Posted August 24, 2018 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

Gamescom 2018: Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is Yakuza if it Was Even More Deadpan

My love for the Yakuza series has only developed in the last year, thanks to my exposure to Yakuza 60, Kiwami and Kiwami 2 (the finished review is coming soon, I promise). Fist of the North Star, on the other hand, while I am aware it’s a hugely successful franchise, is a property I have next to no knowledge of. However, after my demo at Gamescom of Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise tooling around Eden City, it’s safe to say that I’ll be picking up this game as a gateway drug into the Fist of the North Star universe.

If you’ve played a Yakuza game before, you’ll know the gameplay style and design of Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. Developed by the same team, you control Kenshiro, a giant concrete wall of a man living in a post-apocalyptic future where the oceans have dried up. His love, Yuria, has been kidnapped and Kenshiro’s quest to find her leads him to Eden City, a last bastion of hope in the wilderness. You’re able to explore several areas, including Eden City, which are filled with not only missions to progress the story, but countless substory sidequests, activities and mini-games to occupy your time – only this time, it’s with a protagonist whose expression is even more deadpan than Yakuza‘s Kiryu.

Let’s get to what I really want to talk about first – the cocktail mini-game. In one of Eden’s bars, Kenshiro is able to work as a bartender, using his exceedingly masterful martial arts skills to don a tuxedo and prepare high quality cocktails for guests, who each have their own preferences (and accompanying difficulty). While the gameplay involved in making these cocktails are simple challenges, like pressing buttons in order or literally shaking the DualShock 4 like a cocktail shaker, what sells it is Kenshiro’s determination and fiery passion as he pours all his energy into making some very delicate drinks, while retaining his inscrutable hardened expression. It’s hilarious. Other side activities include a standard Coliseum mode where you can challenge stronger opponents, and a fully fledged racing mini-game, with booster pads, drifting mechanics and tournaments. Participating in side missions awards you ‘Destiny Points’ which can unlock better vendors and better equipment as you help the city of Eden improve, similar in a way to the Real Estate side-quest from Yakuza 0.

Of course, Kenshiro is renowned for his Hokuto Shinken techniques (even I, with my limited FOTNS knowledge, know that), which have been integrated into the usual Yakuza beat-em-up system. While light and heavy attacks remain, a new stun mechanic lets you use the Circle button to knock enemies into a stunned state where Kenshiro can pull out his Hokuto Shinken, similar to Heat Actions. Essentially, Kenshiro is able to strike certain pressure points on an enemy in such a way that they literally swell up and explode in a shower of gore. Since this makes taking out the rank-and-file goons easier, fights have been scaled up to include a lot more enemies on-screen for Kenshiro to deal with. Enemies can also drop weapons, sometimes even the literal words out of their mouth, which Kenshiro can pick up like a giant sign and use to beat them over the head.

Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise runs smoothly and has an attractive cel-shaded art style that replicates the source material. However, it is running on a modified version of a slightly older engine, used for Yakuza 0 and Kiwami rather than the Dragon Engine used for Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6. Consequently the way substories appear and some mechanics work is remarkably similar to those games, although levelling up stats is quite different, with four coloured grids Kenshiro can fill out for different abilities.

There’s plenty of awesome weirdness to be found in Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, not only thanks to to the developers, but the sterling job done by the translators, as the game will offer both English and Japanese voice options. They’ve even snuck in a Seinfeld reference or two. Check it all out for yourself when Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise releases on 2 October.

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.