Developer: Ryu ga Gotoku Studio
Medium: Blu-ray Disc/Digital
I?ve enjoyed the majority of the output from the Yakuza development team at SEGA over the years. They?ve managed to improve upon each release considerably, and the series has certainly grown in popularity over the years. The last few entries have been some of the best, including the Kiwami remakes. With that in mind, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, feels like and odd step back for Ryu ga Gotoku studio. This release, based upon the popular manga/anime of the same name, features a ton of similar mechanics to the Yakuza series. But it also feels already dated in a number of ways, and overall doesn?t seem to learn any real lessons from the previous titles that the same studio has developed.
On the surface, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, is very much a Yakuza game. You?ll see immediate similarities with the controls, mini-map, town layout, mini-games, inventory and more. Combat is different, Kenshiro feels a bit quicker and snappier than the Yakuza protagonists, and there are mechanics in place to fit the feel and concept of Kenshiro?s unique pressure point focused martial art Hokuto Shinken. Essentially, Kenshiro can perform executions, which will either greatly damage or outright kill his opponents. Using these techniques will also power up Kenshiro?s seven star meter. When full, you can expend the meter to put Kenshiro into burst mode, increasing his power for a limited time.
Another element to help set Lost Paradise apart is the use of the Talisman system. Early in the game you?ll start to earn Talisman?s based on characters you have encountered or defeated in the game. They are essentially limited, timer based abilities. You can have 4 set at a time, but can create multiple sets to cycle through as you start pouring skill points into the Talisman specific skill tree. These abilities have a variety of functions, like a short burst mode that?s not dependent on the seven star gauge, or the ability to increase Destiny Points (experience) earned for a short amount of time. Talisman?s can be upgraded and refined, making their cooldown?s shorter and the overall effect better. It?s a neat concept that?ll often give you an edge in tougher battles, especially against bosses later in the game.
An additional mechanic unique to Lost Paradise is the ability to drive a buggy around the open-world style Wastelands surrounding the main city you reside in. There?s not necessarily a ton to do there, but occasionally quests and substories will lead you out there. The controls are drift heavy and very arcade like, so it is sort of fun to take the buggy out for a spin. You can also gather materials for crafting buggy upgrades or for use in refining/upgrading Talisman?s.
The biggest issue I have with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, mostly revolves around the pacing. The story moves at a snail?s pace, and the game likes to dole out new ideas and mechanics in a similar fashion. The game consists of 11 chapters, and you?re really not given the freedom to do what you want until around chapter 6, roughly the mid-point of the game. It also loves to trigger events in weird ways. Following a quest chain, you may talk to an NPC for a conversation, which will then direct you to a spot on the opposite end of the city map, which will then tell you to wait until night. From there, you?ll go home, rest, trigger the day to night cycle, and return to the spot, only to be directed somewhere else. It?s a slow, needlessly laborious process at times, and really bogs down the overall experience.
Boss fights can also get a little frustrating, mostly because the game will throw a random, one-off mechanic into a fight that you?re not expecting. Or there will be a ridiculous lead-up to the boss, like the remarkable number of enemies you have to wade through for the final boss. You might think you?re prepared for a given encounter or fight, but the game will often surprise you, and not in a fun way. It also goes back to the save point system from the earlier Yakuza games, abandoning the ability to save via the Start Menu at any time.
I definitely found my time with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise to be both fun and frustrating across the 25 hours or so it took for me to finish it. I loved the mini-games, and found a lot of the substories delivered the quirky humor that I adore from the Yakuza series. I also enjoyed the combat for the most part, even if the various execution animations get a little tiring after the first dozen or so times you see them. But everything else surrounding those things is just a slog to get through. And the story takes some really weird, nearly non-sensical twists towards the end that I definitely had issues with. So I can?t say I would suggest this whole-heartedly, to either Yakuza or Fist of the North Star fans. Maybe check this one out via discount or rental, otherwise you should probably just go back and play more Yakuza.
Note: SEGA provided us with a Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise PS4 code for review purposes.