Cheap Ass Review – Yakuza 3
Kazuma Kiryu returns in the 4th addition to the highly popular Japanese franchise, Yakuza 3. Players take on the role of the ass kicking protagonist in a new story direction that takes place both in the familiar setting of the fictional red light district; Kamurocho, and a new area in the form of Ryukyu. The game begins with Kazuma Kiryu saying goodbye to his past and moving on to greener pastures to fulfill his dream of opening his own orphanage.
Kazuma opens the Sunshine Orphanage (originally named the highly inappropriate Morning Glory) alongside his adopted daughter from the previous games; and the movie version, Haruka Sawamura. With the orphanage under threat; due to government plans to turn it into a seaside resort, Kazuma is once again forced to tear off his shirt and begin his ass-kicking genocidal spree across fictional Tokyo.
Yakuza 3 Trailer
|Cheap Ass Review – Yakuza 3|
If you’re not familiar with the previous Yakuza games, expect story; expect a lot of it. From the moment you start up the game you’re met with cut-scene after cut-scene, sometimes taking 10-15 minutes before you’re able to actually play. Usually I’d have issues with a game that doesn’t actually allow me to play it but as with previous titles in the franchise; Yakuza 3 is backed by an enthralling story. The story is a direct sequel to events from the previous games but there are options; both at the start and throughout the game, to play cut-scenes and story episodes from previous titles; giving experienced players the opportunity of a reminder and new players a chance to be introduced to the story.
When I first began my journey as Kazuma Kiryu; I really wasn’t sure if Yakuza 3 would be the kind of game I would enjoy. There are literally 7-8 cut-scenes before you’re even able to get into the game and in true JRPG style, the names of people are places are next to impossible to pronounce making them quite difficult to remember at times. This left me feeling a little bewildered at the beginning of my journey; but as the characters became more involved I found myself growing to love them. All of the children at the orphanage, Kazuma himself, even neighbors and other NPC’s have, individual personalities that progress as the story continues. I really felt as though the whole world was evolving around me; rather than just a story that centered around a single character.
Although the cut-scenes and the story are great, it’s not without negative aspects. During non cut-scene story segments, the dialogue is sometimes downright ridiculous. I’m not sure if some of the charm got lost in translation but sometimes the dialogue just made no sense. Here’s an example:
Girl: “I never pegged you as the kind of person that would look after orphan kids”
Kazuma: “I’ve always wanted to do it, like my father did for me”
Girl: “That sounds just like you”
Yeah..okay. As if that wasn’t annoying enough the dialogue outside of cut-scenes is accompanied by a type writer noise that is so cacophonous; it’s about as subtle as a woodpecker working its way into your brain via the inner ear. To make matters worse skipping through dialogue, that’s incredibly slow, doesn’t just wear down your primary button but it’s also accompanied by a really irritating whoosh noise; making it a pain to either wait for the typing to finish or to skip it. This made me avoid talking to a lot of the unnecessary characters, which did make me feel like I could be missing out on side story and missions. However that regret soon passed the next time I was forced to speak with someone and listen to that intrusive woodpecker again. In spite of the dodgy translations and poor dialogue in some places, the story as a whole is thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of the Yakuza franchise.
Although the story is a large part of the appeal for many Yakuza fans; some would argue that the combat is just as good. Yakuza 3 introduced the Seam-less Battle Mode that removed the tedious loading screens from previous titles; however loading still takes place but now the screen is just plain black. It uses a typical side-scrolling combat system evolved into 3D, you can string together basic attacks, use a powerful attack mid-combo or use grapples to throw opponents and interact with the environment. If I had to imagine the combat from Batman Arkham Asylum in alpha testing, Yakuza 3 wouldn’t be far off. It does include button prompt scenarios which are pretty involving, hitting a button to escape a grapple or counter an attack; but you’ve got to be fast.
It does feel clunky in places but the animations are smooth and the extra abilities unlocked through leveling really do help to increase the depth; even if it is a little slow. I often found myself starving for combat but instead I was locked up in a cut-scene or walking around the orphanage settling petty squabbles amongst the children. When I finally did get chance to tear off my shirt; which happens a little too much for my taste, the fights are over pretty quickly and I was back to adventuring. It does pick up in places but I feel the combat system deserved a little more attention during certain parts of the game.
Adding more depth to the combat system is Heat Mode; a meter that builds up when causing damage during combat. When it reaches the maximum level you’re able to grab enemies and interact with the environment, slamming them into a car or railing. Super Finishers are also a nice touch; unique abilities that can be used to help finish the various boss fights throughout the game.
Mr. Kiryu is deadly enough with his fists to warrant an arrest under the concealed weapons act but there are weapons and other items available should you need them. You can grab items during fights; such as chairs and tables, or you can purchase items from the a variety of NPC’s. Purchased items are usually more fitting and include deadlier options, such as Swords and Baseball Bats; which can be taken into battle as long as some durability remains. I found myself avoiding them for the most part as the battles were short enough without introducing deadly weaponry.
Mini-games are quite a popular past time in Yakuza 3 and there’s plenty on show. The first mini-game I came across was fishing and although it’s not as in-depth as some of the systems we see today; it has enough charm to warrant some time. It’s pretty simple, you grab some bait and attach it to a rod, cast it into the water and away you go. It uses familiar mechanics of line tension and fish resistance; but it has enough depth to provide a challenge.
Fishing is optional; which is nice as I’d rather avoid it, however not all the mini-games are so forgiving. A short time into the game you’re introduced to golf, which is a tedious bore at best. I quite often find games that spread themselves across so many areas are left wanting and sadly that’s the case here. Although the golf isn’t bad; there’s wind and different clubs etc, but if I wanted to have fun playing golf I’d pick up Tiger Woods 12. More mini-games pop up from time to time but they’re a time sink at best.
Yakuza 3 was a pleasant surprise. When we decided to start these reviews I was expecting week after week of tedious titles but Yakuza 3 proved me wrong straight from the start. Kazuma Kiryu is a complete badass, faced with a deadly foe or a collection of thugs; he shrugs it off and takes them all down. He’s easily one of the more developed protagonists in today’s gaming and it really shows if you watch the summary story from the previous games.
A genuine piece of video-game art that could do with a few touch ups around the edges.
|out of 10||Reviews Explained|
Removing the UI in the majority of game play really adds to the cinematic feel of the game
Considering it’s a 2010 release, the graphics stand the test of time thanks to Cyberware’s 3D facial scanning.
|6||Soundtrack & Sound Effects:
Sound effects accompanying dialogue are almost painful to hear
Although the mechanics are dated; Yakuza 3 still manages to maintain a certain level of charm and nostalgia
Extra difficulty levels and game modes unlocked on completion offer plenty of challenge for a second playthrough
(out of 10, not an average)
This review was written using a purchased copy of the Playstation 3 version of Yakuza 3.