|Dev: CS1 Team|
|Release: March 15, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p|
When the game isn't telling a great story, the experience is only so-so. Bashing street punks with a bicycle is great fun, but the combat is boring. Rather than the free-wheeling combat Western gamers have been used to for years in games like GTA, Yakuza 4 features random encounters. Every once in a while when you're running along the streets somebody will stop you and engage you in a short fight. Usually these are mere exercises in seeing just how badly you can beat up common punks. The fighting system itself is fun though, and resembles a simple fighting game not unlike older Tekken games.
Yet again, the fighting system is wrapped in some frustration. Just moving around the city can be frustrating due to the mini-map and camera controls. It's just a cultural difference, but regardless of the cause it may still dampen the experience for you. The problem is that the "sight cone" on the mini-map that shows which direction you're looking isn't dependent on the camera's direction. Instead it shows which way the character is looking. It's a subtle difference, but one that will likely annoy those steeped in Western games.
Playing Yakuza 4 is a bit like looking at a piece of foreign art that just isn't your style. You have a sense that it's beautiful, but no matter how hard you try, you are never really be able to get it. North American gamers will have a hard time getting into Yakuza 4. If "Japanese" can be used as an adjective, it's even more Japanese than Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy. Its design sensibilities are uncompromisingly Japanese. That makes it so much more engaging as a piece of art in an age when Japanese game design is being infected by the need to appeal to the West ala Dead Rising. However, that also – by definition – makes it a less enjoyable experience for a Westerner.
If you're looking for something completely different, then Yakuza 4 will give that to you in spades. However, do not go into this game expecting it to be a familiar game with a unique Yakuza-based plot. This may be one of the last games of its ilk to make it to North American shores. If you're a fan of this type of game, then you are obliged to run out and buy it. Advertise it to your friends and spread the word. It's do-or-die for Japanese game design
CCC Freelance Writer