PS3 Review: Yakuza 3

Kazuma returns to kick some more arse…

Kazuma and Haruka, having severed their ties to the Yakuza world, have left Kamurocho to seek a new life in Okinawa where they manage an orphanage for children. However, their peaceful life is soon interrupted when a series of events unfold pulling Kazuma back into the shadowy past he thought he had left behind, in order to protect those he loves.

I must confess, this is the first Yakuza game that I have played. But for those like me who are new to the series, Yakuza 3 has two long videos explaining the back-story of both previous games with cutscenes and a monologue by Kazuma. It helped me get up to speed with the story so far, so when things are references to in Yakuza 3, I got it straight away. The story is just as gripping as the first 2 seemed and there’s no cheesy voice-acting to ruin it.

Yakuza 3 is mostly a fighting game, but it also has realistic elements like being able to eat, buy items and play a bit of golf, billiards and karaoke. These social things are purely optional and don’t progress the story. The streets of Tokyo and Okinawa are greatly detailed and there’s a ton of things to do, but you will come across a lot of people who just want to smash your face in. Luckily, Kazuma can beat the crap out of them with ease thanks to a simple combat system that lets you pull off a number of devastating moves and some great finishing moves that can be done by building up a meter. The combat as a whole is perhaps a little too basic for some, but I personally enjoyed it as a whole.

You gain experience from each fight and can use it to upgrade certain things like health and the power of your attacks, it’s pretty straightforward stuff. I must admit I find it odd that Yakuza 4 is about to come out in Japan just as the third game hits Europe and apparently a 5th game is in the works, so why the delay between releases? I guess that a game like this only appeals to the cult gamer and since the voice-acting is in Japanese, it might be off-putting to consumers.

I personally don’t mind the voice-acting and the subtitles; in fact I prefer them to what would have ended up being awful cheesy voice-acting, which would have ruined the entire game. Yakuza 3 is surprisingly deep and engaging with its plot and characters. It even manages to balance RPG elements into the fiery streets of Japan, making it much more than a Japanese GTA.

In terms of visuals, Yakuza 3 looks amazing. Physical reactions to attacks are very realistic, character models are well detailed and Tokyo/Okinawa looks authentic to the real thing. The only complaint is that you can’t really interact with a ton of the NPCs walking around, other than the ones who you can talk to or fight. The install time also takes a long time, I timed it at around 20 minutes and it didn’t really cut load times that much.

The Verdict

Yakuza 3 is an impressive game with vibrant cities, memorable characters and a simple combat system. Time will tell if Sega will start to support this series more for the Western market, but this is a step in the right direction.