Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise might seem like a Yakuza spin-off on the surface, but there are some fundamental differences between both games. Loosely based on the events in the Fist of the North Star manga, it features a post-apocalyptic world which is essentially a huge wasteland and humanity is barely surviving in small cities while defending themselves from the bandits that roam this wasteland. In this world, resources are scarce so naturally, anyone who manages to seize control of them gains the power to rule over people.
If you are getting Mad Max vibes from Fist of the North Star, it is because the manga creator has derived inspiration from the Hollywood movies. He pitched this concept as a Mad-Max-meets-Bruce-Lee style for the manga. The design of the characters, the wasteland, and even the bandits exactly resembles Mad Max. This concept of wasteland with no sense of protection ruled by cruel bandits is similar. The unique and quirky cast of characters and the over-the-top gore is what makes Fist of the North Star stand out on its own. It serves as a nice parallel to the grim tone of Mad Max.
Fist of the North Star desperately required a game that could do justice with its name, and once the Yakuza developers started working on the Fist of the North Star IP, it was exciting to imagine how they could have approached it. The result is out now, and while there are many flaws in their execution, it stays faithful to the source material and offers a great open world with plenty of content based on the Fist of the North Star brand. It is the ideal game for fans of the series and easily the best one released so far, but for newcomers, it won’t be easy to digest the sluggish pace of the story.
Lost Paradise’s main plot centers on Kenshiro, who is the successor of the martial art Hokuto Shinken. It is a unique fighting style that exploits the weakness of pressure points on a body to defeat the enemy. It makes Kenshiro practically invincible against all his opponents by granting him the ability to one-hit kill most of them. The central theme revolves around Kenshiro’s love interest Yuria, who is forcibly taken away by his rival, Shin. The opening prologue introduces us to the powers of Kenshiro and ends with a fight against Shin, who ultimately reveals the fate of Yuria before dying by his hands.
The most pressing issue with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is that it constantly tests your patience. The opening prologue is short and sweet. It presents an idea of Kenshiro’s power and introduces his love interest Yuria, who is a major theme of the story. Immediately after that, an excessively lengthy section with cutscenes set up the plot and backstory while offering little gameplay. The linear progression in the first couple of chapters instantly conveys a negative impression. The dated look of the game and lackluster presentation is a significant hurdle in enjoying the introductory chapters, even if the writing is good enough.
Chapters represent important story segments but with no exact way to decide how long each chapter is, some of them are relatively short. There is a total of 12 chapters for the main campaign. Eden – The City of Miracles is the primary hub and the only large explorable city with most of the story taking place inside it. The issue is that the first five chapters are entirely linear, giving you little in the way of freedom. Looking at the pre-release footage, one might expect a city to explore from the beginning like in Yakuza. The reality is it won’t be accessible in full until you reach chapter 5. This can take a couple of hours while the game forces you to sit through boring combat sections. The overpowered nature of Kenshiro makes battles easy on the normal difficulty, so if you want some challenge, hard is the way to go here.
Yakuza fans who are looking to get Lost Paradise should tone down their expectations. The similarity to Yakuza is there, but it is mostly in the combat and some gameplay mechanics. Lost Paradise uses on an old iteration of the Yakuza game engine so UI elements like the map seem familiar. It feels like the story and cutscene presentation matches that of a JRPG complete with a level up system in place. Once the full open world is available to explore, substories will unlock with a total of 80 of them to attempt, there is a substantial amount of optional content.
The highlight for the combat system is special moves that lead to violent deaths. The basic combat system relies on the same low and high attack combo, but with new Hokuto Shinken finishers. These finishers trigger by first beating an enemy until you get a skull icon on top of them. Pressing a button then leads to Kenshiro stunning them and then pressing it again will execute a brutal move requiring QTEs. It will essentially cause their body to explode in a violent way. There are upgrades to it like the ability to do a quick finisher with a timed press on a stunned enemy. These finishers typically represent a significant part of most fights since they are straightforward to execute without any punishment. Later, you can parry or dodge attacks with more efficiency which dramatically improves the flow of battles.
Lost Paradise also delivers a mix of old and new mini-games. Cabaret Club is back and offers some nice rewards this time like a substories finder item. New mini-games include mixing cocktails as a bartender, and a human baseball match where you swing attacking bikers with a steel bat. Kenshiro later gets a vehicle that he can customize and will mainly use to explore the open wasteland or attempt races. It runs on fuel and if there is none left, this can lead to a game over. Thankfully, there are several ways to prevent it e.g. by focusing on checkpoints scattered across the map. It is possible to find loot or bandits when roaming in this open wasteland. The scope of exploring this wasteland might sound exciting, but in reality, it is full of menial and tedious tasks. The controls of the vehicles are not that great either and it feels like you are driving on the ice most of the time.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is an action-adventure video game for the PlayStation 4, developed and published by Sega. It is based on the manga franchise Fist of the North Star by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara. It was released in Japan on March 8, 2018 and worldwide on October 2, 2018.
Final Score - 7.5/10
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise sounds like a great concept on paper, but it has a clumsy execution. The slow pace in the start is a major hurdle but the game vastly improves in every aspect afterward. The combat is exciting with brutal finishers, and the side content is fun, even if most of it suffers from repetition. It is a solid game to recommend to Yakuza fans although it is best to play it with low expectations.