Review by Niebeer
"The Dragon of Dojima finally returns to the West!"
Finally, after nearly a year of being exclusive in Japan, the rest of the world gets to play Yakuza 3. Although it does have some cut content (which actually gave the game alot of much needed publicity), the game is still huge and definitely worth playing!
Once again, Yakuza 3 is centered on Kiryu Kazuma, former yakuza who now runs a orphanage in Okinawa. However, the land his orphanage is on is about to be turned into a resort, as well as a military base. At the same time, Daigo, the sixth chairman of the Tojo Clan (the clan that Kazuma belonged to) is shot. Kazuma decides to go back to Kamurocho (a ficitionalized recreation of Kabukicho, Tokyo) to figure out how the two situations are connected, and to protect the children he cares for.
The story is very well presented in this game, and do give your fights alot of meaning. Its not the greatest story ever told and you probably will see some of the twists coming, but its still an enjoyable ride. The cutscenes are well directed with solid japanese voice acting, but alot of the longer cutscenes switch to text in the middle of them. It does somewhat interrupt the flow, but its not a major issue, just a minor inconvenience.
Alot of characters from the previous games do appear, but do not fear if you have not played the previous games. The game does include a recap for both Yakuza 1 and 2, so newcomers will not be lost. So if you haven't played the previous two games, don't let that stop you from playing this!
The game is a year old, and it shows. While the main characters look great in cutscenes, the graphics arent as great as some games that came out recently (mainly Final Fantasy 13 and God of War 3). Still, the game runs very smoothly and Kazuma has some great animated moves, as well as most of the Bosses you fight in the game. The cities (Kamurocho in Tokyo and Ryukyu in Okinawa) look very realistc and have ALOT of people walking around in them, most of them looking different. Both cities have a distinct feel to them, with Kamurocho being the more urban area, whereas Ryukyu is laid back, doesnt have as much of a crowd as Kamurocho.
Lets start with the voice acting! Its all in japanese, and very well done. There is no english dub, which shouldn't be much of a problem if you are interested in this game. Its only fitting for a game thats set in japan that all characters talk japanese. The music is solid, the battle themes will get you pumping, and the really important fights have some really epic music, especially near the end. While you are strolling around in the city, there is usually no music, but you can hear the crowd and it does not feel dull. Sound effects are great: Kazuma's punches sound like they break bones immediately, weapons all sound realistic and so on.
The game is a blast to play. Its a beat'em up with RPG elements. You'll be fighting alot of people, whether its a random encounter on the street or a story mission. After each fight you gain expirience points which you can then use to upgrade one of Kiryu's 4 attributes. Leveling up means you gain new abilities to use in combat, and Kiryu does get stronger and faster during the game. You have got your basic punch/kick combos of varied length, throws , and you also get Heat moves, which use up the Heat bar underneath your Health bar. Heat is gained through executing succesful attacks, and lost when you are hit. You can also block and sidestep. The coolest part of the fights are definitely the Heat moves, which require you to be in Heat mode, and you have to meet the condition of the Heat move. So for example: you have got the first Heat bar filled meaning you entered heat mode, and throw the enemy on the ground. While the enemy is on the ground, you'll be able to press triangle which starts the Heat move, where Kazuma brutally stomps on the poor guy's face. Leveling up and other actions in the game will give you additional Heat attacks, all of them ruthless and satisfying. One of my personal favourites is a move, which requires Kazuma to pull out a cigarette and smoke it. Then, when the enemy tries to attack, you can counter with the Cigarette Heat move, where Kazuma flicks the cigarette at the guys face and then delivers a devastating counter punch! Truly badass. Weapons do also play a role in combat, either mundane items in the area you are fighting with, or weapons you bought, such as Tonfas, Staffs, Nunchakus, Katanas, Daggers and so on. They degrade with each use, but they are powerful and they also have their own heat moves.
The game would be pretty short if it only entailed fighting and cutscenes. In between, you are free to roam the city, whether it is Kamurocho or Ryukyu. There are plenty of sidequests for you to do, which give you more expirience, and more expirience means more awesome moves for Kazuma! You can go to restaurants to eat, which recovers health and gives you some expirience. You can go play darts, bowling, hit the batting cages, do some karaoke, visit a strip club, hit the arcades, participate in underground tournaments (including tag team matches) learn moves from other masters...the list goes on! Its easy to get sidetracked from the story just to do other stuff, mainly because the game is just so damn fun. It took me 27 hours to beat the game, and I plan to continue playing it! There is still alot of sidequests I haven't finished, and alot of moves I haven't even seen!
A huge controversy regarding the western release is the cuts that were made. Gone from the japanese version and the previous two games that got released here, are the hostess clubs, where you could have dinner with hostesses, and try to romance them. Each girl also got a sidequest once you finish romancing them, and at the end of it, Kiryu does spend a night with them, although offscreen. Personally, I wasn't bothered by the lack of hostess clubs since it doesnt really detract from the story nor did we lose any cool moves. Another cut is the lack of shogi and mahjong, minigames that I dont miss since I never understood either of them. Also, I can see why someone, or other long time yakuza fans would be angry at these cuts because they were in previous games, and Sega did announce the cuts way too late. However, if you haven't played a Yakuza game before this, you wouldnt notice these cuts. Even with the cuts, the game still has alot for you to do! None of the cuts affect the story, and you can still date girls...although it feels really tacked on.
I haven't had this much fun with a game for a while. The story keeps you going, the fights are awesome, the city feels alive and there is alot of content. The game is really replayable, with multiple difficulty levels and a New Game+ option, which lets you import all your items and levels gained. You can also change the difficulty when you start a New game+. Despite the cuts, I feel the game is still huge. I can't recommend this game enough, to newcomers or fans of the previous two games.
Hopefully the game does well enough to warrant a release of Yakuza 4 in the west!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/24/10
Game Release: Yakuza 3 (US, 03/09/10)
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