|Release: March 13, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol|
by Josh Engen
Is anyone else starting to get worried that the recent influx of zombie-related media is going to cause the genre to flame out? I mean, zombies have been a mainstay on the horror scene since the beginning of time, but suddenly everyone on earth is playing a zombie game, watching some zombie show, or reading a crappy zombie book. And, if the rules about candy apply to zombie games, consuming too many will eventually ruin your teeth.
Either way, SEGA has decided to cash in on the zombie craze by shoe-horning an army of those lovable brain-eaters into their upcoming Yakuza sequel. Yakuza: Dead Souls is the 6th installment of the sometimes-phenomenal series, and promises to be a strange departure from the bedrock of the previous titles.
Players are dropped into the middle of a zombie outbreak in the fictional district of Kamurocho. For some reason, the citizens of Kamurocho have a sudden taste for brains and the Japanese authorities haven't been able to slow them down. After a few failed attempts by the Japanese police and military, only four men are left to defend the city.
Fans of the Yakuza series will be happy to know that Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima will once again be returning to the spotlight. Majima has been a mainstay, although previously unplayable, throughout the franchise's history and Kiryu has been the primary protagonist since the first Yakuza title hit PS2s in 2005. Ryuji Goda, a fan favorite from Yakuza 2, and Shun Akiyama of Yakuza 4 round out the character list.
I think it's probably important to keep reminding ourselves that Dead Souls is more of a spinoff than a fully-fledged sequel. It looks and feels very much like the previous releases, but it doesn't really have the same nucleus.
Arguably the biggest difference between Dead Souls and the preceding releases is its newfound obsession with guns. In the past, gunplay was an anomaly, but in Dead Souls, it's the principle way to dispose of zombies. Now, if there were a valid reason to take a more hands-off approach to your killing, it would have to be zombies. But by refocusing the fight system, SEGA is refocusing the game itself.
Now, this isn't to say that firearms are the only weapons in the game. SEGA has peppered in a small arsenal of other weapon types, but it's mostly to keep things interesting, not because they are genuinely useful.
And actually, the storyline may suffer from the same disease as the weaponry. In the past, fans could expect an intricately woven adventure from their Yakuza game. But in Dead Souls, the storyline has undergone a type of zombification similar to, well, pretty much every zombie title ever released.
For instance, the reason that the Zombie modes in Call of Duty have been so popular isn't because they're so well written; it's because they contain a lot of zombies. The storyline is relatively unimportant.
Good or bad, the same is true for Dead Souls. Every single problem can be distilled down to a single cause: there are a lot of zombies. So the game is locked into a pretty repetitive cycle: 1. find a bunch of zombies. 2. shoot the zombies. 3. repeat.
Now, just to be clear, I'm not actually complaining here. Mindless storylines and killing endless waves of zombies will always be among my favorite things, but hardcore Yakuza fans might be expecting something entirely different when they tear off the shrink-wrap. If you think of it as a zombie game, Dead Souls is a nearly perfect little title, but if you think of it as a Yakuza game, it probably won't deliver what you'd expect.
That being said, SEGA did hold on to one of the most defining features of the Yakuza franchise: the minigames. As players explore Kamurocho, they'll run across several side missions, bars, and clubs. And, just like in the previous games, you'll find yourself getting suckered into a game of darts, ping pong, a fight, or karaoke. These distractions definitely add to the familiar Yakuza flavor that Dead Souls might have been lacking.
If you're a long time fan of the series, Yakuza: Dead Souls will satisfy an itch that you haven't been able to scratch for a while. However, it definitely doesn't entirely feel like a Yakuza title, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But if you're a zombie fan, Dead Souls may just become your new favorite game.
CCC Contributing Writer