(http://www.sega.com/yakuza3) Rated Mature by ESRB. Yakuza 3 is the third in the Yakuza series that originally started on the PS2. Originally a game intended only for the Japanese audience, SEGA thankfully listened to its fans and ported the game to its Western audience. You play Kazuma, a retired Yakuza gangster who runs an orphanage in Okinawa but recent events have you putting back on your slick suit to take care of business on the mainland. If you aren’t familiar with Yakuza’s back story, there are optional cinematic scenes you can view to review what happened in Yakuza 1 and Yakuza 2.
(http://www.sega.com/yakuza3) Rated Mature by ESRB. Yakuza 3 is the third in the Yakuza series that originally started on the PS2. Originally a game intended only for the Japanese audience, SEGA thankfully listened to its fans and ported the game to its Western audience.
**WARNING** The following video may contain content inappropriate for children**
You play Kazuma, a retired Yakuza gangster who runs an orphanage in Okinawa but recent events have you putting back on your slick suit to take care of business on the mainland. If you aren’t familiar with Yakuza’s back story, there are optional cinematic scenes you can view to review what happened in Yakuza 1 and Yakuza 2.
The world of Yakuza can simply be described as “immense.” If you’ve ever played either of the Shenmue games, then the depth of Yakuza 3 can be somewhat understood. This is a living, breathing open-world game with lots of detail, depth, interactivity, a thorough dose of combat action, and completed with lots of unexpected quirkiness. You don’t play the typical criminal in an open world setting like the Grand Theft Auto games; instead, it’s refreshing to be a righteous “criminal”. Kazuma has his own moral code, and the player also gets to make certain moral choices during the story and side missions. Kazuma explores the city and takes on various side quests along with main story missions and rights the wrongs the only way a Yakuza can – usually with his fists. The characters you meet along the way have rich back stories and histories and one can’t help but develop an emotional investment in the supporting cast.
The graphics are slightly dated considering it was released well over a year ago in Japan. But the realistic facial expression will keep you interested in the story and the fluid animation spells pain in combat. The details of the world such as the signage and subtle body gestures make the experience and world engrossing. The developers bent over backwards making the world of Yakuza look as realistic as possible. Certain areas of the game look convincingly like districts in Tokyo. Other areas are masterfully re-created to their distinct style as well. The urban areas are especially jam-packed with life-like crowd, most with different clothing and looks. It is very rare that metropolis is recreated so realistically in a video game.
All the voice acting is done in Japanese, but it would be awkward any other way since the story occurs in deep modern Japanese culture. Although a good portion of Yakuza isn’t voiced, the text based dialogs offer a lot more conversation opportunities. Between the lively environment and superb voice acting, one can’t help but get drawn into the world of Yakuza and the main story line. During combat the soundtrack will change into energetic rock music, but during the more relaxing parts of the game, the soundtrack is appropriately more pleasant.
Not only do you beat up thugs with a variety of punch and kick combos, but you can use the environment to your advantage and slam them against the hood of a car or the wall. Even various everyday objects like bicycles, trashcans, golf clubs, beer bottles, can be used to beat down enemies with. The fighting mechanics and controls are easy to learn and execute. There are various “super” moves, such as throwing an enemy on top of another, which can be done when your “heat” meter is high enough from taunting. These moves are truly satisfying for those enjoy a bit of gore, as these ruthless strikes will you saying “ouch”.
As you fight and gain experience, you can level up Kazuma and unlock additional abilities to deal damage to your foes. These RPG-like elements in the game keep the addiction factor high. “Just one more level-up,” is what a player will surely be thinking when it comes to earning XP. As the XP rolls in, you will want to know how much brutal can Kazuma get.
The world of Yakuza 3 offers an enormous amount of things to do. There’s basic fetch and return quests, escort missions, date missions, and many more. Kazuma can even try his hand at fishing, playing pool, darts, check out magazines in a mini-mart, go on a karaoke date, cage fighting, and numerous other activities which are well crafted mini-games in themselves. All these come with random surprises at just about every corner. As with most other sandbox type games, exploring every nook and cranny will take quite a bit of time and effort. So basically Yakuza 3 is about completing the side quests just as much as going through the story, only that the side quests will keep you entertained for far longer. It even comes with a New Game +, keeping your items and levels gained.
For fans of the series, Yakuza 3 is quite fresh when first put into the PlayStation 3. The story starts in the sunny Okinawa as supposed to the urban underground scene. The change of location is more than a change of scene, as it plays into Kazuma’s rich personality. There’s a lot of time spent around Kazuma’s orphanage in Okinawa as he takes care of the children, with some interactions being mini-games. Although it is difficult waiting to get into the brutal beat-downs, the time investment is worth it since it crafts your emotions into the story. And the time investment will actually have a return later on.
There have been complaints on the internet that SEGA cut content when shipping the Western release, but in my game play experience, I did not find the missing side missions or activities to be a major detriment to the game. The game has multiple difficulties so all types of gamers can find an enjoyable experience. Anyone who enjoys an engrossing world and story line, good beat-em-up action and superb voice acting should definitely give Yakuza 3 a try. You’ll even learn a few things about Japanese culture!