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Review

Review: Fist of the North Star – Lost Paradise

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When a Fist of the North Star game was announ­ced last year by SEGA’s Yaku­za team, we were pret­ty exci­ted. As fans of both the ori­gi­nal man­ga and the Yaku­za series, a game incor­po­ra­ting the best of both fran­chises see­med like a reci­pe for suc­cess. A year later, and the end result of this col­la­bo­ra­ti­on is a wild­ly incon­sis­tent game that fails to tru­ly cap­tu­re the magic of eit­her series.

Pre­vious Fist of the North Star games, like Koei Tecmo’s Ken’s Rage, have tried to cover the manga’s plot to vary­ing degrees of suc­cess. Lost Para­di­se takes a dif­fe­rent approach, using cha­rac­ters from the series while tel­ling a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent sto­ry. The basic pre­mi­se is the same – strong men with inhu­man strength and stran­ge mar­ti­al arts fight in a post-apo­ca­lyp­tic world – and the majo­ri­ty of main cha­rac­ters from Fist of the North Star make an appearan­ce. But the only simi­la­ri­ties this sto­ry has com­pa­red to the ori­gi­nal is main cha­rac­ter Kenshiro’s back­sto­ry, and even then it’s a rather abrid­ged ver­si­on.

Lost Paradise’s sto­ry focu­ses main­ly on the city of Eden, a place whe­re only tho­se who have per­mis­si­on from its lea­der may enter. Lear­ning that his pre­vious­ly assu­med dead lover is still ali­ve, and that she was last sight­ed in Eden, Kens­hiro tra­vels the­re to find out the truth. What fol­lows is a rather brief jour­ney through both Eden and the sur­roun­ding was­te­land, whe­re fami­li­ar cha­rac­ters come and go wit­hout much fan­fa­re. Tho­se that are unfa­mi­li­ar with the series will likely not even know that cer­tain cha­rac­ters that appe­ar here were even important in the man­ga, sin­ce many of them are intro­du­ced quick­ly and then for­got­ten about after­wards. It feels like the rea­son that most of the game takes place in Eden is less to do with sto­ry­tel­ling, and more try­ing to have game­play be simi­lar to the Yaku­za games.

For the most part, explo­ring Eden and com­ple­ting subs­to­ries will feel fami­li­ar to Yaku­za fans. It may not be as visual­ly appe­aling as Kamu­ro­cho, but it has ever­ything you’d expect: Shops, ple­nty of miniga­mes and many thugs to fight. In many ways Lost Para­di­se feels like a res­kin­ned Yaku­za tit­le, offe­ring only a few chan­ges here and the­re out­si­de of com­bat. There’s even an arca­de that even­tual­ly houses the same arca­de games from Yaku­za 0. That’s not to say that ever­ything is reu­sed, and the­re are a few new addi­ti­ons that we enjoy­ed. Bar­ten­ding offers up its own subs­to­ries, while also giving extra screen time to a varie­ty cha­rac­ters regard­less of their impor­t­an­ce to the sto­ry. Karao­ke is unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly absent, but in its place is a rhythm game whe­re Kens­hiro cures pati­ents using Hoku­to Shin­ken. It’s just a shame that the rest of the new miniga­mes aren’t that enjoy­a­ble.

The batt­le sys­tem has a few nota­ble chan­ges com­pa­red to the Yaku­za series, though not all of them are for the bet­ter. Basic com­bos are the same as always, squa­re for light attacks and tri­ang­le for hea­vy com­bo ending hits. Ins­tead of Yakuza’s signa­tu­re heat moves, Kens­hiro can use secret tech­ni­ques after hit­ting enemies with enough attacks to send them into a stun­ned sta­te. The­re are a decent amount of the­se tech­ni­ques, most of which taken strai­ght from the source mate­ri­al. It’s gre­at to see the­se moves recrea­ted so faith­ful­ly, but it quick­ly beco­mes tire­so­me after see­ing the same moves over and over again. This can be a pro­blem in the Yaku­za games as well, but Lost Para­di­se is lacking the varie­ty of wea­pon and envi­ron­men­tal attacks that the for­mer series has.

The­re were a few attempts to add more varie­ty to batt­les, but the­se also suf­fer from issu­es. Lan­ding attacks and secret tech­ni­ques will fill up the burst meter, which can be used to send Kens­hiro into a more power­ful sta­te for a few seconds. Burst mode is pret­ty satis­fy­ing, as you send enemies fly­ing and quick­ly dashing around the place. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, a lot of moves are locked behind this mode and the dif­fe­rence in power com­pa­red bet­ween burst and regu­lar modes is too gre­at. You can’t even jump nor­mal­ly, restric­ting Kenshiro’s move­set even fur­ther for most fights.

Talis­mans are Lost Paradise’s repla­ce­ment for wea­pons, and the­se are part of a big­ger pro­blem the game has. In theo­ry you can equip up to four talis­mans that most­ly give bene­fits in batt­le, such as instant­ly kil­ling a hand­ful of enemies or giving you access to a tem­pora­ry fla­me­thro­wer. In prac­tice the long coold­own timers after using a talis­man make them near worth­less wit­hout exten­si­ve upgrades. Upgrades requi­re mate­ri­als, which are main­ly gai­ned from dri­ving around the was­te­land using one of the worst vehi­cles we’ve used in a video­ga­me. Sure, you can also upgrade the dif­fe­rent parts of your vehi­cle but that also requi­res more boring mate­ri­al collec­ting.

Grin­ding beco­mes the only activi­ty after finis­hing the majo­ri­ty of subs­to­ries, eit­her to grind for mate­ri­als or grind the retur­ning hos­tess club manage­ment minigame. The chan­ges to said minigame do help to keep things fresh com­ing from Yaku­za 0, but the amount of grin­ding requi­red is far too high. Even upgra­ding Kens­hiro will requi­re grin­ding the are­na batt­les for spe­ci­fic orbs that are used in dif­fe­rent upgrade trees. The upgrade sys­tem feels like litt­le more than a way to pad the game out more, it would have made more sen­se to just unlock stat increa­ses and moves as you level up.

Visual­ly Lost Para­di­se is also a mixed bag. The main cast mir­ror the manga’s look per­fec­t­ly – weird pro­por­ti­ons and all – but NPCs and envi­ron­ments are gene­ral­ly qui­te ugly. Again, this is some­thing that is noti­ce­ab­le some­ti­mes in the Yaku­za series, but here it’s even more pro­mi­nent. The was­te­land area is the worst offen­der, being most­ly empty and fea­turing some ter­ri­ble tex­tu­re work. It’s also worth not­ing that many ani­ma­ti­ons have been rip­ped direc­t­ly from Yaku­za which adds to the rather incon­sis­tent visu­als. At least batt­les, argu­able the most important part of the game, look gre­at. Secret tech­ni­ques are flas­hy and enemies explo­de into satis­fy­ing foun­tains of blood.

Conclusion

Fist of the North Star: Lost Para­di­se is a hard game to recom­mend at full pri­ce. Com­bat is fun at first, but quick­ly devol­ves into one-shot­ting basic enemies and the leng­thy secret tech­ni­ques quick­ly out­stay their wel­co­me. Ever­ything else feels like Yaku­za but wor­se with a lot more grin­ding thrown in for good mea­su­re. There’s some fun to be had here, but what could have been a fun homage to a fan­tastic man­ga ends up being a rather poor imi­ta­ti­on of a much bet­ter series.

 

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