Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise Impressions
Published on September 12, 2018
This has been a title I’ve been eagerly waiting to try out ever since it was originally announced for Japanese release. Fist of the North Star is one of those classic manga/anime guilty pleasures, where gratuitously muscled men in a post-apocalyptic world practicing absurdly destructive martial arts take many opportunities to deliver thick melodramatic monologues. Suddenly, Kenshiro and other recognizable characters of the franchise meshed with many of the design philosophies of the Yakuza series doesn’t seem so far-fetched of premise. The PAX West demo had a plethora of scenarios to try, offering a taste of the combat and the various leisure activities Kenshiro partakes in.
The demo began with a cutscene where Kenshiro finds himself surrounded by a gang of thugs at the gates of Cassandra Prison as Uighur just stands there, observing the spectacle. The intro cutscene provided a small sampling of the English voice acting that will be an option alongside the original Japanese in the full release. It seemed passable overall with it feeling oddly reminiscent to dubbed anime licensed in the mid-late 90’s. I will probably not personally be using the English VO, but it’s pretty cool that they are offering dual audio since Yakuza titles up to now have not had that option.
Combat at the ankle-deep level is the familiar brawler combat, going on the offensive with the basic combo and branching out into finisher moves that apply stun or knockdown to the enemies struck by the attack. Unlike Kiryu, Kenshiro has abandoned the ability to grapple enemies to instead punish them with his patented targeted strikes to their vital points. There’s an additional QTE prompt to this mechanic to explode the smaller enemies or bonus damage to more formidable thugs. It’s a potent attack but leaves Kenshiro incredibly vulnerable if it fails to connect giving it a fair amount of risk. Iconic Hokuto Shinken attacks take the place of Heat Actions, complete with the anime-style freeze-frame and namedrop of the art’s name. Overall, the fighting system felt fast and fluid without getting bogged down by the QTEs.
The second combat scene was a “hard mode” boss fight against Rei. The odds were very stacked against Ken with Rei’s AI being turned up to eleven, perfectly dodging and retaliating against the majority of attacks, as well as being about twenty levels higher. In the four or so combos I successfully landed on him, I did a grand total of roughly 20 percent of his hitpoints before he bested me. Despite the exercise in futility, the boss fight highlighted a great amount of agility and movement in Rei’s relentless offensive that hopefully reflects on how other boss fights will play out in the full game.
The remainder of the demo highlighted an appetizer of the minigames. The first one I tried had Ken playing home-run derby with a Hokuto twist. Swinging a massive girder, the objective is to send motorcycle bandits orbital! The timing window to get a solid hit was pretty tight, and it’d mix things up by having bandits move at variable speeds or jumping right before reaching the plate. The second minigame presented had Kenshiro offering mixed drinks to satisfy the desires of bar patrons. Flailing the DualShock and rotating the control stick frantically to beat the clock, drinks were served up with silly pun names. The short time limit provided for each drink made it decently challenging without overstaying their welcome. I am very curious to see how many drinks they ended up coming up with.
The collaboration of the two series seems to have shaped up into a pretty promising experience so far. Considering the demo presented on the show floor as well as the team’s history, it seems they’ll be able to capture the seriousness of the story while still allowing for those classic stints of silliness offered by the game’s side activities. We’ll see how the full game stacks up when it releases early next month.