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A Swansong for the Old Game Engine: What a Way to Go!

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    Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    A Swansong for the Old Game Engine: What a Way to Go!

    Hokuto no Ken has always been an anime/manga that I have heard and read about, but have never picked up. Naturally, when almost all of the video games that are based on the anime are poor titles, it never tickled my fancy to pick up the anime (a practice that I have since abandoned), thus HnK was always passed over, when I selected a new anime to watch. Fast forward to 2017 and Hokuto ga Gotoku was announced and being a Yakuza spinoff, there was no way I would pass this opportunity up. Once I received the game, I played it immediately after playing Kiwami 2 (as I did when I replayed 0 last year, immediately after Yakuza 6), thus it was a good comparison to see two games on two different engines, back to back. The difference this time around, compared to 6 then 0, was the art-style and game play, which were vastly different than in the previous games I played. Indeed, Hokuto ga Gotoku runs on the same engine as the pre-Dragon Engine titles, uses the same button sequences for fights, but that is where the comparisons end; it is a spinoff, but a highly different spinoff that can stand alone as it’s own game. Game play will tell you a bit more.

    Game play: 9/10

    The game starts out with a great tutorial of the fighting system in Hokuto ga Gotoku, as it fights differently than the rest of the Yakuza series. As mentioned above the button combinations are the same, but that is the extent of the similarities and then a whole new can of worms is opened, at that point. Kenshro is given a bunch of different techniques, that involve different combinations of button presses, as well as wait times and timing for other button presses; it is a wonderful way to open up and expand the fighting engine, despite using the same principles that the other games were based on. There are two main locations to play in Hokuto ga Gotoku; Eden, which would be considered the Kamurocho du jour and the Wasteland, where you drive a dune buggy (more like a Jeep) around and collect items, encounter enemies and race. It is a fun and welcome addition to the main game, as the games in the main series always had driving segments as mini-games and not part of the main game. Racing can be a lot of fun, but just driving through the Wasteland is interesting enough in itself and there are many places to see and visit. The mini-games have a distinctly Hokuto no Ken flavor, outside of the arcade games that you can find in the Wasteland (those being UFO Catcher, Super Hang On, OutRun and Space Harrier), though a non-arcade game that can be found in the Wasteland, is a Master System version of the HnK game, that you can play at your hideout. As mentioned, racing is one of the mini-games, as well as a Colosseum unlike that found in the rest of the series, Death Batting (a different take on the batting cage mini-game that is challenging and a ton of fun), a music mini-game (where you must heal people with button presses), a merchant mini-game (where you sell various items to help out Rin), a bartending mini-game (where you mix and make drinks for customers) and lastly a re-imagining of the hostess club mini-game from 0 and Kiwami 2; this time around, it is much more fast-paced and technical and subsequently, can arguably be less fun and/or enjoyable than the previous iterations… but its still a well-done mini-game. There is a ton variety and a of of fun to be had, playing Hokuto ga Gotoku. If not for the grindiness and difficulty of some aspects of the game play, this section would be a 10 for sure… but alas, it is not. The story is just as good and its orignal!

    Story: 9/10

    Kenshiro begins inside a deep temple and when he reaches the top, Shin waits for him. After they do battle, Kenshiro wanders the wasteland, looking for Yuria. After stumbling upon a town and helping ward off attackers in order to save a grandfather and his grandson, Kenshiro collapses, as he requires a drink of water. Upon awakening, the grandfather recognizes his abilities in Hokuto Shinken and informs Kenshiro that Yuria may be in Eden, a nearby city known as the, "Miracle City." Upon reaching the city gates, Kenshiro cannot enter and he must figure out a way to enter and take Yuria back. After bartering to receive the necessary document to enter the city, it is revealed that the document is a fake and Kenshiro must defend himself, which gets him locked up in the dungeons of Eden. After breaking free, he meets a young woman by the name of Kisana on a nearby rooftop; she appears to know more than she lets on and if Kenshiro can best the other prisoners in the Colosseum, he will know just exactly how much he will be involved in Eden’s present and it’s future. The story heavily picks up in chapters 3 and 4 and it is an awesome plot indeed, worthy of the HnK name and all of your favorite characters return; Raoh, Rin, Bat, Jagi, Toki, the list goes on. The story is a completely original and unique story, that takes place before the end of the first manga arc, but includes past characters and it manages to fit in with the canon of the series (whether it actually is a canonical entry or not, has not been made official as of yet… or has it?), as well as adding some original characters that are great characters in their own right. Not a perfect score though, as a little bit of prior knowledge is required to understand just what is going on in the game; once I hit chapter 4, I had to look up some backstories and characters, as I really needed to see just how everyone fit in with everything. Good stuff, as are the graphics.

    Graphics: 9/10

    I love the art style of this game! It is fantastic, fresh and different from either the realism that was seen the other games or the futuristic realizations of Earth in Binary Domain: Ryu ga Gotoku Studios switched gears and it works perfectly in Hokuto ga Gotoku. I would say that there is still some realism, however everything has a more cartoonish look, as well the characters are much more caricatured than they have been in past games, however everything fits in perfectly with this whole new world. The characters look nice and sharp, especially Kisana and Jagure and the Wasteland truly evokes the feeling of emptiness and a dearth of life. Eden looks like a post-apocalyptic Kamurocho and reminds me heavily of Bartertown from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Sphere City in this game, looks very Thunderdome-ish as well). Sadly, the graphics are not perfect, as they are not the best that we have seen in 2018 (or even close, for that matter), but that can be excused a bit, as the game engine is six years old. The sounds get even better.

    Sounds: 10/10

    What a killer soundtrack! Oh boy, the music in this game is superb and driving in the Wasteland is made all that much more enjoyable, with Magical Sound Shower, the Hokuto no Ken-ised version of Receive You or the original Receive You, the music is just brilliant. The music in fights is awesome as well (special mention goes to Toki’s fight music) but an even more special mention, goes out to the menu music; just brilliant and really sets the tone for the game you are about to play. The voice acting is, as usual for the series, brilliant and all of your favorite voice actors are back and they each do a wonderful job. No complaints which is par for the course for the series, as the soundtracks and voice acting are among the best in video game history. Is Hokuto ga Gotoku a game with longevity?

    Replay ability: 10/10

    You bet it is. This is far and away, the grindiest game in the series and that’s not necessarily a bad thing; you will need to play this game fully, twice, in order to platinum it and if anything is missed, generally a third play-through is needed as well. The game adds new things each time you play, however and that makes for a slightly different experience each time, aside from the cut-scenes. The platinum requires 100% completion and some things will keep you busy for a long time. I believe, after playing through it 1 3/4 times, I had 81% completion and 79 hours of game play. If you need to invest some time into gaming, this is the choice by far!

    Buy or rent?

    Buy this game. Period.

    After being let down with some aspects of Kiwami 2, it was wonderful to yet again, play a fresh and new title, in Hokuto ga Gotoku. The new graphic style really added to the atmosphere and it urged me to play on and play on, as there were new and interesting things to look at, as the game progressed. The fights are rock-solid though and the general game play of Hokuto ga Gotoku, is what keeps you going. The superb story too, keeps you engaged and wanting to experience more and more. I would not be surprised to see another HnK game come from Ryu ga Gotoku Studios in the future, however we are still waiting for main-series titles, so bring ‘em on! "Hey you! What do you want, huh? I don’t want freedom (points to Laila); I want to have sex with her!"

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