The Yakuza series tells the story of Kazuma Kiryu, a notorious mobster
- Engrossing and authentic-feeling Japanese locales, an abundance of things to do and see, great story and characters, excellent combat
- Patches of "filler" in the plot, cut content issue
Even with the infamous "cut content" issue lurking overhead, Yakuza 3 is still an expertly crafted crime-drama jam-packed with pulse-pounding fights and a gripping narrative brought to life by a living, breathing Okinawa.
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It has become clear at this point that some elements like certain side-quests and mini-games from the original Japanese release of Yakuza 3 are missing from the Western release of the game. Some of the cuts make more sense than others: Mahjong and Shogi, two fairly complex board games, are cut, as well as a Japanese history quiz game; those could very well be more frustrating than fun for most Westerners to play. But hostess club management, the massage parlour, and numerous optional quests are gone as well -- and considering we've seen those elements in previous Yakuza titles, those cuts make less sense.
Sega's official statement is thus:
Regarding Yakuza 3, we had a tight schedule to abide by for localising and releasing Yakuza 3 in the west. Due to the limited time we were given we had to leave certain bits of the game out and we chose portions we felt didn't resonate with western culture i.e. a Japanese history quiz show and the concept of hostess clubs. We understand that this is not the optimum thing to do, but given the options of releasing the next chapter of a beloved game so that our fans can experience the story of Yakuza vs. not releasing it at all, we felt it was worth it to release it with 99% of the content intact. We made sure that the story in no way, shape or form changed from the lack of the quiz show or hostess clubs. You can still go into Cabarets and on dates with the ladies in the game and Kazuma still kicks major ass.
This probably wasn't the wisest choice of wording, since Yakuza 3 came out in a very crowded month for PS3 releases (Final Fantasy XIIIs, God of War 3). To a casual observer, it looks like Sega's shooting themselves in the foot by not only cutting content from the game, but doing so in order to "send it to die" during a period with numerous AAA title releases. The insinuation that some stuff is "too Japanese" also feels off, considering the authentic Japanese setting is one of the game's major points of appeal.
As someone who's seen how localisation works firsthand, I can say that there are probably other factors in the background that affected the decision to excise these features. Unfortunately, these are things that likely can't be discussed due to company policies. Sega can't not address the issue, however, leading us to hear rather hastily prepared statements like the one above.
But is the content worth caring about? I certainly think so. I was appalled when I read a "professional" review on another site that essentially called everyone who was concerned about the cuts whiny nerd virgins and said we should be happy just to get the game at all. It's insulting to be told that we shouldn't care about getting less in our game and we're pathetic if we do.
And that's just it -- it's hard to play Yakuza 3 and not have the cuts lingering in the back of your mind, even as you enjoy what's there. If we didn't have the internet and didn't know stuff was missing, it probably wouldn't affect us much, but those days are long gone. As I played, I found myself wondering just what it was I was missing, and if it was the sort of extra polish that takes a game from being great to being phenomenal -- in other words, the difference between four and a half stars and five.
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