Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise Preview

Okay … confession time; outside of the main characters name, I know very little about Fist of the North Star. As such, this was the game I was least excited about when attending the Sega/Atlus Press Day last month. What I ended up playing, however, definitely surprised me.

 

The story of the game appears to follow that which I know about the anime/manga, with the protagonist Kenshiro being beaten close to death by Shin all over a shared adoration of Yuria. This game, much alike most anime, does not tell you this at the beginning, opting for a more fragmented narrative of flashbacks and flashforwards to fill in the blanks.

 

Essentially, you work towards the first major encounter and overcome it whilst (of course), having flashbacks to the previous run-in with this particular villain. Following this was a continued journey to find the girl that had since gone missing, bringing Kenshiro to an Eden, a post-apocalyptic city in the wilderness, complete with wonderfully archetypal characters and thugs to meet and generally knock around.

 

 

Fist of the North Star plays, weirdly, incredibly similarly to that of Sega’s other title, Yakuza from a combat perspective. So expect the usual standard combo, dodges, guarding, and single button specials on stunned opponents. Where this game differs rather greatly from the other title, however, is in it’s sheer amount of violence.

 

All of the combos look absolutely brutal, but are nothing on the special attacks. Activating these results in a powerful cinematic quick time event that usually results in the the enemy in question just flat out exploding. I thought that these might get repetitive, but in fact they were impressively ridiculous enough to keep me entertained throughout. Also, there were enough different attacks to avoid too much repetition.

 

The combat is incredibly simple, sure, but lends itself to quite strategic encounters, especially because the enemies will very often not wait their turn for a beatdown. Once you get the hang of the dodging and guarding, however, you’re essentially totally overpowered. This, from what I know of the source material though, fits entirely within the universe and perfectly fits with Kenshiro himself.

 

 

Lost Paradise isn’t just combat, although that does feel like the core focus of this game, as opposed to Yakuza where the combat is a small part of the whole. The exploration feels rather tacked on and often has the player running around a set area, talking to NPCs and fulfilling small quests for them. Also, in these little scenarios, you can save or shop at the entirely non-descript men in cloaks.

 

The quests were my main mark of contention in the demo I played, often being vague and with little indication as to what you needed to do, resulting in a lot of wandering around and talking to NPCs over and again until finding the obscure thing you needed. This was especially agitating when it came to quests that were in a string of different fetch quests, stopping me absolutely dead for a moment.    

 

The game is visually impressive in terms of many things, but sadly weaker in others. All of the narrative segments for instance are fleshed out in fully animated 3D cutscenes, that appear to be in-engine, and therefore the transitions are unbelievably smooth. However, the character and location designs are unbearably bland at times, and actually seem like upscaled visuals from a previous console generation.

 

 

This dissonance with the visuals extends to every aspect of the game, resulting in somewhat of a mixed bag visually for me. It can’t be overlooked, however, that this might be because of my lack of familiarity with source material. For all I know, these choices with the visuals of the game could be authentic to the manga and therefore rendering this point moot, but for me it just did not work.

 

This being said, the sound design was incredibly punchy (if you excuse the pun) and hits all the right notes. All of the combat sound effects just add to how heavy the blows look, and the voice acting throughout is absolutely incredible. In fact, it feels like the sound design of the game has received markedly more attention than the visuals, which I can definitely get behind as often the audio is sidelined.

 

Overall, Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is a solid game with slightly off visuals. The combat, it is so smooth, intuitive and unflinchingly graphic, with some absolutely incredible combo depth. The exploration is lifeless, and feels somewhat tacked on, which I really hope has been remedied in the full title. The aesthetic is a mixed bag, with the excellent sound design partly making up for the slightly odd, well, everything else. I wasn’t excited for this game before playing this demo, and I’m still not really sold on it now.

 

 

But what do you think? Are you excited to play Fist of the North Star, or has it barely registered with you in the face of the torrent of Q3 2018 releases? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter, and keep an eye on Rice Digital for more coverage of this and other Japanese games!

 

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