Review

Yakuza 4 Review (PS3)

The history of Sega is a story full of expensive consoles, classic ad campaigns and a speedy blue hedgehog. In recent years though, the company has moved away from their older tricks and towards games unlike anything seen emerging from other publishers. One series in particular has become a poster child for this transformed Sega, the Yakuza series being one of the most inventive and enjoyable franchises currently in development. Yakuza 4 marks the second title on PS3, but can it surpass the superb quality of its predecessors?
 

The fights are as brutal as ever, the random battles in Yakuza being gang fights on the streets of Kamurocho
Neither a full RPG, nor a sandbox GTA style adventure, the Yakuza series stands alone in its recreation of the cities of Japan. The game takes place in Kamurocho, the same city as the original game, the sleaze of the red light district being seen in abundance throughout the adventure. Yakuza 4 improves upon the way the previous games in the series gave you the feeling of being in Japan, the environments here stay true to their real life counterparts, and feel as alive as ever. The impressive graphical improvements only emphasise this even more, the step up from Yakuza 3 being obvious. This is yet another example of everything that Yakuza has done well in the past, but why is it such an essential purchase?

Yakuza 4 is bonkers; full of all of the mad charm of its predecessors. The game is split into 4 distinct chapters, each with its own playable character, and each with its own ridiculous idiosyncrasies. Opening character Akiyama, who owns loans company Sky Finance, also runs his own hostess club Elise. This opens up into one of the game’s most complex minigames, where you train a hostess the art of flirtation, changing her outfit every now and again to make sure rich business men continue to spend their cash. It’s a minigame that could only appear in a game like Yakuza, one set in the heart of Japan and full of that same humour that the city is known for. This isn’t some simple extra tacked onto the story either, you can lose hours perfecting the right outfits for your guests, trying to earn enough money to repeat the process and go for record breaking evenings. This isn’t the strangest discipline you’ll be undertaking either.

The second character you play as, escaped death row inmate Saejima has his fair share of quirks during the time you play as him, but one in particular is worth mentioning. The other 3 playable characters can use their camera phones to unlock special moves from various situations they see. As Saejima doesn’t own a phone, instead he watches the action, then takes out a block of wood and carves a model he can use for inspiration. It’s worth taking the time to discover these hidden scenes just to see him do this, as it’s hilarious every single time.

Yakuza does offer more than just laughs and unexpected uses of your time though. The story is just as detailed, complex and well told as the series has been known for thus far. Cutscenes can be long, think Kojima style, but each keeps your interest through a mixture of brilliant imagery and genuinely interesting drama. With no English dub, the game retains a classic Japanese tone throughout, and the voice acting is much better than any English equivalent would have been.
 
Saejima is the least well equipped of the characters, having emerged from jail 25 years after being sent there

This sophisticated tone is one of the reasons I would recommended Yakuza 4 to any PS3 owner. It’s brutally violent, intriguing from start to finish and requires a surprisingly small amount of background knowledge. The Yakuza series has been consistently brilliant and 4 could well be the best entry yet, combining everything that makes it so quirky and original into one slick package. Is Yakuza Sega’s best series since their console days? Most definitely.

Top Game Moment: Seeing a new move to learn and getting Saejima to carve it from a block of wood is unlike anything else in games.

The history of Sega is a story full of expensive consoles, classic ad campaigns and a speedy blue hedgehog. In recent years though, the company has moved away from their older tricks and towards games unlike anything seen emerging from other publishers. One series in particular has become a poster child for this transformed Sega, the <i>Yakuza</i> series being one of the most inventive and enjoyable franchises currently in development. Yakuza 4</i> marks the second title on PS3, but can it surpass the superb quality of its predecessors?

<br /><br />

Neither a full RPG, nor a sandbox <i>GTA</i> style adventure, the <i>Yakuza</i> series stands alone in its recreation of the cities of Japan. The game takes place in Kamurocho, the same city as the original game, the sleaze of the red light district being seen in abundance throughout the adventure. <i>Yakuza 4</i> improves upon the way the previous games in the series gave you the feeling of being in Japan, the environments here stay true to their real life counterparts, and feel as alive as ever. The impressive graphical improvements only emphasise this even more, the step up from <i>Yakuza 3</i> being obvious. This is yet another example of everything that <i>Yakuza</i> has done well in the past, but why is it such an essential purchase?

<br /><br />

<i>Yakuza 4</i> is bonkers; full of all of the mad charm of its predecessors. The game is split into 4 distinct chapters, each with its own playable character, and each with its own ridiculous idiosyncrasies. Opening character Akiyama, who owns loans company Sky Finance, also runs his own hostess club Elise. This opens up into one of the game’s most complex minigames, where you train a hostess the art of flirtation, changing her outfit every now and again to make sure rich business men continue to spend their cash. It’s a minigame that could only appear in a game like <i>Yakuza</i>, one set in the heart of Japan and full of that same humour that the city is known for. This isn’t some simple extra tacked onto the story either, you can lose hours perfecting the right outfits for your guests, trying to earn enough money to repeat the process and go for record breaking evenings. This isn’t the strangest discipline you’ll be undertaking either.

<br /><br />

The second character you play as, escaped death row inmate Saejima has his fair share of quirks during the time you play as him, but one in particular is worth mentioning. The other 3 playable characters can use their camera phones to unlock special moves from various situations they see. As Saejima doesn’t own a phone, instead he watches the action, then takes out a block of wood and carves a model he can use for inspiration. It’s worth taking the time to discover these hidden scenes just to see him do this, as it’s hilarious every single time.

<br /><br />

<i>Yakuza</i> does offer more than just laughs and unexpected uses of your time though. The story is just as detailed, complex and well told as the series has been known for thus far. Cutscenes can be long, think Kojima style, but each keeps your interest through a mixture of brilliant imagery and genuinely interesting drama. With no English dub, the game retains a classic Japanese tone throughout, and the voice acting is much better than any English equivalent would have been.

<br /><br />

This sophisticated tone is one of the reasons I would recommended <i>Yakuza 4</i> to any PS3 owner. It’s brutally violent, intriguing from start to finish and requires a surprisingly small amount of background knowledge. The <i>Yakuza</i> series has been consistently brilliant and <i>4</i> could well be the best entry yet, combining everything that makes it so quirky and original into one slick package. Is <i>Yakuza</i> Sega’s best series since their console days? Most definitely.

 Seeing a new move to learn and getting Saejima to carve it from a block of wood is unlike anything else in games.


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