With the launch of Marvel's Spider-Man, there's a lot of love going around for superhero games. After all, that game that exudes passion for the character at every turn, taking advantage of a wealth of iconic characters and story arcs to feed into your fantasy. But there's technically another superhero game coming out this year that displays the same fervor, if not more: Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise.
Developed by the same studio behind the beloved Yakuza series, Lost Paradise is based on the incredibly influential Fist of the North Star manga and anime series. Set in a world devastated by nuclear war, it stars Kenshiro, the heroic practitioner and successor of Hokuto Shinken, a fighting style that utilizes pressure points to make foes implode (among a variety of other ridiculous possible effects). After having his fiancee Yuria kidnapped by longtime rival Shin, Kenshiro must embark on an adventure to rescue his beloved.
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If you're unfamiliar with the Fist of the North Star series, you can take comfort in knowing that the game actually takes place in an alternate-timeline separate from narrative path of the original series, so newcomers are welcome to jump in without worry. However, Yakuza players will likely feel right at home with Lost Paradise. It's very much cut from the same cloth, packed full of serious melodrama juxtaposed with absurdist humor. Admittedly, Kenshiro and Kiryu are both similar in their ideals of heroism and honor, which should make for an easy transition for Yakuza fans experiencing Fist of the North Star for the first time.
It's worth noting that the game is actually built off the same engine used to make both Yakuza 0 and Kiwami. This might throw off fans who have become comfortable with series' new Dragon Engine in Yakuza 6 and Kiwami 2. However, this step backward shouldn't detract from what appears to be the best aspect of Lost Paradise: its handling of the Fist of the North Star property and how it elevates Kenshiro to superhero status.
Lost Paradise's delivery of Kenshiro's over-the-top fighting style is immediately impressive. The Yakuza series' uncomplicated beat 'em up-style fighting system seems like a perfect fit, offering you easy access to a flashy and deadly arsenal of attacks and pressure point techniques. Kenshiro's punching flurries, swift kicks, and graceful acrobatics are faithfully brought to life. The force of their impact in motion captures the empowerment of their execution from the series. Enemies are always a combo or QTE away from blowing up into a bloody mess, which is fitting given how effortless Kenshiro makes it seem in the series. It all made for a familiar yet satisfying combat system that hones in on making you feel like the messianic martial artist.
Despite the new timeline, Lost Paradise pulls from Fist of the North Star's treasure trove of colorful characters to fill in the blanks around Kenshiro. The fan-favorite Rei--practitioner of the elegantly lethal Nanto Suicho Ken style--made a brief appearance during a sub story to help me free children from an underground slavery market. I even encountered Bat, the charming young thief who often follows Kenshiro around during his travels. While I only got to spend a brief amount of time with them, the presence of familiar faces had me eager to see how they'd be further implemented into this game's fresh take of the universe.
Spider-Man developer Insomniac altered the famed crime fighter's history and relationships to iconic characters, like Doctor Octopus and Mary-Jane. These changes were unexpected, but refreshing to experience for both newcomers and Spider-Man fans. So, I'm curious as to how the Yakuza developers will handle Fist of the North Star in Lost Paradise. What will change? What will remain faithful? As a huge fan of the series, these questions are what excite me the most.
All this might not mean much if you've never read or watched Fist of the North Star, but whether you're a fan or not, Lost Paradise's incredible attitude and confident style are infectious. If Insomniac can entice non-Spidey fans to warm up to the hero by delivering high-flying acrobatics and a wealth of combat abilities, Sega may very well make Kenshiro a few new friends in the real world by giving him a game to do what he does best: punching baddies and making them explode.
Lost Paradise is coming to PS4 in just a few short weeks, so come back in early October to see if Kenshiro's latest adventure has shaped up to be everything we hoped it could be. If you want to get a taste of the game right now, you can also download a demo on PSN that includes a free PS4 theme as a bonus.