Before we begin, I should start by telling you what Yakuza is and what it is not, it is an action RPG brawler, it is not the spiritual successor to Shenmue, it shares closer ties to typical role playing games like Final Fantasy than it does with anything in relation to Grand Theft Auto. There is actually plenty more I can expand on, but I think it’s better if I start the actual review, so without further ado, read on for SEGAbit’s Yakuza 3 review.
[PLEASE NOTE – SPOILERS TO YAKUZA 1 AND 2 ARE PRESENT]
For those new to the series, Yakuza or Ryu Ga Gotaku (Like a Dragon) as it’s known in Japan, stars the series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, a former Yakuza with a heart of gold and his continued adventures through the shady criminal underworld of Kamurocho. In this latest installment, Kazuma has finally decided to up and leave the area permanently and move to his new local, Okinawa, where he begins his life anew as the manager at the Sunflower Orphanage. However it’s not long until Kazuma is slowly dragged back to the city he tried to escape, with a military base expansion and several parties fighting for the rights to the land deed where Sunflower Orphanage resides on, it’s not long till Kiryu is forced to return.
The plot is played out slowly at first, however once it starts picking up it gets quite frantic; as Kazuma must hop between Okinawa and Tokyo as he tries to get to the bottom of who is pulling the strings behind the current scheme. He’ll come across former foes, newly appointed captains of the Tojo clan, government officials and even Shintaro Fuma, Kazuma’s adopted father, who was believed to have been killed.
[END OF SPOILERS]
Telling a story…
I cannot stress how well fashioned the storyline and the telling of it in Yakuza is, the cutscenes that use the higher poly models are all directed masterfully and something you would no doubt expect to find in Hollywood, the voice acting is top notch from practically the whole cast and the script is definitely one for the ages, Yakuza 3 boosts one of the best storylines featured in a game, it is tense, it is complicated and it is something that will keep you guessing till the very end. Even when you think you know everything, there will be something that will do a 180 on the plot.
Unfortunately due to the nature of the series, with it being a bit of a thriller, I cannot shed any more light on the plot without ruining it for yourselves, but it is fair to say that the intricate plotline and the unique brand of characters, ranging form the comical and crazy Majima, to the newer characters of Rikiya all help to make Yakuza’s plot stand out more than most other role playing games currently on the market, infact, you can go as far as to say that it definitely stands out more than any game currently out in the market.
But the charming aspects of Yakuza 3 go beyond its excellent narrative, the fully fleshed out city is now even more of a spectacle. Introduced from Kenzan, the player’s camera is now placed behind Kazuma allowing for one to enjoy the city even more. Adding to that, a first person view has been placed just in case a player wishes to see that little bit more of the city.
‘Bout the city
With a large city, there happens to be a large amount of activities to partake in that will consume everyone’s time, be it a light player or a hardcore gamer. Unfortunately, as it is publicly known to an extensive audience by now, an amount of the newest additions have been taken out by SEGA, this includes mini-games, such as the massage palour mini-game as well as the additions made to the hostess management game, as we are conducted a review for just this particular game, these notions would be exempt from the review.
The mini-games in Yakuza 3 come in a wide variety, some are very basic whilst others are slightly more complicated. Although you would be hard pressed to find one mini-game that does not perk your interest. They range from very simple and basic fishing, to the slightly more complicated golf. Although some are harder than others, within a few tries you should be able to do well throughout the mini-game, as simplicity seems to be the first and foremost major point for mini-games.
One in particular I believe deserves it’s own mention though is Boxcellios. A brand new mini-game introduced in-game as a new arcade title at Club SEGA. The objective of the title is quite clear, you have 30 seconds to shoot down as many large shiny metallic beasts, who’s weak spot shines with a large white glare, giving you a indication of where to shoot. It sounds easy enough, but the larger the creature gets, the more plates it has protecting the weak spot, with time running out, it becomes quite hectic.
Mini-games, no mini-muffins
But Yakuza 3 does not simply have mini-games. You have side missions that ought to keep you coming back to the title long after you’ve completed the main story and some of them are not just simply “point A to point B” side missions either. They can range from just laying a punch on a character, to looking for anomalies, using the first person mode and to avoiding bumping into people in a queue. But there are plenty of them and something that ought to last you days to find and complete.
A group of side missions that have been introduced in Yakuza 3 is the hitman missions. Following a chance encounter with a character behind Serena, Kazuma is asked to undertake missions searching out and finding a group called the Avengers. He does this, you guessed it, taking out hitmen. Before selecting the mission, Kazuma is given their location (Some very vague) and a description of each hitmans fighting stance. Completing these objectives helps reward Kazuma with large financial gains.
Another new featured added was the chase battle sequence, this adds a completely new gameplay type. When Kazuma is forced to chase a certain character, you go into the sequence and must avoid people or objects which will slow you down. It’s a great addition I felt, but the drawback is that it is criminally underused as only certain side missions and parts in the storyline make us of it. Along with the chase battles, the tournament section of the game now has tag team, where players must select a partner who they feel most comfortable with and take turns to pummel their opponents.
Everyone loves kung-fu fighting
Adventuring in the two cities can also be beneficial to Kazuma. There are several locations where Kazuma is able to learn new and much more powerful moves, one in particular is YF6, an obvious play over Virtua Fighter. Those who remember Yakuza 2 will no doubt remember the dodgy mini-game, but in this one it’s been revamped. Now your soul bar is used as your health meter and beating the opponents you are tasked at fighting (All being bosses fought previously). Beating them unlocks extra moves.
Speaking of the combat, those who happened to play previous Yakuza games should take note that the battle system gets progressively better and better. No difference here, you have the typical punch, kick and grab whilst also more options with the objects lying about. The new moves added are mostly heat abilities, some which should grab your attention, in particular one where Kazuma throws his cigarette at the face of an opponent before going into him with a flying punch. The battles are executed in the same fashion as the previous title, a random stranger walks upto Kazuma asking for a fight, though the battle is loaded straight from that point on, no black loading screen.
A feature that now has been borrowed from Kenzan happens to be the players ability to place a weapon on the d-pad from three slots; Left, right and up. Doing so the player has access to these weapons on the fly instead of always opening up the menu screen. Outside of that, the combat from Yakuza 3 remains relatively the same from the previous titles, you should not come in expecting a extremely detailed combat engine, but rather an easy to understand system that allows the player to pull off some truly brutal and spectacular finishing moves.
Speaking of the weapons, Kazuma now has the ability to modify his weapons through selecting various materials with. Playing around with this allows for some devastating weapons to be unlocked.
How its presented
The presentation in the title is somewhat amazing, not quite that it’s pushing the Playstation 3 to its limits but just about the insane level of detail the whole of the city. You go into bars and the drinks are not images placed on the wall, you go into a supermarket and the toys and objects are all fully three dimensional objects. And if that is not enough, the fact that a first person view has been added allows the player just to see how detailed Kamurocho really is.
The in-game models however are not as impressive or detailed and end up looking rather basic. When one walks onto the street, the pedestrians on the street, the baddies who will come up to attack Kazuma aren’t as detailed as they could be, add to that the rather stiff animation. It is quite a large difference infact, as the animation is not becoming of a game with the scope or presentations that is Yakuza 3.
Despite this, the in-game cutscenes have some impressive character facial animations, certain scenes go much further to emphasize just how much effort has been placed in these scenes and with no CGI involved at all, one can only hope that these models, in the future of the series, can be used for gameplay. To date, the cutscenes hav some of the best models seen in a Japanese video game.
The funky music
Lastly we move onto the final subject. The music. Yakuza 3 has some fine music, some unfortunately is not available on the OST due to them being specific to the cutscenes. Despite this, they really add to the cutscene. One I felt was extremely powerful was before the boss fight, as the music slowly built up in the cutscene then gets stronger when the boss fight itself starts.
The music does really help to drive some of the scenes and some of the fights. the music fits in magnificently several times and not one piece seems to be out of place. Wither it happens to be a battle theme, a cutscene or a boss battle; each composition plays its part and I definitely believe the soundtrack happens to be the best in the series.
In conclusion, Yakuza 3 happens to be one of the most fleshed out titles for the Playstation 3 despite the removed content. Players would have more than enough to play even after they have completed the adventure mode (Solely for side missions) and battle mode (Solely for themed battles). Add to that an incredible storyline, a well crafted soundtrack, great characters and an enjoyable battle system. This title is a must own for any Playstation 3 owner.
+ Large level of replayability
+ Enthralling and well crafted storyline with superb characters
+ Astonishing amount of objectives to clear in Okinwa and Kamurocho
+ The presentation for the cities is perhaps some of the most detailed
+ Brutal heat moves make putting someone back in place all the most satisfying
– Graphics bar the cutscenes are not as impressive
– Minimal additions to the core battle system from the previous title