Fist of the Northstar: Lost Paradise is the game anime fans have been dreaming about. Sega’s latest implementation of the Yakuza Engine, is an incredible collaboration of a completely original take on the Fist of the Northstar anime. What ultimately results is an ambitious property that hits more than it misses- and one way or the other- is a must-play for fans and anyone lusting after the days of 80s anime and machisimo.
Picture this: a post-apocalyptic world where the life, death, and the basics of humanity are ultimately reduced to tribalistic warring factions, violent altercations, and mutated / supernatural occurrences all thanks to a nuclear fallout. Players take handle of Kenshiro – a martial artist with muscles that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan blue with jealousy- on a mission to reconnect with his long lost lover – Yuria. He is eventually lead to a city called ‘Eden’ – where suddenly we are reminded of our old friend, Kazuma Kiryu.
In terms of narrative, Fist of the North star has the typical Yakuza twists and turns. Without venturing into spoiler territory, the overarching story checks all the boxes of 80s anime / B movie / over the top action. There is a betrayal, there is a love interest, there is overwhelming odds, and the world is at stake. This is all to be expected- Ryū ga Gotoku’s narrative work is the best in the business, and it’s this ability to balance comedy, violence and sensitivity that sets their work apart from everyone else.
Let’s put formalities aside: this is a Yakuza game in a different skin. Voice acting (which has an official dub this time around), mission structure, gameplay mechanics, and level design- all have taken inspiration from Kiryu and his misadventures in Kamurocho. And this is where Fist of the Northstar has a hard time keeping it’s footing. Taking the game on it’s own, it’s an excellent beat-em-up / RPG hybrid, but anyone whose played the legendary Yakuza 0, may find themselves wanting a bit more.
Kenshiro, unlike Kiryu, isn’t afraid to kill opponents and mutter his trademark catch phrase: “You are already dead.” However, what he gains in over-the-top gore, he loses in finesse and gameplay variety. Kenshiro is more or less restricted to one fighting style, and players of prior Yakuza games might find themselves longing for more variety. Still, what is here, is both approachable, meaty, and as satisfying as ever.
The biggest triumph and ding – are both technical in nature. Graphically the game is an uneven experience. Character models are beautiful and detailed, but textures, aliasing, and poor shadow implementations can be distracting. Outside in the barren wasteland, we have vast areas of open space with PS3 era visuals. It can be a bit jarring. The soundtrack, however, soars far above. Heavy metal, pulsing riffs, and rambunctious solos will pulse with you as you knock out the next ruffian who stands in your path.
Elsewhere, similar to Yakuza, we find a wealth of side content. Sega arcade games return! This time around players can check out the original Fist of the Northstar game. We have a hilarious take on baseball where the bat is replaced by a metal beam and enemies represent baseballs. Lastly, an entire racing game is built in- where Kenshiro can upgrade his vehicle and can put pedal to the metal in floaty arcade catharsis.
After around 27 hours – this is a game that doesn’t skimp on content, and has a story that will appeal to any one who grew up with Dragon Ball Z, Ninja Scroll, and Mad Max. Fist of the Northstar is a solid foundation and a game that works both on a narrative and gameplay level. So the real question is – should you pick this game up? Definitely! But you may already be dead.
A review code was provided by the SEGA Europe to review.
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Publisher: SEGA Europe
Release date: 02/10/2018
Platform: PlayStation 4
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Fist of the Northstar is a solid foundation and a game that works both on a narrative and gameplay level.