Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 18.10.2018

Review for Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise on PlayStation 4

The year is 199X. Planet Earth, shattered by nuclear war, has become an uninhabitable desert known only as the Wasteland. Civilisation has collapsed, and the weak suffer under the endless cruelty of the strong. It is in this lawless world that Kenshiro is searching for his fiancée, Yuria. There are rumours that a woman resembling his lover was seen in Eden, the "City of Miracles." Whereas everyone outside of the city struggles just to survive, citizens of this wondrous city enjoy countless luxuries, all without fear of violence or starvation. In his search for Yuria, Kenshiro must discover the secrets of Eden, while battling the forces of evil that wish to control it. Become the champion of justice in Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise.

Over the years, science has figured out all of the great mysteries that plagued this universe, yet there is still one left unanswered. Why are there so many terrible Fist of the North Star videogames? Seriously, it's the easiest concept in the world to make interactive entertainment out of. As the story goes, a martial artist by the name of Kenshiro wanders the wastes and fights bad guys. Ken is a master of Hokuto Shinken, and can kill someone simply by striking their pressure points. This man has destroyed giants with a single finger and wiped out entire armies with a few kicks. There's nothing he can't do… except star in a good videogame, apparently.

Most of the early titles were uninspired clones of Kung-Fu Master, a classic side-scroller by Irem. Following the success of Street Fighter II, a handful of fighters were made, but aside from the 2005 game by Arc Systems Works, they were all terrible. During the beat 'em up Golden Age of the '90s, there wasn't a single Fist of the North Star brawler. Even Sailor Moon got at least three. Wasn't that the series where a clumsy teenager defeats baddies by throwing her tiara at them? Yeesh! As far as 3D games go, there have been a few attempts, namely the Ken's Rage series by Omega Force. Unfortunately, even a Musou stalwart couldn't do the franchise justice. The games were slow, lacking in impact, and not much fun.

For over 30 years, there were only three words needed to sum up Fist of the North Star's run in videogames: baffling, embarrassing, and disappointing. It's almost as if it was cursed. Admittedly, this critic was overcome by trepidation when it was announced that SEGA's Ryu Ga Gotoku studio was helming a new game. It's as if its sterling record was being put to the ultimate test. Did it succeed in delivering a worthy experience? Well, aside from a handful of caveats, the answer is a resounding yes.

Screenshot for Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise on PlayStation 4

What quickly sets this apart from all of the pretenders is that the combat is superb. Kenshiro has access to all of his trademark moves, and gains more skills as the adventure progresses. Encounters typically range from groups of hapless thugs to one-on-one duels with powerful rivals. In either case, battles are enthralling and challenging. The normal difficulty is no slouch, as players who rely on button-mashing will be stonewalled and then punished to oblivion.

Much like the Yakuza series, whenever an enemy is in a weakened state, they are susceptible to Heat… wait, Hidden techniques. These stylised finishers will wipe out most goons, and do significant damage to bosses. Instead of a Heat bar, Kenshiro's power is monitored by the stars of the big dipper. When all seven light up, then he can enter burst mode, which increases his offensive potential several times over. Naturally, this ability is best saved for tough battles, or for mounting a valiant comeback.

Part of what makes the fighting so appealing is that it captures the "oomph." This all goes back to some of the earliest beat 'em ups, like Final Fight. The deep bass of bodies hitting the ground, the meaty "thwack" whenever someone gets punched, all of these sounds help to sell the scene. The same is true here. Every hit carries with it a sense of impact. Punching through a crowd of adversaries always feels good. After especially powerful attacks, enemies will collide with walls and sometimes with one another, doing extra damage. It's also possible to juggle them while they are in mid-air. These minor touches make the ultraviolence more rewarding.

As mentioned earlier, the level of difficulty is not to be underestimated. While it is possible to stock up on healing items and acquire plenty of armour, the enemy is quite adept at countering predictable players. Reading their moves and looking for openings is an essential strategy. This lends every encounter the much needed depth that helps them remain compelling, even after dozens of hours of playtime. The endgame portions are especially tough, as a fully powered Kenshiro can still fall victim to a group of high level thugs.

While it's no Kamurocho, Eden is still the liveliest city in the wasteland, and has the usual assortment of amenities to entertain anyone who wants more than just a fight. Kenshiro is free to try his hand at bartending, managing the nightclub, working at a clinic, and so on, and so forth. Bartending typically involves meeting some fellow citizens and preparing drinks for them, which requires a lot of controller shaking and analogue stick spinning. The Doctor Ken mini-game is a rather odd take on rhythm/music titles, as he has to saves lives to the beat, all with the help of timely button presses. It's a bit of an acquired taste.

Screenshot for Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise on PlayStation 4

Managing a nightclub is different here than in the Yakuza games. Kenshiro still wanders the wasteland in search of recruits, but the training aspect is less nuanced than before. Instead of talking to the ladies and getting an idea of what they are really like, it's all just a matter of buying gifts that boost their service and HP values. The missions themselves revolve around placing the right gals with the right guys, and dealing with anyone that steps out of line. There is some strategy in knowing exactly what to do, but in the end it's more a matter of investing a lot of cash to power everyone up to astronomical levels. The results are worth it for anyone that needs the money through as, once the necessary time is invested, Kenshiro can earn millions in minutes.

The most significant of the side-content involves the buggy. There are a few occurrences where the hero has to drive to the next destination to progress the story. Aside from those instances, however, most of his time will be spent searching for hidden treasures, and collecting lots of materials along the way. Said materials can either be sold or used to repair vehicle parts, which serve as upgrades. The kitted out buggy can then be raced for fun and prizes. All told, this side of the game doesn't hold a candle to Daytona USA, but it's still competently done. The buggy's handling is quite nice, and there's just enough of a learning curve to make driving fun.

If a fight is all you are searching for, then there's a coliseum, as well. Battles can either be against groups of foes or individuals. The duels are essentially refights, as the fighting styles of these masked foes mimics bosses that Ken has fought before. Since healing items aren't available, this is the point where players can really appreciate the destiny talisman system. Talismans are mapped to the d-pad and will confer a special benefit, if the situation calls for it. Some make farming easier, another recovers Kenshiro's health, and still others do damage to enemies. Aside from the mind-numbing grind that's required to upgrade them, they are a fun addition.

Really, all that needs to be said is that there's never a shortage of things to do in Eden. When Kenshiro isn't hunting down bounties or playing blackjack at the casino, he's at the arcade trying to top his score in Space Harrier. There are also a ton of sub-stories to uncover, which help to flesh out the characters that live in this dangerous world. As would be expected from a game in the Yakuza franchise, completing all of the side-content can take upwards of 100 hours. All of these distractions could lead gamers to believe that the main adventure is comparatively lacking, and they would be right.

Screenshot for Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise on PlayStation 4

Although the story features many Fist of North Star favourites, as well as an appropriate number of twists and turns, everything in-between isn't terribly exciting. In most cases, all the player really does is run from one destination to the next, until they trigger the next battle. This same criticism could be applied to the Yakuza releases, but they usually switch things up by giving Kiryu and his friends an extended fight sequence or a unique mini-game. Sometimes that path to the next destination involves an unexpected element, such as stealth or an alternate route. There's not enough of that to be found here, which makes the adventure a little predictable.

Also, there are a couple of nitpicks worth noting. Although it is nice to receive treasure maps, they can sometimes be inconvenient rewards. Kenshiro might be trying to finish a task inside of Eden, for example, but he accidentally bumps into a crowd of enemies. After swiftly dispatching them, they will drop a map. Now, Ken has to drop everything and head out to the wasteland, just to find that treasure. Since maps have a time limit, the player can't simply put off the hunt for later. Well, technically they can, because even if time runs out, the treasure isn't actually lost. Instead, it just respawns at a later time, potentially as soon as the next map drops. Still, the pressure of having a time limit in an otherwise leisurely game is annoying.

This also won't quite capture some folk's idealistic view of what a Fist of the North Star videogame could be. Having Eden serve as a central hub is convenient and all, but one of the interesting aspects of the series has always been in wandering through strange lands and dealing with the problems that arise. Here, all of the problems come to the city, and there's not enough exploration and sightseeing. At one point, Kenshiro visits the prison Cassandra, but as soon as he gets to the front door, he's already battling the boss. With all that said, this is more a minor complaint than anything. Idealistic views are nice to aspire towards, but realistic views are what get results.

Screenshot for Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Although Yakuza fans are certain to notice its imperfections, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise still exceeds expectations. The fighting system is so good that even the battles with the lowliest of lowlifes are entertaining. Every boss fight ranges from great to fantastic. They are exactly what long-time fans of the anime and manga franchise deserve. Then again, some gamers might just be happy to get a Fist of North Star game that's actually satisfying. It's been far too long since the last remotely decent one.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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