Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise Review
There have been more than a handful of titles that have attempted to adapt to chronicle the formative shounen series Fist of the North Star, some with little effect and others more faithful to the source material. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise walks the line with this action RPG adaptation by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios. Lost Paradise attempts to fill the void and offer a truly great RPG experience set in this iconic universe, but does it hold up?
Lost Paradise tells the story of Kenshiro, martial artist and wanderer by the ways of this post-apocalyptic world, as he’s on the search for his fiance, Yuria. Immediately thrown into the world the player is given some exposition about the setting and what has transpired to make the world the wasteland it currently is after a series of exciting and fast-paced battles. There is some expectation that you’re already somewhat familiar with the narrative, but the game does a good enough job at filling in the blanks through flashbacks or through progressing the story itself that new players won’t feel entirely lost.
For all intents and purposes, Lost Paradise is a story set in an alternate universe within the already contained setting; familiar faces show up, but with the addition of a handful of new characters it isn’t an exact 1:1 to the original source material. The narrative doesn’t suffer from these new additions, and instead, it presents new wrinkles that the story navigates with the expertise you would expect from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios. However, if you’re not already invested or interested in Fist of the North Star, you probably won’t be too interested in the story Lost Paradise has to tell. Outside of the Japanese voice cast, the semi-Yakuza inspired combat system, and a few familiar mini-games, if you’re thinking of picking up Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise purely out of interest generated by the Yakuza series you might end up a bit disappointed.
Players will spend a most of their time in Eden - the City of Miracles - a walled off city that’s considered something of a paradise in comparison to the crumbling landscapes elsewhere. You’ll often be moving from objective to objective within Eden or indulging in the various mini-games available, rarely leaving the city with a few exceptions. Mini-games allow for a brief escape from the carnage of the day to day in this post-apocalyptic universe. There are a handful to choose from: such as the cabaret club (those that have played Yakuza will certainly be familiar with this), bartending, working as an “acupuncturist” of sorts, driving your buggy through the barren deserts outside of Eden, and a few more.
All these mini-games were pretty enjoyable, but I spent most of my time healing the ailments of various citizens with acupuncture, which is similar to the Yakuza franchise’s karaoke mini-game in which it plays like a timed rhythm game. Bartending and hopping into the club was fairly enjoyable as well, but it wasn’t anything I spent a huge amount of time doing as these activities were mostly there to serve as side activities and didn’t add much to the depth of the game itself.
Unlike previous Fist of the North Star inspired titles, Lost Paradise takes a different approach to combat. Fights are deeply similar to those found in the Yakuza series (Heat Mode included) and less like the Musou-like Kenshiro’s Rage. With a few exceptions, the combat deviates from the already established brawler formula. Combos can be executed with the appropriate buttons for both heavy and light attacks, eventually building meter above an enemies head in the form of a skull. Once the skull is completely filled, players can press circle to hit the pressure point of said enemy, allowing for Kenshiro to perform one of many deadly and extremely gruesome Hokuto Shinken finishers.
Pulling these off is extremely fun as they often come in the form of timed button presses with some measure of variety - some in the form of falling QTEs or mashing your square button to hit foes thousands of time before they eventually explode into a mess of gore on the battlefield. However, if you’re playing on an easier difficulty, or using one of the assisted combat features, seeing these finishers over and over again (as they’ll be very easy to perform) might get a bit boring. Boss fights are no exception to this, and while they’re initially quite exciting a few are bogged down by various QTEs and gimmicks that appear.
I have to admit that outside of the new spin on the classic narrative, the music was one of my favorite aspects of this game. The OST feels somewhat familiar to the music heard both in Yakuza 0 and Kiwami, electronic beats are pervasive through both normal encounters with outlaws and ruffians to boss fights with more formidable opponents like Jagi, Souther, and Raoh. There are of course some incredible speed metal inspired tracks as well that play into the 80’s inspired aesthetic of Fist of the North Star. Everything in the OST feels thematically consistent and played into each encounter incredibly well.
As a stand-alone title to the Fist of the North Star universe, Lost Paradise holds up mostly because its predecessors weren’t entirely the greatest products themselves. Using the formula Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios has created in conjunction with this IP does Fist of the North Star a great service. However, it's hard to judge this as any more than a spin-off title, as the quality of the game itself has a lot to do with what it borrows from an already established series of games. Either way, this new alternate storyline is one that long times fans will enjoy but still might leave new players on the out. If you’re looking for a solid brawler with a dramatic story that samples from perhaps one of the most iconic shounen manga you should definitely consider giving Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise a shot.