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Yakuza 3 Review

If Yakuza 3 is a lesson in Japanese culture then what I have learnt about Japan is that everyone likes a fight, they love baseball, fighting is pretty popular, soba = buckwheat, no one will do what they’re told until you have defeated them… Oh and there’s a severe lack of hostesses. I kid, I kid I never really noticed their absence as I had never played any of the previous Yakuza titles. But everyone does love a good fight; seriously, you can’t do anything in this game without getting into a fight. You can’t go for a walk, you can’t ask your friend to look after your clan, and you can’t even cross the street in one instance without beating someone up first. It’s a good job that the brutal brawling system works well then and apart from the way the script contrives to include a fight at every possible moment the story does flow being deep and complicated with many characters involved. All of the characters are voiced superbly too aside from one English speaking character that amusingly is also subtitled and you actually need them to understand what he is saying.

In Yakuza 3 you are Kazuma Kiriyu, a retired Yakuza member who sets up an orphanage in Okinawa to lead a new life raising orphans like him. But this game isn’t called Orphanage, oh no, it’s called Yakuza so inevitably it all goes tits up and results in you having to punch a lot of people in the face. The orphanage inevitably comes under threat from a proposed land ownership deal and it’s up to you to find out why, who are behind it and where they are… so you can stamp on their face. Yakuza 3 mainly takes place in Ryukyugai, Okinawa and Kamurocho, Tokyo – they are based on real locations in the same way GTA is based on New York and provides similar results in terms of how lifelike they are. The actual sections of the city that you can navigate are quite small though, which is probably just as well considering that you can’t drive a car. Fortunately they are heavily detailed and not lacking in charm allowing you to feel like you’re experiencing a part of Japan, a refreshing change from the western cities of inFamous and GTA etc…

As mentioned earlier the fighting in Yakuza is brutal without being overly spectacular. As usual with fighting games now Square is light attach and Triangle is heavy attack along with Circle for grabs. Along with your fists you are able to use a variety of weapons; these can either be bought and equipped or picked up through improvisation in a fight. Weapons can range from nunchucks and swords to sofas and bicycles with guns even making an appearance towards the end. The key to winning the fights in Yakuza though is mastering the Heat Actions, these are special moves that are charged by inflicting damage, blocking or through the use of special items. When this blue bar is charged up you’re able to perform context sensitive moves ranging from stamping on faces to slamming against walls and even complex wrestling manoeuvres. These deal out heavy damage to your opponents and are also incredibly satisfying to watch as you pummel your enemies into submission. New fighting moves can be learnt throughout the game via witnessing people performing special moves (via QTEs) or by gaining experience points and levelling up.

Aside from the main story, there are a fair few other activities to keep you entertained: with girls to date, finding locker keys and side missions along with various mini games. Side missions range from finding cats to dating girls and even starring in action movies. The mini games are in abundance too with pool, fishing and gambling to be done to earn more Yen, EXP or items helping to add longevity. There is so much to see and do outside of the main quest and this creates such a strength and depth to Yakuza 3, I only managed to see 20% of the game after completing the main quest in 24 hours…

If Metal Gear Solid is the video game equivalent to a movie then Yakuza 3 is the equivalent of a novel. Its huge, takes a while to get into but ultimately proves rewarding. This is mainly because you spend most of your time reading, although not a dig about the game being subtitled it’s because you spend so much time reading conversations in little text boxes. Most annoyingly there can be a voiced animation to introduce a scene, which then cuts to a static conversation with no sound before cutting back to a voiced animation. Why? Why not just make it just one cut scene voiced with interesting camera angles rather than this static bore fest with text boxes. Compared to how Fallout 3 deals with conversations, where all characters are at least voiced, it makes Yakuza 3 feel a little cheap especially when you reflect on how other parts of the game can feel dated. Collision detection and movement feel downright clumsy and like a PS2 game with its basic animations. Graphics too can be hit and miss with great details in facial expressions and the city streets but jagged edges are a plenty along with some plain textures.

But for all its flaws Yakuza 3 allows you to beat up people with a fish, take girls to karaoke and all whilst offering a deep and rewarding story. If you can put up with a bit of reading, don’t mind your games starting off slow and you want something a bit different to the western releases then Yakuza 3 is worth a look. You also get to punch a lot of people in the face too.

The main quest was played to completion in 24 hours (not straight). I also spent some time gambling, fishing and taking a couple of girls to love hotels.

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Yakuza 3 provided by Sega.