"The developers capture Fist of the North Star's over-the-top martial arts and classic designs with celebratory glee, executing Yakuza's trademark "serious men doing ridiculous things" concept beautifully."
Fist of the North Star, the popular manga and anime written and aired between 1983 and 1988, is a story of melodrama and excess. Long staredowns in a post-apocalyptic desert. Opponents' heads exploding following finishing blows. A protagonist with permanently furrowed eyebrows and few facial expressions. Paired with the SEGA development team behind the Yakuza video games, a match made in heaven.
Inspired by George Miller's Mad Max movies and the films of Bruce Lee, Fist of the North Star tells the story of Kenshiro, muscled master of the Hokuto Shinken martial arts style. Kenshiro wanders a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of his lost love Yuria, righting wrongs and settling grudges along the way. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise appears to take place at the end of the first half of Fist of the North Star's story, in a town called Eden. Kenshiro travels to Eden following a rumor that Yuria lives there alive and well, only to encounter more bandits, warlords, and vengeful martial artists of the wasteland.
The original Fist of the North Star story features a garrison called Eden and a city called Cassandra, and this video game version of Eden likely combines elements of both. Iconic Fist of the North Star characters Jagi, Shin, Souther, and Raoh (among others) all appear in Lost Paradise, when in the original story each villain was encountered in a different place. Lost Paradise condenses several legendary encounters from Fist of the North Star into a single game, set in a Yakuza-flavored interpretation of a Fist of the North Star city. Eden is a vibrant, active open area with dozens of denizens for Kenshiro to meet.
Kenshiro's adventures in Eden aren't solely comprised of searching for Yuria and defeating leather-clad gangsters. Kenshiro can work as a bartender, club bouncer, clinic doctor, and arena gladiator among other optional jobs and tasks. The E3 demo showed the bartending minigame and a baseball minigame in which Kenshiro whacks bikers off their rides using a steel beam. Completing these minigames and sidequests will earn Kenshiro money and increase his reputation, improving everything in Eden from shop inventories to citizen dispositions. There are also several classic SEGA arcade and console games, playable in their entirety, scattered across The Wasteland, including Out Run, Space Harrier, and Yuji Naka's 1986 Fist of the North Star action game (made well before Naka co-created Sonic the Hedgehog).
But experiencing the Fist of the North Star story and exploring Eden's nooks and crannies are all secondary to Fist of the North Star's action. Kenshiro's moveset balances quick flurries of light attacks and guard-breaking heavy kicks. When an enemy is in a critical state, Kenshiro can perform one of several finishing blows, most of which involve quick-time event button presses and result in decapitations. There are also simple blocking and dodging mechanics for dealing with enemy attacks. Encounters range from fighting dozens of mooks at once to specialized duels against named characters. In the E3 demo, Kenshiro takes down about 20 gladiators followed by a trio of captains, then a boss the size of a small building.
It's clear that Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise is a Yakuza game in all but setting and flair. The game is built in Yakuza 6's engine, Eden is a playground similar to the Japanese cities in the Yakuza games, and Kenshiro even shares a voice actor with Kazuma Kiryu. The developers capture Fist of the North Star's over-the-top martial arts and classic designs with celebratory glee, executing Yakuza's trademark "serious men doing ridiculous things" concept beautifully.