not a balanced sensation you would get from a game like Bayonetta but more closely associated to that powerful feeling you get when playing a Musous style game. Where the former is set to match and raise your skill to the game’s and enemies, the latter is more so done to make you feel like a supreme being. It does it well and does a good job in not applying this formula to boss battles.
Essentially what will happen is that you, some way or another, will find yourself in conflict with some enemies and you’ll be forced to fight them. Fist of The North Star: Lost Paradise is careful to not become a mindless button masher by mixing the types of enemies you’ll encounter, a diverse group of MusclePharm enthusiasts who all require their own methods of defeating. You have your typical fodder that can be destroyed with your regular light and heavy combos, but you also have some that require strategy. Some may require you to hold down the heavy attack button for some extra damage that’ll open them up to be combined, some enemies are not phased by normal attacks, and some are very nimble and hard to attack. Strategy also plays a role in deciding which enemies you’ll attack first as they all present their own problems. Those fast and nimble enemies can become annoyingly problematic if left free to attack as they please, some enemies have weapons and guns equipped, and some can absorb a lot of damage before being hurt. As you damage and weaken enemies, you’ll be able to pull off some bloody cinematic kills. These are satisfying and accurately call back to the Manga and Anime it’s based on. They are usually involved with quick time events, though you can set it to automatically do it for you in the menu if you don’t like timed situations of pressure in video games. After every encounter, the game will score your performance like other character action games such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta.
The gameplay, the battles, and the product as a whole are extremely satisfying and well produced. Kenshiro is a blast to play as and his techniques and abilities push the developer’s vision of feeling nearly invincible to the forefront, complementing it well. The boss battles, as mentioned above, are actually challenging and fun to engage in. The bosses themselves are actually pretty challenging and were some of the few times I actually had to carefully plan my attack and had to use my healing items. Boss fights have always been that cherry on a cake, that section that gives you the most satisfaction once it’s complete because you rose to the challenge and successfully accomplished the task at hand. The over the top method in which they are presented just add to that feeling of success and with the QTEs and cutscenes, it’s a wonderful thrill ride. These encounters were where I saved my Burst Mode ability for extra damage. Burst Mode is similar to Devil Trigger in the Devil May Cry series and Umbran Climax in Bayonetta, in that it powers up your character and allows you to do extra damage. Nearly everything you do will provide you with experience point to level up and orbs for the game’s skill tree.
The skill tree adds a light RPG element to the game that I definitely wasn’t expecting. You aren’t just buying combo extensions, you’re raising your damage output, you’re increasing the amount of damage you can take, you’re improving your abilities such as for Burst Mode, and you’re increasing the powerful buffs the Talismans you use in the game give you. Of course, you’ll also need to interact with characters and collect materials to upgrade and use these buffs. These are spread throughout the world and by completing different tasks. When you aren’t in battle, you have access to a plethora of things to do in the hub world, Eden. You can visit merchants to buy food to use to heal yourself when you’re in hurt from battle, as well as minor clothing that can increase some defense. You can also do side quests and side activities. Some of these take on the form of being a doctor, giving massages, being a bartender, to name a few. A lot of this Kenshiro is able to do with the help of his unique martial arts ability known as Hokuto Shinken. You can also visit casinos and bars to take your mind off of things after a long day of blowing dudes up with your fingers or you can go to your room to change your costume or have a good night’s rest. The game gives you many options.
Early on in the story, you get a buggy and this really opens up the game for you. Your buggy can be customized and upgraded with money and parts found in the wasteland. Travelling the wasteland affords the player to head to different locations and experiences and for them to enjoy different varieties of side quests. One such side quest has you, as Kenshiro, play baseball with a metallic beam as a bat and enemies on motorcycles as balls. It is more epic and satisfying than you can imagine, a ton of fun and a perfect display of the over the top nature this game excels in. When you aren’t hitting home runs, you can participate in buggy racing and collect classic arcade games to be played back at Eden and classic Sega tracks from older games that can be listened to while you drive your buggy.
It’ll be nearly impossible to fully upgrade Kenshiro in one playthrough but, thankfully, Fist Of The North Star: Paradise Lost has a new game plus mode for you to enjoy. This game is a bloody game but it’s also a bloody good time. It’s a satisfying experience that is genuine and true to the source material and it runs great. Not to mention, the game is so much fun to play. It’s not perfect, Kenshiro can move kind of slow when you walk around the world and driving the buggy can be difficult to properly navigate but the biggest offender to the gameplay is the camera. There are times where the camera can feel like an enemy with the way it acts at times, it’s nothing game breaking and it doesn’t ruin the experience, but it is noticeable and, at times, can be frustrating.
Do you remember in Dragon Ball Z when Super Saiyan Goku is fighting Frieza on the dying planet Namek? Remember how Goku looked like he swallowed two Brock Lesnars with how massive his muscles were? Well, that’s how ninety percent of the cast looks in Lost Paradise. No, seriously, these character models look as if all they do is go to the gym and eat an insane amount of food. They are huge. Which is pretty much how they were in the Manga and Anime. As physically imposing as Kenshiro is, you’ll face many enemies that look even greater than him. Other character models such as women, children, and the elderly are more realistically portrayed but, despite this, no one looks or feels out of place. Also, the characters taken from the Manga/Anime are accurately implemented and rendered as they should be. This helps that the art style chosen accurate depicts the look and feel of the source material, bringing this fictional world to life and helps it feel real. The wasteland itself is presented as an unforgiving land with little to no resources available and you feel this as you traverse through it. Each locale you visit offers its own charm and focus point, preventing you from ever feeling like you’ve been there before or from ever feeling weary from the game’s visuals. You have the sweat inducing heat from the sandy wasteland to the bright neon lights of Eden and everywhere in between. One of the best uses of the game’s art style and graphics is the depiction of the Talismans as they use art taken from the Manga. The amount of respect the game shows to the source material should be commended.
The game’s animations are excellent as well. There is just something so satisfying in watching the craziness that ensues on your screen. The art style really suits it and adds another layer to the beautiful bloody chaos the game employs. Speaking of the game’s bloody display, I’ve seen and heard a lot of criticism about the bloody gore the game uses. All I’ll say on the matter is that there are far worse examples to point out and the gore isn’t put into the game for no reason, it actually makes sense in the grand scheme of things. These individuals have an immense amount of power and it only makes sense that this power would cause severe consequences to those on the receiving end. There is never a moment where you feel as if they have purposely crossed a line and the way the bodies explode into pieces is stomach turning and cool to witness at the same time. The in-game effects are also quite nice, especially when your fist is colliding with enemies and when you’re using special attacks.
One of my favorite visual pieces of animation is when you fill your seven-star gauge and enter Burst Mode. Ready for another Dragon Ball Z reference? It’s like being Goku and entering Kao-Ken. It’s that epic and equally as satisfying. Weapons and items are all rendered nicely, the game uses a clean and easy to navigate UI. I hope this choice in graphics doesn’t turn people off of the game as it’s a great one and not every game needs photorealistic graphics. It’s not a perfect visual masterpiece but it’s a really good-looking game that only serves to enhance the fun and spectacular gameplay.
Let’s start with the voice acting. Regardless of how you play it, the cast knocks it out of the park. Those who play in Japanese may hear some familiar voices from another franchise this team has worked on but, regardless, they nail the character they are portraying perfectly. The English cast is a little more hit and miss but, for the most part, they all do extremely well. The English voice actor for Kenshiro deserves special praise as he brings that character to life, he perfectly captures who the character is in extraordinary detail. When the needs to sound threatening and intimating, he nails it. When he was to add subtle humor, he nails it. He just fits the character so well that I imagine he looks exactly like Kenshiro in real life. You’ll find no complaints from me when it comes to the game’s voice acting.
All of the sound effects compliment the visuals they accompany. The soundtrack that plays as you fight enemies is great as well, it’s enough to get the blood pumping and hype you up but it also never takes away or distracts the player. The true highlight of the game’s audio is in the music you collect throughout the wasteland that can be played in your buggy as you travel. You’ll find tracks from the series itself, as well as some from classic Sega properties and it’s so, so, satisfying to hear one of your favorite songs from a game you love in a new game your enjoying. The developers did a great job here.
We live in an era where games have never looked better. It’s absolutely insane what we can do with technology and we continue to push the envelope with what can be done and with what stories we want to tell. Despite all of this, despite raising the bar to be the best-looking game on the market or to provide the player with so much content in a game that they lose himself for hours, some games have lost the most fundamentally important aspect of them. Fun. A three-letter word, a small word, but one with the most important value in your purchase. Fist of The North Star: Lost Paradise doesn’t try to give you an insane amount of content, it doesn’t try to compete with the Sundance Film Festival with an overly emotional narrative, and it doesn’t attempt to be the most visually stunning game on the market. Instead, Lost Paradise puts fun at the forefront and builds everything else around that important concept while also being true to Yoshiyuki Okamura’s original vision and work.
Fist of The North Star chooses a great art style that perfectly captures the look and feel of the Manga/Anime. It’s not perfect but it fits perfectly well for this game and it is how this property should be presented. The game is also loaded with content, there is so much to do and all of it makes sense in the world and brings some enjoyment in participating in. The combat is fluid, the battles over the top, and it tells a story that you want to see till the end and you won’t be able to ever guess or expect what is next. Fun is the lifeblood of this game, embedded deeply into its code, and playing this game for review has been an absolute blast. It’s not without issue, however, as I mentioned the buggy controls are less than thrilling to partake in and the camera can, at times, be extremely annoying.