The team behind the Yakuza games know a thing or two about a rock solid, take no prisoners protagonist who can batter gangs of enemies without breaking a sweat, so taking on the Fist of the North Star license seems like a perfect fit. Kenshiro, master of ludicrously powerful martial art Hokuto Shinken, roams the post-apocalyptic wasteland seeking his beloved Yuria, and knocking several shades out of anybody who upsets him by jabbing their pressure points, causing them to explode in a manner that is equal parts gruesome and hilarious.
GIST OF THE NORTH STAR
For fans of the anime, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise picks up just after Kenshiro defeats Shin, the man who gave him his famous seven scars and stole his bride to be Yuria away. This is basically the first story arc of the original anime, and the prelude to this final battle makes up the tutorial section at the beginning of the game.
It then diverges a bit, picking up an undisclosed amount of time later, where some events from the show have taken place, while some are reworked to fit into what is a new story about the city of Eden – a huge settlement built up around a mysterious power source. The way it weaves existing moments into an all-new narrative ensures that there are surprises for those familiar with the source material and those who aren’t.
For the most part, you’re going to be fighting bandits, and the sequences we played were not short on action. Combat is lifted almost directly from the Yakuza games, so although it lacks the tightness of say, a God Hand, or a Devil May Cry, it’s geared towards having fun and, much like the show, enjoying the extremely violent brutality Kenshiro can dish out at will. Instead of picking up weapons with circle – Kenshiro needs no such things! – beating up an enemy enough to put them in a stagger state allows you to hit circle and trigger one of his ‘secret techniques’.
A brief quick time event plays out, and damage is dealt depending on how successful you were in hitting the button prompts, with nailing it perfect usually resulting in an instant kill on even some strong enemies.
Sneaking a peak at the upgrade grid, indicated that there are plenty of different Secret Techniques to unlock, but during our session we saw the ones we currently had A LOT. As much as it pains us to say it, hearing Kenshiro deliver his famous line “You are already dead” for the tenth… actually, forget that, it was still awesome the tenth time, but maybe the twentieth, thirtieth time, may start to get a little old. The camera is also wildly erratic during fights, resulting in you taking hits from off screen a lot of the time during battles with multiple thugs, and you find yourself scrapping with that as much as you do the enemies.
A high point in the two sections we checked out was the gladiatorial arena battle, which takes place early on in the game and is Kenshiro’s first real combat test. A scrap with a bunch of criminals under different rulesets cumulates with a fight against Devil Rebirth, a giant who acts as the ‘final boss’ of the arena. It’s less about crowd control, and more about spectacle, as you dodge big but highly telegraphed attacks to trigger sequences where Kenshiro performs all sorts of flashy maneuvers to take him out.
Perhaps not as thrilling were some of the other aspects of Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. A section outside of Eden involved wandering around talking to people, then talking to another, then walking back to talk to someone else, just to trigger the next event. It was long-winded and it was hard not feel like the characters may as well have been post-it notes to read. Hopefully, in the full game there will be a lot more variety in these sections, as it felt like little more than a fetch quest.
We also had a look at a section from a later chapter, which allowed us to access the game’s open-world area — the wasteland. And well, let’s just say that was an extremely accurate description of what it is. Big, empty and with little to do in it other than drive around in a battered up old truck. The full game promises races, hidden secrets and the ability to customise the truck with different abilities, but this open world space seemed worryingly barebones. It’s just a big old sandy space that takes a while to get around.
How’s Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise shaping up?
Visually, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is a bit of a mixed bag. Although the game looks good, recreating the look of the manga with subtle use of cel-shading and some spot-on character models, it seems something of a shame that it isn’t running on the far more graphically impressive Dragon Engine that powers the recent Yakuza titles. Apparently, this is down to FOTNS being developed by a new internal team who aren’t as experienced on the new engine. It’s a shame, because the improved combat in the Dragon Engine titles would only benefit Kenshiro’s brand of ass-kicking.
With the Yakuza games providing the backbone it’s hard not to compare the two and when stacked up against Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is a touch lacking. Hopefully, in the full release, there’s a lot more variety in the quests and a bit more to do when not flinging fists and feet at faces. The treatment of the source material, however, seems to be really damn good and fans of the manga are going to get a real kick (and punch) out of seeing the way Sega have approached it.