Every time you sit down to play Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise it’s like taking a trip back in time.
It’s laden with quick time events, its visuals have a whiff of last gen, and its gameplay feels tried and tested rather than fresh and forward thinking. Yet still, it’s easily the best Fist of the North Star game ever made. Though I’m not sure if that’s much of an accolade.
Developed by Rya ga Gotoku Studio, it’s perhaps unsurprising, and also rather welcome, that Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise feels a hell of a lot like a Yakuza game. It takes a while for it to open up, nearly half of its main story in fact, but eventually you’re able to freely explore a city called Eden, making use of its facilities and completing sub-stories at your leisure. It’s at this point that you’re most like to enjoy what Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise has to offer, but getting there will have been a bit of a slog.
To say that the game takes a while to really get going is a bit of an understatement. Your first six hours or so with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise are likely to leave you disappointed. You’ll find it linear, a bit clunky, repetitive, and also possibly dull. When it finally opens itself up to you though, it’ll grow on you immensely. Even though you’ll still find yourself picking parts of the game apart, its charm shines through. It never becomes as likeable and engrossing as a Yakuza game, but it tries its best.
While you’ll get more out of Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise if you’re familiar with the manga it’s based on, prior knowledge is not necessary to enjoy it. All you need to know is that your character, Kenshiro, is a practitioner of a martial art known as Hokuto Shinken. Basically, he knows which vital points to strike on the human body to cause all manner of effects. Although his favourites are seemingly the ones which make his opponents explode.
In Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, Kenshiro is searching for his one true love, Yuria, who he believed to be lost. His trail leads him to the secretive city of Eden, and once there, Lost Paradise‘s story truly begins. It’s a story that’s likely to keep you entertained for around 15-20 hours if you head straight through it, but those who also take the time to enjoy its wealth of side content are likely to at least double that playtime.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise‘s side content will have you working as a bartender, managing a club and batting away encroaching bandits with a steel girder, but the meat of its gameplay is combat. In fact, much of the game’s side content is also combat-focused, with tasks that will see you completing bounties and standing in as the final boss in the Coliseum. Thankfully, the combat is highly entertaining, despite having a few issues.
At its core, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise‘s combat is very similar to Yakuza’s. Needless to say, if you’ve played a Yakuza game you’ll quickly pick up the basics. But Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise‘s combat quickly gains more depth. Through multiple skill trees, trainers, and story progression, Kenshiro amasses a varied range of offensive and defensive options that would truly make Kiryu jealous. In no time at all, you’re mixing up your punches and kicks with parries and counters, putting your enemies into Meridian Shock and then unleashing a variety of secret techniques.
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise‘s combat is fast-paced, bloody and brutal, and it’s all the better for it. The scenes and quick time events that accompany secret techniques often run the risk of becoming intrusive and repetitive, but their over-the-top nature and resulting splash of gore means that they never do. Plus, if the quick time events really do wear you down you can turn them off, though at the cost of the ability to do a little extra damage.
More problematic to Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise‘s combat is its poor lock-on system, which is fiddly and slows down your movement to a crawl. Also, the game’s camera often works against you, allowing off-screen enemies to get in cheap hits. Both would be more of a problem if the game was generally challenging in any way, but most encounters are an absolute walkover. It’s only when you come up against the game’s bosses that you’ll find yourself truly tested.
In many cases, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise‘s bosses feel cheap. Some will avoid your attacks like they’re psychic; others will simply shrug them off. As a result, you’ll often resort to using hit and run tactics, especially at the beginning of the game when your repertoire of moves is fairly shallow. Thankfully, you’re able to momentarily lower the difficulty if you die multiple times to the same boss because you went into the fight unprepared. As you get further into the game, however, you’ll find such instances occurring less.
There are other little niggles outside of combat too, like the poor handling of the vehicle that you can use to explore the wastes that lie beyond Eden, and the occasional clunkiness of the game’s camera and Kenshiro’s movement. They never frustrate enough to make the experience unpleasant though, just like the game’s budget appearance. While Kenshiro and the supporting cast of characters look good, the civilians that roam around Eden leave a lot to be desired, and there isn’t a great deal of variety to them. Many of the game’s locations are pretty uninspiring too.
Ultimately, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise feels like a more ridiculous entry into the Yakuza series, but with less content and a smaller budget. As a result, it’s a fun excursion, especially for fans of the Fist of the North Star franchise, but it never truly impresses. After its shaky start, you’ll happily plough through it with a smile on your face, but your journey won’t really be that memorable. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is a good game but not a great one. It’s the best Fist of the North Star game yet, but when all the others have been average at best, it’s not that much of an achievement.