One heck of a videogame
- Great plot, intrigue, the character is badass
- Can't switch to Japanese audio track, repetitive Battle Mode ambushes, grind
If you're into crime noir action games, then Yakuza won't disappoint you. The gameplay may be a little convulsive but Yakuza more than makes up for that through engrossing story and attention to details.
Price$ 49.95 (AUD)
Criminal organisations have always fascinated the general public. Whether it's the strict and deadly brutality or the enigmatic shroud of underworld secrecy, they have an allure that make us all inquisitive and the Japanese yakuza is no exception. The Far East crime syndicate is heavily influenced by feudal Japanese traditions and philosophies, which makes for one heck of a videogame.
In Yakuza, you'll assume the life of young upcoming underworld Tojo clan superstar Kiryu Kazuma who's about to be granted permission to start his own crime family from his boss. After an unfortunate string of events, you find yourself taking the fall for murdering your boss and you're sentenced to a 10-year stretch in the clink.
After being released you set out on a journey to discover what happened to your girlfriend and former crime associates, but instead of a joyful reunion among comrades and loved ones you find your old crime family falling apart, your girlfriend has disappeared off the face of the Earth, and the entire Tojo Yakuza clan wants you in a body bag. So starts your wonderful journey of shankings, shootings, and beat downs in the land of the rising sun.
10 Years Equals A Whole Lot of Pent up Aggression
Yakuza's gameplay has been the victim of unfair, and totally inaccurate, comparisons to the Grand Theft Auto series. These fraudulent statements are totally bogus. Yakuza has absolutely nothing in common with GTA. In Yakuza, you'll never carjack or hurt innocent bystanders. Unlike Western criminals, the traditional Yakuza figure has a code of honor. A true Yakuza is honourable, conducts his business without drawing flashy attention, never inconveniences his general community, and predominantly pictures himself as a gatekeeper of traditional pre-World War II Japanese values.
One of the best things about playing Kiryu Kazuma in Yakuza is that the character is badass. He never backs down, he never apologises, and he rises to challenge anyone who gets in his face, even if its 20 guys with swords. Kiryu embodies the samurai spirit, and that's something totally alien to the mass carnage and morale dilapidation of the GTA series.
Save the Puppy!
Yakuza's gameplay is split into two Modes. The overarching Adventure Mode allows you to run around the city, explore, purchase items, and gather information from ordinary citizens. You can expect a plethora of sub scenario side missions, including catching con-artists, reuniting families, saving stray puppies, and visiting mini-game venues — just like Shenmue.
However, during Adventure Mode you'll be open to pseudo-instance battles with adversarial Yakuza and street thugs. Once spotted on the street these guys will give chase and try to confront you. If they reach close proximity to Kiryu, you'll enter Battle Mode and have to duke it out with them.
Who Knew Plastic Hurt So Much
In Battle Mode, you'll have several nifty options to inflict bodily harm on your attackers. Landing consecutive blows to your assailants fills up your Heat Gauge. Once your Heat gauge is full, you'll be able to pull off some truly extraordinarily devastating moves. Another useful trait to know about Battle Mode is that their generally is a lot of items scattered around the area that can be potentially lethal weapons. You should make good use of store signs, plastic beer crates, and garbage cans when surrounded by enemies.
As I alluded to before, Yakuza has a lot of things in common with Shenmue. Just like Shenmue, you'll be able to utilise a quasi RPG engine to level-up, increase your abilities and attributes, and learn new moves. You can increase your attributes in three different categories, including Soul (Heat gauge), Technique (Combos and Throws), and Body (HP gauge and the ability to parry and dodge).
One of the most crucial aspects of the game is acquiring new attacks and elongating your combo strings. Once you have the ability to initiate a Heat Attack on a prone opponent, the game gets significantly easier.
It's also worth noting that this is only technically an M-rated title. There's tonnes of profanity in the Battle Mode, however; everything else in the game is implied. Yakuza's city does have hostess bars, a pornography shop, and a massage parlour, but you won't see anything titillating here. It's strictly PG.
The overall gameplay experience of Yakuza is a mix bag of outstanding moments of plot development and intrigue soiled by repetitive Battle Mode ambushes and experience point grinding. The game starts off engaging and immersive for the first two hours of gameplay. However once you get to a certain event, the instance like Battle Mode ambushes get ridiculously frequent — about a battle every city block. This pattern of rinse and repeat is duplicated throughout the entire game and it becomes a chore to travel from one part of the city to another.
Say after Me, "Rakuza"
Another lacking feature is the absence of a Japanese audio option. While Sega has instituted a major effort to get the voice acting production just right for Yakuza, playing a game that takes place in Japan and is steeped in Japanese culture and philosophy in English is a little jarring. It is unfortunate that the game could not have been presented with a duel voice over option which would allow you to switch audio tracks.
Overall, Yakuza is a fun game with a pretty decent game engine and an engrossing storyline on par with the Japanese cult classic movie series Yakuza Papers.
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