An adventure that will give Fist of the North Star fans something to enjoy though other players’ mileage may vary.
Adaptations of long-running properties have a lot of roles to fill. They have to appeal to older fans who have grown up with the series and know every intricate detail of the world. But they also have to try to coerce newcomers into giving the property a shot, regardless of the imposing amount of lore. It’s a very hard balance to find. One way that you can attempt this is taking an existing property and wrapping it in a popular style in order to appeal to as many people as possible. This is what Sega has attempted with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is an action-adventure title developed by the minds behind the Yakuza franchise, Ryu ga Gotoku Studio. Set in an alternate version of the Fist of the North Star universe, it starts off with Kenshiro coming face-to-face with his longtime rival Shin in order to rescue his fiancee Yuria. After the battle, Shin informs Ken that Yuria has been dead for a time. So far, older fans should be onboard with this series of events. However, while roaming through the desert, Ken hears rumors that Yuria is alive and is located within a desert civilization. Ken sets out to investigate this city and this is where the game really starts.
"Combat in this title is overall solid, it’s fast and punchy brawler fare."
As far as the story goes, fans may find some things to enjoy but newcomers might be put out by events happening around them without much context. It can be fun seeing familiar faces popping up and even fighting them or alongside them. Having Bat show up out of nowhere and immediately attach himself to Ken’s hip is pretty in character for him and brought a smile to my face. But for players unfamiliar with the lore of Fist of the North Star, not a lot about this story makes sense. Before you arrive in the city, there’s not much in way of previous backstory aside from disjointed flashbacks. The interaction between Ken and Yuria is incredibly minimal and it creates a weak reason for players to invest in getting her back. Characters can just show up and then disappear for seemingly no reason, their role in the story unclear unless you’re coming from the manga or anime. Though this story can be enjoyed by new players, it’s undoubtedly intended for veterans of the series.
Anyone who has played the Yakuza games will be familiar with the gameplay loop in Lost Paradise. Using the city as your hub, you pick up quests and chat up with other characters, punching up baddies along the way. The presentation of the Fist of the North Star world is top-notch and you can tell that care went into this game’s creation. However, compared to the wackier tone of Yakuza, Lost Paradise is much more serious and features a somber tale. This works to its benefit in adherence to the source material but also hinders it. When a tale is never broken up by levity, it has the tendency to drag.
Combat in this title is overall solid, it’s fast and punchy brawler fare. Though it starts out incredibly basic, you can unlock special moves and power up your character through the expansive upgrade tree. Moves like the Hundred-Fist Rush and the Two-Finger Nil-Space Grasp are not only incredibly useful and open up your toolset, but also bring the experience closer to an authentic Fist of the North Star experience. You also can craft Talismans based on other characters you meet throughout your time and assign them to quick-slots. These have a variety of effects, from sending you into a powered-up state for a time to killing off a few enemies quickly. Sound design is on point and it helps make every punch and kick feel like it’s crushing a rib or two. For the most part, this is the strongest part of the Lost Paradise experience.
"While the cinematography looks incredibly faithful to its source material and is sure to bring a smile to the face of longtime fans, as you play longer and longer, these pace-breakers tend to make combat drag."
However, there are also a few setbacks to combat that can make the entire game drag. During battles with large amounts of enemies, it can be hard to effectively target who you want to hit. There are also some enemies who don’t have a specific attack pattern, which can end up making some bosses a trial-and-error process. Those aforementioned special moves also act as your finisher in certain situations. In this title, after inflicting a set amount of damage, the enemy is opened up for a grab. Once grabbed, an animation will play off one of your various finishers and you’re required to do a quicktime event to maximize damage. While the cinematography looks incredibly faithful to its source material and is sure to bring a smile to the face of longtime fans, as you play longer and longer, these pace-breakers tend to make combat drag. No longer is it awesome to see an opponent’s head explode from you jamming your thumbs into his temples; it’s tiring.
The city is an interesting place. Though completely made up for this title, it doesn’t feel out of place in the Fist of the North Star universe and it’s fun exploring what a functioning city would be like in this kind of a world. There are many people around that you can interact with and thugs roam the streets looking to pick fights with you. There are a ton of side activities and they are a hallmark of Ryu ga Gotoku Studio games and it fits in well with the gameplay style they were going for in this title. While the rationale behind some of the activities can stretch a bit, it’s worth it to see the stoic Kenshiro dress up as a doctor and perform martial arts to the beat of an office jingle.
You can also explore the expansive desert once you fix up a car to traverse the dunes. While this may be the aspect of the title that fans of the original property will be most familiar with, its implementation isn’t too exciting. You generally just go out to collect material lying on the ground and to head over to other points of interest. Driving is floaty at first but there are parts you can buy to make your car more manageable. There are roving bands of outlaws that can stop you and initiate battle, but they’re easily avoided if you so choose. The desert and driving don’t feel like they had nearly as much care put into them as the city did. At least you can listen to some tunes while you drive. There’s a little satisfaction to be found in blasting down the decrepit road jamming to the theme of Super Monkey Ball.
"You can also explore the expansive desert once you fix up a car to traverse the dunes. While this may be the aspect of the title that fans of the original property will be most familiar with, its implementation isn’t too exciting."
Overall, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is an enjoyable game bogged down by odd gameplay choices and an unengaging storyline. I’m sure that veterans of the series will get something more out of this title than newcomers. If you’re just interested in the gameplay that you’ve seen of this title, the Yakuza franchise is a better fit for you. And if you’re looking to get into Fist of the North Star, there are better ways than this game. Although if you’re a fan and you’ve been waiting years for a good video game adaptation of Fist of the North Star, this might just scratch that itch for you.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Very faithful to source material, Stylistically on point.
Pace-breaking combat, Desert sections not fleshed-out, Not newcomer-friendly.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise can be fun for someone invested in the series, but has too many hurdles that can prevent a new player from enjoying it.