Fist Of The North Star



Atac­i­turn hero us­ing his con­sid­er­able fight­ing pow­ers for good in a law­less world – could there be a bet­ter choice to de­velop a Fist Of The North Star game than the Yakuza team? You’ll see quite a bit of Kazuma Kiryu in pro­tag­o­nist Ken­shiro, though since Buron­son and Tet­suo Hara’s manga pre­dates Yakuza by a good cou­ple of decades, it’s prob­a­bly more ac­cu­rate to say there’s al­ways been some­thing of Ken­shiro in Kiryu. Nat­u­rally, there are a few key dif­fer­ences. De­spite the host­ess bars, the neon signs and the gen­eral whiff of testos­terone, this post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world – a kind of manga Mad Max – is no Ka­muro­cho. And while Kiryu’s moral code pre­vented him, at least in the­ory, from killing oth­ers, Ken­shiro has no such qualms. Us­ing the mar­tial art of Hokuto Shinken, he ap­plies a kind of vi­o­lent acu­pres­sure to his en­e­mies, de­ploy­ing a va­ri­ety of tech­niques that make his op­po­nents’ limbs and heads ex­plode in gey­sers of blood.

Oth­er­wise, Lost Par­adise is pretty much ex­actly what you’d ex­pect a Fist Of The North Star game de­vel­oped by the Yakuza team to feel like. Which is to say it’s es­sen­tially a Yakuza spin-off, right down to Takaya Kuroda, Kiryu’s voice ac­tor, who plays Ken­shiro here. At least, that’s as­sum­ing you stick with the Ja­panese dub and subs: an English-lan­guage op­tion is avail­able, though for some rea­son once you’ve made your choice it won’t let you switch be­tween the two. It’s just one of a num­ber of odd lit­tle quirks that make Lost Par­adise feel strangely old-fash­ioned. In­deed, it’s built upon the foun­da­tions of Yakuza 0, rather than the newer Dragon Engine – yet its rhythms and struc­ture make it feel like even more of a throw­back. For bet­ter and worse, it of­ten re­minds us of a late-era PS2 game.

The set­ting is cer­tainly part of it. Com­pared to Ka­muro­cho, the cen­tral hub of Eden is sparse: there are only a hand­ful of stalls, stores and leisure fa­cil­i­ties to visit, though that’s ar­guably in keep­ing with the plot’s rel­a­tive sin­gle-mind­ed­ness. You’ll also no­tice it in the oddly rigid feel of it all: Ken­shiro ba­si­cally looks like a walk­ing piece of vac­uum-packed steak, and fre­quently moves like one, too. And when you get a buggy to drive around the waste­land be­yond Eden’s bound­aries, you shouldn’t ex­pect any­thing like Avalanche’s Mad Max. It’s a throw­away side dish com­pared to Lost Par­adise’s main course of claret-soaked hand-to-hand com­bat. For a while it seems as if your Square and Tri­an­gle but­tons are go­ing to take quite the beat­ing – though the ben­e­fit of fol­low­ing two Omega Force games is that these brawls are, rel­a­tively speak­ing, a model of va­ri­ety. In any case, your Cir­cle but­ton steadily be­comes the MVP. In Yakuza par­lance, Ken­shiro is ca­pa­ble of pulling off Heat moves with lit­tle ef­fort: some­times a sin­gle punch, or even a preparatory flex, is enough for him to walk up to an en­emy and launch an in­stakill at­tack. De­pend­ing on when and where you press the but­ton, a cutscene of a Hokuto tech­nique will be­gin, with timed but­ton-presses boost­ing its ef­fec­tive­ness. Af­ter sev­eral hours, you can cut out the mid­dle­man, with one tap of Cir­cle pro­duc­ing an­other prompt. Time it right, and you’ll kill your op­po­nent with­out break­ing your flow. It’s a sys­tem that prizes ef­fi­ciency as much as va­ri­ety, in other words: though you’ll earn bonuses for mix­ing up your fin­ish­ers, tak­ing out a group quickly and with­out tak­ing dam­age is the eas­i­est way to that ini­tially elu­sive S++ rank. You can tip the scales fur­ther in your favour with un­lock­able tal­is­mans, se­lected via the D-pad. A few of these are hi­lar­i­ously un­fair – though there’s a lengthy cooldown on them, even once fully up­graded.

The fights come thick and fast, and so it’s no great sur­prise that Lost Par­adise takes care to in­te­grate its side ac­tiv­i­ties into its story. Yakuza’s base­ball has been amus­ingly re­pur­posed: rather than hit­ting pitches in­side bat­ting cages, Ken­shiro swings a gi­ant girder to smack speed­ing ban­dits off their bikes. There’s an armk­nack­er­ing bar minigame which in­vites you to pre­pare cock­tails for Eden’s res­i­dents to ei­ther ex­pand the stock in their stores or to re­veal new side sto­ries. Best of the lot is a won­der­ful bit of non­sense where you play a doc­tor in a busy clinic, dart­ing be­tween pa­tients in rhyth­mic fash­ion, prod­ding pres­sure points to the beat of var­i­ous songs, most notably a fan­tas­ti­cally ter­ri­ble take on Ode To Joy.

Lost Par­adise is very funny through­out, in fact, tap­ping into a rich seam of dead­pan hu­mour. Dur­ing an early jail­break, Ken­shiro sim­ply walks to the front of his cell to be greeted with a prompt – ‘Exit’ – which sees him in­stantly bend the bars apart and stride out. The com­edy isn’t al­ways in­ten­tional, mind. One char­ac­ter is told he looks thin af­ter a long stretch in prison, the cam­era cut­ting to re­veal a physique that would make The Rock en­vi­ous. But the story’s flaws are rather harder to for­give. In try­ing to cover as much of the manga as pos­si­ble, the de­vel­oper only en­sures that sev­eral key char­ac­ters are given short shrift. If you’re not fa­mil­iar with the source ma­te­rial, mean­while, you’ll find most fights are poorly con­tex­tu­alised: you’ll of­ten be asked to beat up some­one you’ve only just met. The Yakuza games have al­ways un­der­stood the value of de­layed grat­i­fi­ca­tion, cre­at­ing char­ac­ters so de­testable you’re itch­ing for them to get their come­up­pance at Kiryu’s hands. While the com­bat re­mains en­joy­able, the cathar­sis of beat­ing even the most an­noy­ing dam­age-sponge bosses proves hol­low.

Still, if you’re in the mood for a palate cleanser be­tween win­ter’s big­gest ban­quets, you could do a lot worse. This is a pizza-and-a-six-pack kind of game: sit back, crack open a cold one and get ready to grin your way through the most glee­fully stupid 20-odd hours you’ll spend in front of a screen all year.

Lost Par­adise is very funny through­out, tap­ping into a rich seam of dead­pan hu­mour

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