Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise (PS4) Review

The Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise announcement back in 2017 came as a complete surprise to me. I’d played both of the Koei Tecmo games previously and loved their take on the franchise as its core gameplay was a take on their staple Dynasty Warriors formula.

However, this time we are being treated to a game from legendary developers Ryu ga Gotoku Studio, the incredibly talented team at Sega behind the recent Yakuza games and Binary Domain. As such, instead of an all-out 1vs100 gameplay style, like the Koei Tecmo games, we’re presented with a more polished Yakuza-style game with over-the-top gore, tonnes of humour, plenty of content, and very entertaining sub-stories and mini-games. 

So, let’s take a look at why I feel this game is worthy of a sequel and why everyone who owns a PS4 should pick up this exclusive today…

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Completely unfair fight – I clearly have the advantage!

Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise begins with a rather confusing story, or at least it was a little confusing for me. If you’ve not seen the anime then expect to be a little confused during the first few hours of your playthrough as information will be fed to the player through both interactive flashbacks and cutscenes. You play as our protagonist, Kenshiro (Ken), who is travelling the vast empty apocalyptic wastelands in search of his fiancee, Yuria, who had been kidnapped from him previously. She was taken by a guy called Shin after he defeated Ken in a rather heated battle between the two juggernauts. 

Upon hearing rumours of a young lady with the same name being held within the walls of the city of Eden, Ken heads there in hopes that he would be reunited once again with his beloved and can brush this whole affair under the rug. However, if that was the case then this wouldn’t have made a very entertaining game now, would it?! Upon reaching Eden, he finds the gates closed and the walls far too high to scale – he needs to find a way inside. After a small fetch-quest, and your first experience of talking and bartering with the locals, you’re granted access until you’re thrown into the gladiatorial arena and forced to fight for your life. 

Little do your captors know, you’re the successor of the martial art Hokuto Shinken, an art style in which you can apply your fingers to various pressure points of the body in order to stop the blood flow and cause your opponents to literally explode from within. As such, you’re presented with nothing you can’t handle and make easy work of the onslaught of foes, including the rather incredible arena champion. Finally, after you’re granted your freedom to roam the city, you find out that getting Yuria back isn’t going to be as easy as planned. You must help out the city, venture through the wastelands, participate in various races, seek out many new leads, and even don the outfit of a barman, all in order to become reunited with your love once again.

What I’ve described above is around about the first 45-60 minutes of the game. It took me 45 hours to complete the main storyline as I became carried away with mini-games and sub-stories – something you’ll easily find yourself doing once you obtain the game as well.

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Animations and battle openings are very familiar!

Fist of the Yakuza:
If you’ve ever played a Yakuza game in the past, you’ll instantly be at home with Fist of the North Star. Everything from the main menu right through to the various skill trees and main controls are basically ripped right out of the older Yakuza titles. I say the older ones as Fist of the North Star is built on the older Yakuza engine, the one which powered Yakuza 5, Zero and Kiwami, NOT 6 or Kiwami 2 as they are based on the newer Dragon Engine and offer a higher fidelity but locked at 30fps, the older engine runs at 60fps on both the PS4 Pro and the base PS4. That’s right, Fist of the North Star is running at a full 60fps and it’s such a glorious experience!

To those who haven’t played a Yakuza game (the four or five of you out there), Fist of the North Star is an open-world action adventure game in which you walk around the streets of Eden and talk to random NPCs in order to either gain intel on what to do next or embark on some rather outlandish sub-stories. The main difference between this and the Yakuza games (yes, I’ll be referencing them a lot) is the combat, which I’ll talk about next, as it is a lot more action-packed and intense with numerous 1 vs many battles. Everything in Fist of the North Star runs and feels so smooth though, from walking around the town to taking your dune-buggy out into the Wastes and driving around like you’ve got lost and wondered into Avalanche Studios’ amazing Mad Max game! 

So, let’s talk about the rather unique feature of Fist of the North Star and also my first complaint which I found truly annoying and irritating…

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Mind blown!

The Combatatatatatata!
First things first, the combat in Fist of the North Star is incredible, it’s super polished, very satisfying, and gloriously gory! If you’ve not seen Ken perform his rather unusual art before, think E. Honda with his Hundred Hand Slap and Chun-Li’s Lightning Kick. Ken will slap his enemies into next week as he frantically skips from one to the other alternating between his super fast punches and his high-powered kicks. Over time, and with enough upgrade orbs, you can unlock new variations to the attacks which can be added to your combos as you beautifully beat up everything that moves which gets in your way!

So, why did I have an issue with the combat and why am I so annoyed when the whole process sounds like heaven? One word: QTE. That’s right, if you’ve played the demo or seen any footage of the game online then you’ve most likely seen that QTEs plague Fist of the North Star and there is no way to turn them off. Okay, Yakuza had QTEs in various battles and when you initiated your rage attacks as you scraped your unsuspecting foes faces on the pavement or slammed a bike into their guts just before you jump on it and lay a can of whoop-ass into them! However, here one of the main mechanics is the Hokuto Shinken ability to cause your opponents to literally explode. This requires you to perform a QTE once you see Circle above their head and then up to two more depending on your level in that move.

A successful QTE leads to a 5-10 second cutscene of the unfortunate fellow exploding in one of many humorous ways. I’ve seen them flying through the air and combusting mid-flight in slow motion, you turn your back as their head explodes, they collapse on the floor before expanding beyond their bodily constraints, and even just falling to their knees as they scream then BOOM! These mini cutscenes are great, full of gore and are a right laugh to watch… the first dozen or so times. I think the in-game counter said I’ve killed about 400 enemies, at least half of those were eliminated by the overpowered Hokuto Shinken abilities. This means the process gets a bit monotonous and boring after a while, especially when you’re against a group of 15 enemies and you’ve initiated the same move about 10 times. 

What I ended up doing was eliminating them without initiating the cutscene. As you progress, you get the ability to tap Circle at the right moment for an insta-kill. The best move is when Ken flips over their head and breaks their neck during flight – this causes them to lose their head without watching a cutscene. For a game which excels in battles and has some amazing and awesome sequences, it’s a shame we can’t turn off the cutscenes in order to keep the pace up and progress in a more fluid motion.

Fist of the North Star 4

Perfect! One drop of alcohol just for you!

A bit on the side…
So, seeing as this is from the Yakuza devs, what can you expect to do between story missions and getting into random fights on the streets of Eden (which happens a lot until the end-game btw)? Sub-stories and Mini-games obviously! In regards to sub-stories, these will be instantly familiar to any fans of Yakuza, it even plays the same music when you get and complete one! These aren’t as crazy as Yakuza with its panty selling girl and dancing diaper man, but in Fist of the North Star they are all unique and fun to play through. Quite a few of them are linked to minigames, which I’ll talk about next, but you also have things like hide-and-seek, searching for certain people, obtaining rare items, and even raising 100 million IDL (money).

However, Fist of the North Star excels in its mini-games, both secret and readily avaliable ones. Here’s a rundown of all the events I managed to find and experience during my playthrough (it’s like a whole new range of Barbie figures!):
Barkeeper Ken:
This was one of the mini-games I spent the longest in. You jump behind the bar as you offer to help out an injured bar owner for money. Not only that, each time you work there, various people will come in and ask for drinks – this initiates one of three varying difficulty mini-games which has you mixing a drink, making an ice cube, or shaking a cocktail. I love the cocktail one as you hold your controller like the spraypaint in Second Son and shake it like you’re milking a cow rather viciously! The reward for doing this successfully? You obtain new intel, new sub-stories, find out more about various characters, and you also unlock new items and options at the customer’s stores around town!

Merchant Ken:
At a certain point in the game, you’re reunited with a young girl, called Lin, who we are supposed to know. I’ve looked her up and in the anime, her and Bat (who I’ll come to later) are friends of Ken yet they just appear and give you a brief one or two lines of exposition so you know who they are. Regardless, this mini-game is to find various items in the Wastes (by riding over them in the jeep) and giving them in to fulfil customers requests. This is an easy one but it can take a while to obtain the 100k you need for the trophy.

Fist of the North Star 5

It’s hard managing a hostess club…

Hostess Manager Ken:
I absolutely love this mini-game – it’s the same game as we saw in Yakuza Zero, which I also played for around 10-15 hours when I got hold of that game! If you’ve ever played Diner-Dash before, it’s like that. You need to pick a team of six hostess girls and basically you sit them with various customers who enter the club in order to reach certain goals. It’s fairly straightforward, get X amount of cash, have Y obtain over X amount of cash, or don’t let anyone leave unsatisfied etc… Outside of the missions, you can buy gifts for the girls to level them up and alternate the roster of 40 hostesses (about 30 of which you have to scout off the street) so that they don’t get bored or tired. This mini-game has an underlying reason for you doing it, but I’ll let you discover what that it.

Baseball Ken:
This wouldn’t be a game in the vein of Yakuza without baseball now, would it?! Although, being that Ken is bound to hit the ball out of the park and a few miles away with one swift motion, things are a little different this time around. Ken must fend off bandits on motorbikes as they speed towards him by smacking them with a giant steel girder as far as he can! This game is practically baseball but with live subjects – that alone instantly makes this whole process about 100 times more fun!

Gambling man Ken:
This is one of the boring options. It’s not boring because of the gameplay but because it’s basically what it says on the tin! Just like all games, there is a casino in town and you can participate in a few games such as Blackjack, Poker and Roulette. Thankfully there is no Majong this time around – you have no idea how happy that makes me as that game has always confused me!

Fist of the North Star 6

Yay! These were missing in Yakuza 6 so I’m happy they have returned!

Mortal Kombat Ken:
If you fancy your chances against increasingly difficult opponents in order to win amazing prizes, then the arena is for you! Stationed in the centre of town, once you unlock it you’ll have access to both gladiator battles and duels. Duels pit you against each of the main story-line ‘bosses’ one by one. Each time you defeat one of the guys, their level increases so you can fight them again for another reward at a higher level. There are 12 enemies with 10 difficulty levels each! The gladiator battles are more relaxed, it’s you against 10-20 enemies in three rounds of chaos. The final round contains a mini-boss among the many foes as well. These battles can get pretty hectic and there are 12 of these as well. Also, yes – you have to defeat all gladiator battles and duels in order to get a trophy.

SEGA Employee Ken:
Once again, this wouldn’t be a game by the Yakuza devs if this wasn’t included! In the vast emptiness of the Wasteland, you’ll sometimes come across old broken SEGA arcade machines. If you take these to a collector in Eden, he’ll fix them up and let you play on them. That’s right – even in the apocalyptic future you get to play on the UFO grabber machines and try and set a high score in Super Off-Road! I’ve not yet uncovered all of the machines within the game, but it appears there are five of them and you obtain them by grabbing treasure maps from enemies upon slaughtering them – treasure maps which have a set time to find before they vanish (for some reason).

DiRT Rally Ken:
This is another mode which becomes avaliable as you progress through the game, but this one you have to actively seek out as only one race will be given to you unless you’ve gone out and manually found all of the others on your own. It’s basically a set of five races, each with three difficulty levels for you to participate in and try to emerge the victor. If you win, you’ll unlock prizes and new parts for your buggy. That’s right, just like the Toy-car mini-game in Yakuza, you can obtain new parts for your buggy and fully pimp it out as well as repaint it and customise it however you like with no restrictions. This is where Bat comes into the story, he’s a young kid who Ken knowns, just like Lin, who’ll maintain and upgrade the car for you. I’ve found four of the races so far and I’ve been working my way through them – There is still a rather big chunk of the map I’ve not been too yet though…

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Doctor Ken has a bit of the Saturday Night Fever! The only cure – more cowbell!

Disco Dancing Doctor Ken!
This is by far my favourite mini-game in Fist of the North Star, even though I’m not very good at it. In the local clinic, Ken has offered to lend his service, as he has a magical touch which can also heal people as well as kill them. However, the clinic is full and they can’t get through all of the patients as fast as they need too. The nurse has a solution for this as she puts on a musical track and thus begins a cross between the dancing game in Yakuza Zero and the Karaoke game from every other game in the franchise. It’s basically a glorified QTE battle where you must press the prompts in line with them appearing in-game. It also looks and feels a lot like Osu, if you’ve played that? There are quite a few songs to pick from and you must complete all of them perfectly in order to get a trophy! I feel that’s a little harsh, but some people have done it!

Boba Ken – the bounty hunter:
The final mini-game/sub-story I can remember is the many bounties you can take on. You’re basically on the lookout for a  very dangerous murderer which you work up to by taking out all of his associates along the way and netting yourself millions of IDL in the process. this is a great way to farm for money as a lot of the smaller bounties come back after a while and can be taken down quite easily considering how much you get. Each main bounty also unlocks a sub-story and completion checkpoint.

Speaking of the completion checkpoints, you only have to complete 50% of them for a trophy – you don’t have to get all 100% this time around. Which is great! However, 50% is still equal to many, many different things on the checklist. When I completed the game at 45 hours, I was on around 30% complete. After 58 hours I’m now at around 45% So, just because you don’t have to get all 100% of the items, don’t think this will be a quite an easy platinum!

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Edens nightlife is very pretty!

Technical:
Graphically I’m in two minds about Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. It’s running on the PS3 Yakuza engine, so it’s smoother but rougher around the edges, but it does have a really cool anime aesthetic skin over all of the assets to make it look like you’re playing the anime itself. So it does look really good but there are a few graphical issues, mainly with bloom and reflections as they look a little strange in some of the scenes. The details on the assets also aren’t the greatest, but again, that’s most likely due to the artistic style as we’ve seen just how detailed games like Yakuza Zero and Kiwami look on the PS4. Once you’re in the buggy and going all Mad Max in the Wastelands, it’s clear to see just how beautiful this game can be. So yeah, I would say it’s a great looking game but with a few small issues here and there.

In regards to the audio – I’m stupid. I started up the game, it was in English, I saw no way to change it so I played through the entire game in English. Don’t get me wrong, the voice acting is really good and everyone does a really good job at voicing their parts. However, when I saw the credits rolling I spotted a listing for the Japanese voice cast, with a certain special guy voicing Ken! I quit to the main menu (the first time since booting it up) and to my shock, you can set it to Japanese in the options but ONLY if you do it before loading or starting a game, it can’t be changed mid-game. My ‘very hard’ playthrough is going to be played in Japanese for one reason, Ken is voiced by Takaya Kuroda – the voice of Kazuma Kiryu in the Yakuza series! I can’t believe I missed that option as I usually check the settings every time before I start! 

The music is equally as awesome in Fist of the North Star, with a lot of similarities to Yakuza yet tonnes of original pieces. When driving in your jeep, you can even listen to Binary Domain and Super Monkey Ball through the radio! One negative about the game is the lack of voices for the majority of the game. Just like early Yakuza titles on the PS3, not everything is voiced, only the main cutscenes and some interactions, other than that you’ll get a grunt here or a “uhhh” there. It’s not an issue, but it would have been nice for everything to be voiced like a few of the later games, although that will have led to a delay in the release I imagine.

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The writing within Fist of the North Star is very elegant.

Personal Opinion:
So, what do I think of Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise? I imagine you can guess if you’ve made it this far! I love this game even more than some of the recent Yakuza titles. There is just so much to do and see within the game, especially when you are essentially spending the vast majority of the game within one town and the baron Wastelands. Every path you walk down has a load of citizens going about their daily business, there is a sub-story to find on almost every corner, a new mini-game to become obsessed with, and a group of nasty people just waiting to get their face smashed in by the mighty fists of Ken. At times I felt a little lost as the game does suffer from not wanting to hand-hold you and tell you where to go – you need to listen to the dialogue and do as it says/look where it hints. There, you’ll trigger a cutscene or a new quest marker as Ken realises what he has to do. 

I also don’t like the trophy list. I’ve seen on PSNProfiles a group of people saying how the list looks easy and it’ll take no time at all – I hate those pointless threads of people saying what the list is before they even got their hands on the game. The list isn’t easy, even though you only have to do 50% of the completion list, there are really hard trophies like perfecting all Doctor Ken segments, getting an S on all batting stages, collecting all of the death cries, and destroying a weapon 20 times, a weapon that doesn’t break very easily… As such, I can’t see myself getting the platinum for quite a while but that’s fine, I’m enjoying just walking around and looking for the new sub-stories. 

Speaking of which – there is no item in Fist of the North Star which beeps or highlights the sub-stories. This item was in a few of the Yakuza games but is omitted in this iteration. As such, without a guide, it’s really hard to find the trigger points for all of the stories. That’s one item I would really love to come back in one of the customary weekly DLC packs if possible. Oh, the DLC NPC isn’t the clown from Yakuza, but when you meet them for the first time, it has a nice nod towards the Yakuza series. 

The Hokuto Deadly Flossing Strike (not in-game):

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is yet another masterpiece from the team behind the amazing Yakuza franchise. When you’re not making your way through the 25+ hour main story missions, you’ll be getting lost within the abundance of sub-stories, mini-games, and even spending many hours running a hostess club and serving at a cocktail bar! There is never a dull moment within the apocalyptic wastelands, as you encounter hordes of enemies, cause a lot of internal combustion, and beat the living crap out of each and every delinquent you come across. 

If you’re hungry for more Yakuza, but want a splash of anime with the insanity cranked up to 11, look no further. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is nothing short of the best anime-based action-adventure game I’ve ever played.

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise

£44.99
9.6

Final Score

9.6/10

The Good:

  • So much content! Lots of sub-stories and mini-games to discover
  • Brilliant soundtrack and perfect voice acting
  • The combat is over the top and so much fun with tonnes of gore
  • Solid controls and lots of unlockable skills/abilities
  • A perfect implementation of the Yakuza engine fully customised for a new game

The Bad:

  • The QTEs are a bit annoying after a while as well as the in-battle cutscenes
  • A bit easy to forget what you're doing if you don't pay attention

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