When I think of a great anime game, I think of how the elements of what makes a good story thrive & how a specific game genre might be able to integrate all of them. Some games have accomplished a lot from thoughtful pairings; One Piece has found its stride in the open-world format within the Unlimited series, the Dragon Ball franchise was treated lovingly by Bandai-Namco as a cell-shader Fighter, and Naruto, also utilized best in the fighting genre, pops within the 3-Dimensional realm where Masashi Kishimoto’s colorful cast can make so much magic out of the space they’re given. Some experiments, however, ended up finding where the merge didn’t quite cut it, as evidenced in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle for the PS3, which as a 2-D fighter didn’t quite cut it with slow animation & a paper-shredder taken to the rich story & style the series sports. In between those lines is where Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise clinches it as well as at points falters.
Jumping to the end of the Shin/King Arc from the series, the Prologue pits players against Kenshiro’s first big obstacle in order to get them acquainted with Yakuza’s engine & playstyle in fighting enemies. On the surface, as the Japanese pop-culture icon is known for Kenshiro’s one-liner catch-phrases, pressure point punches & wild screams, these are all key to the execution. For fans of the series though, we’re also treated to Shin’s last words & tearful remorse as the dust settles from the fight between friends that have a history older than the abduction of Yuria, Kenshiro’s fiancé. Immediately, this is a powerful kick-off to what the game could become in terms of adapting the series, and once players make it inside of the walls of Eden, Lost Paradise’s hub town, the ball really starts to roll in more directions than one.
Where Lost Paradise comes out strongest is in the original tale being woven alongside North Star’s saga. Eden was specifically created for the game to be rooted in & exist, and its own cast of characters thrive much to Kenshiro’s credit, but that doesn’t mean in the slightest they don’t stand on their own. As Kenshiro is jailed, given a chance to prove his worth, and eventually become an asset, we eventually begin to understand the stresses plaguing this town, one that seems a haven on the outside, but within still exists on the new world order, where “Might Makes Right” and bandits roam the wastelands to take all that’s not strapped down.
Unfortunately, once the world truly opens to Kenshiro, this is also the point of which fans of the source series will choose to be onboard or that maybe there are better paths than “Hokuto Shinken” to follow through with. Lost Paradise includes many of the memorable scenes and fights that make North Star so gripping, but only enough screen-time so that they all fit into Eden’s circular walls.
This had two effects for me personally while playing; I thought it was novel that I was able to still have my rivalry with Rei, to discover the enigma that is Thouzer, and to face Ken’s brothers for the right of being the sole heir to their martial art. However, those precious bits are never given the ability to make their full impact, and thus I’m left feeling unsatisfied. On the other end, with the ending now in hindsight, they were placed there in order to give Ken the training & experience needed to fight the original foes, which come off a mixture of Fist & an antagonist one might face in the Yakuza series. The game then becomes a giant remix, and players will either love or hate the final product.
Regardless, while this writer might reflect more on the narrative-side of any story, none of that stopped the final product from being any less fun. Whether it was playing bartender at the resident pub, helping retrieve arcade cabinets *conveniently* sitting around in the desert, or hunting the biggest & baddest bandits Eden had to offer, it was a surreal experience putting Kenshiro in more casual situations & feeling out his awkwardness to much of it. The Yakuza mold is an interesting one when it comes to many of its often-times off-the-wall minigames and in general ways of telling its story via substories, and in this instance, Kenshiro was fleshed out in a way his origin series was never able to. It shows how much reverence and care Sega took in approaching the material, and fans couldn’t ask for more than that.
For Fist of the North Star fans as well as newcomers to the classic 80’s icon, Lost Paradise is an experience that gives both an introduction & a few more layers onto already beloved characters. While fans might feel short-changed where some characters aren’t able to shine as brightly, there’s still much to like about how they were utilized. It’s very different, but that’s not a bad thing in this case. Yakuza fans, in kind, will also be in bewilderment as to how a rugged man of the wastelands can make an S+ Martini & not destroy the bar around him.
20XX Reports in with: 8/10
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