Fist of the North Star has enjoyed plenty of success as an anime and manga, but that success hasn’t really translated to great video games. Outside of a PS2 fighting game developed by genre masters Arc System Works, the series hasn’t been given the justice it deserves. The less said about those Musou games, the better. SEGA’s version, developed by the Yakuza team, might be the one to change that.
With Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise due out on October 2nd exclusively for PS4, a new demo has landed on the PlayStation Network that offers a taste of the post-apocalyptic world of Kenshiro and his explosive martial art of Hokuto Shinken. After playing said demo, it’s fair to say that Lost Paradise shares plenty of similarities with Yakuza, and that’s no bad thing.
The demo opens with a choice of two modes: Battle Mode and Adventure Mode. Battle Mode focuses on one of the most vital storyline moments in the series’ arc, as Kenshiro battles his rival Shin in an attempt to rescue his kidnapped love, Yuria, but he has to run the gauntlet of Shin’s goons before he gets there.
Combat itself is pretty similar to what you’d expect from a Yakuza style game. Square and Triangle control light and heavy attack respectively, while X is used to quickstep out of danger. That said, there is a key difference: instead of throws and heat attacks, circle is used to perform Channelling, which allows you to perform some signature Hokuto silliness.
After you’ve hit an enemy a certain amount of times, you can hit them with a channelling, putting them into a stunned state and allowing you to perform a Hokuto Secret Technique. In presentation and execution, these moves are similar to Heat Actions in the Yakuza series, but they also pull from different moments in the anime.
Moves like Kenshiro’s trademark Hundred Crack Fist or the Rocky Mountain Splitting Wave are used here, but the developers have done a great job adding their own. A particular favourite is Kenshiro sticking his thumb in someone’s head and swinging them around. And yes, Ken says the famous line when enemies die, because of course he does.
The changes to the combat take a little bit of getting used to, but they make sense. It allows for a different style of combat that matches the more over the top nature of the anime. Kazuma Kiryu is great and all, but he’s not on the same level as “punch ‘em until they explode” Kenshiro.
As for the Adventure Mode, this takes a much more familiar tone, as Ken explores the city of Eden with his trusty sidekick Bat in the first of what we can only assume are dozens of Substories. In this one, Bat and Ken need to build a vehicle so they can travel across the wasteland. That’s the official excuse anyway. You end up using it in a racing minigame, because it wouldn’t be Yakuza-esque without daft minigames.
Though the demo only allows you to play the racing minigame, the full version promises nightclub management, a rhythm action game where Kenshiro helps out in a clinic, a full arcade area that may or may not be better than Club SEGA and the standard colosseum, and that’s barely scratching the surface.
The demo did reveal a minor drawback with Lost Paradise, as it’s built on the Yakuza 0/Kiwami engine, and not the rebuilt Dragon Engine. As such, the experience isn’t as clean as more recent iterations. Initiating and finishing fights while roaming around Eden requires a brief pause and some minor loading, something that was eliminated in later games. Again, it’s only a minor issue, but it’s one that fans will notice immediately.
Still, this demo proved that giving the Fist of the North Star license to the Yakuza devs made total sense for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Kazuma and Kenshiro are practically the same character, and they both take the same amount of shit from street thugs (see: none). Who else but the Yakuza team would know how to handle the master of Hokuto Shinken effectively?
Secondly, Yakuza is arguably one of the biggest franchises SEGA have right now, so hitching Fist of the North Star to that wagon and making the gameplay feel so similar has its own benefits. It gives Yakuza players who might have only heard about the anime/manga through either word of mouth or the “You Are Already Dead” meme a chance to sample its post-apocalyptic delights, while the North Star fans might find a new obsession in Yakuza.
Ah, who am I kidding? The Venn diagram of Yakuza fans and Fist of the North Star fans is one complete circle, and this is a match made in heaven. We honestly cannot wait for October 2nd, mainly because the idea of Kenshiro running a nightclub or tending bar is hilarious to us.
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