- Unique Brawler RPG:. This has all the dialog trees, story focus, character development, and side-quest structure of a traditional RPG, but the standard RPG stat-battles are replaced by melee-centric brawling.
- A LOT of game: I spent a full twenty-five hours before I beat the main story mode, and I’d estimate that I skipped 85% of the optional side-quest/mini-game content. This is a BIG game. This easily the most story and quest content of any title I’ve played in the past two years.
- Host/Hostess Bars: This is a mostly dialog-tree based dating sim. It’s surprisingly charming. Unfortunately, I missed the “massage parlor”.
- Atmosphere: I’ve never been to Japan, but this really nails the feel of roaming the streets of urban Japan, or at least what I imagine that would feel like. There is tons of detail in the city. One example of this, is the absurdly detailed food/drink system in the game. You can order various types of food and drink from the dozens of restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and lounges throughout the game and there is a side-goal of trying all the different food types.
- Story: The story-telling and dialog is on par with a serious 80′s action movie without any sarcasm or joking self-references. Sometimes, I could quiet my inner critic and enjoy the experience, but other times, the story was just too dated and corny and I had to skip over it. Most gamers already know whether they like or tolerate this kind of Japanese video game writing.
- Technology: By now, most of us are acclimated to PS3 tech, so going back to PS2 is a big drop. And this isn’t even one of the more technically polished PS2 titles like Jak 3 or God Of War. The graphics look very blocky and crude and highly aliased. And all the 2D interface screens feel very old and clunky compared to other 2008 titles. BTW, I still do all my gaming on an SDTV (about to upgrade), so it’s not the resolution itself at all.
- Mini-Games: This game has well over a dozen side-quest mini-games such as Shogi (a kind of Japanese chess), Mahjong, gambling, golf, batting cages, a weird 3D arcade fighter game, and a business sim game. I’m impressed that they built that much content, and many of these games are highly detailed, but only a few are really fun to play. If I want to play Shogi or Mahjong, I’d rather play a freeware version on my PC.
- Core Combat: The combat is fun, it has a ton of detail, and there are a bunch of cool slo-mo special attacks to pull off, and there’s a very detailed upgrade system, but it gets repetitive over the long length of this game.
If you like detailed, epic Japanese RPGs, brawler combat, organized crime fiction, and can tolerate dated tech, then this game is definitely for you.
Yakuza Kenzan has already been released for the PS3 in Japan and the true sequel, Yakuza 3, is scheduled to be released in Japan in Spring ’09. I’m really excited to see these come to the west. The tech improvements alone will fix one of my biggest gripes with this title.
Written by: Darrin
- Contributing Editor