Yakuza 3 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Yakuza 3 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Cant’ Keep a Good Clan Down

The Yakuza series is the evolution of the street brawler. Playing through the beat-’em-up scenarios on the city streets of Tokyo and the island of Okinawa in Yakuza 3, I couldn’t help but recall childhood summer hours and allowances lost to games such as Double Dragon and Bad Dudes at the boardwalk arcade. Without a doubt, the previously mentioned Data East classics, along with SEGA’s more recent Streets of Rage console franchise, shaped Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi’s concept, giving modern gamers a taste of the old-school love.

Yakuza 3 screenshot

Of course, tired brawler tropes such as linear side-scrolling, a lack of real combos, poor/non-existent storytelling, and the inability to customize your character(s) have all gone out the window in Yakuza 3. This contemporary beat-’em-up drops players into a semi-open world, gives you a few fun combos to execute, retells a surprisingly interesting narrative, and rewards your grinding with ever-improving skills and talents.

Yakuza 3 continues the story of Kazuma Kiryu. This time, rather than duking it out exclusively on the tough streets of Tokyo and Osaka, Kazuma finds himself on the island of Okinawa (of Karate Kid fame) protecting the children of the Morning Glory orphanage. That’s right; the “selfish” Yakuza life proved to be unsatisfactory to this former orphan-turned-Tojo Clan chairman, preferring to move away from his enemies to take up a more meaningful existence as the head of a sleepy island orphanage. Unfortunately, politics soon get in the way, forcing Kazuma to once again brawl his way to justice. While I know this recap seems a bit on the goofy side, the story told in Yakuza 3 is actually pretty engaging; certainly it does more than enough to prop up the somewhat repetitive action gameplay.

Yakuza 3 screenshot

As you might expect from a brawler, you’re going to be mashing a lot of buttons. Throughout the game, you’ll enter into set-piece fights against bosses and their underlings. These fights make up the majority of gameplay in Yakuza 3. You can kind of think of them as Tekken-like bouts, but without the same depth of combos found in the Tekken franchise. It’s unfortunate but true; the combat in Yakuza 3 can get dull if you try to rush straight through the game. This game is quite fun, but it’s best enjoyed over a handful of sessions due to its lack of complexity.

Even so, there are a number of ways to kick enemy-butt, including the ability to use objects from the environment (chairs, tables, bicycles, pool cues, etc.), guard against and evade enemy attacks, pull off finishing moves, and tap into special ‘Heat’ powers, that’ll put a smile on your face.

While most of the time you’ll just be hammering the Square button, being able to tap Triangle to perform headbutts, wall smashes, and head stomps keeps you feeling like a badass. Moreover, building up your ‘Heat’ meter will let you pull off special moves – talents you’ll acquire by dumping experience points into new skills – which enhances the fighting experience a bit more.

Yakuza 3 screenshot

Yes, Yakuza 3 goes beyond the standard beat-’em-up conventions by letting you improve Kazuma over time. By taking out baddies, you’ll be rewarded with cash and experience that can be put toward purchasing new items, crafting goodies, and improving and refining your fighting skills. While this customization and leveling mechanic is nowhere near as complex as you’d find in a JRPG, there are enough options and important, game-changing upgrades to make the fighting grind that often sets in more than bearable.

Things aren’t all action-packed in Yakuza 3, though; this game is heavy on story. If you’re a gamer that can’t deal with long cutscenes (all of which are in Japanese), you might find your enjoyment of the title diminished significantly. For me, I was happy to read along with the cinematics, and I found they actually piqued my interest in the title. This is a good thing because there’s nearly 300 minutes of cutscenes to wade through, including a terse plot synopsis for both Yakuza and Yakuza 2. These cutscenes are mostly well done, with character models looking especially crisp. That said, the environments are sorely lacking detail, making Yakuza 3 a fairly ugly title when compared to practically all other PS3 exclusives out there.

Yakuza 3 screenshot

Another issue players might find disconcerting is the unvoiced portions of cutscenes. For some reason, cutscenes often get chopped up by text streams accompanied by no other sounds than the repeating click-click-click found in Japanese handheld games and console titles from yesteryear. These vignettes are in stark contrast to the movie-like cinema scenes, which really disrupts the immersion. Why the devs felt they needed to add them, other than serving as an homage to the brawler roots, is beyond me.

Despite the often lackluster visuals, the fictional zones of Kamurocho (Tokyo) and Ryukyugai (Okinawa) still manage to bring across a very Japanese experience. Just as GTA’s Liberty City is a wonderful analog to NYC, players will be transported to the seedy underbelly of Japan in Yakuza 3; from the humorous fast food chains and bright city lights to the tourist-friendly sandy beaches and thug-filled alleys, Yakuza 3 robes you in Japanese culture by being true to the real-world setting.

Finally, the game is chocked full of extra elements that players can get into. Beyond main missions and even sub-stories, there are a lot of things to explore and collect in the open-world setting. Literally, you could nearly double the length of the game by talking to all the people and focusing in on padding your Trophy count. What’s more, there are several levels of difficulty if you find combat to be particularly enjoyable.

Certainly Yakuza 3 has a lot going for it. However, it’s still a niche title that will only truly appeal to a rather narrow audience. If you’re expecting a Japanese take on GTA, guess again. If you want pure action, you’ll be bored to tears by the lengthy cutscenes. If you’re hoping for complex, RPG-like leveling mechanics, you’ll be disappointed. Yakuza 3 is a quirky hodgepodge of various genres that rewards the patient japanophile looking to kick a little ass. For everyone else, if Yakuza 3 never sounded particularly cool to you, you can easily let this one pass.

The character models look great and the environments are immersive, but not enough textures and details are on hand to make it seem like a next-gen release. 4.4 Control
Locking onto enemies and kicking their asses is a breeze. Running around the open-world is a little less clean. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
I liked the background music and the sound of the Japanese voiceover. However, the unvoiced portions of cutscenes and the inability to adjust the sound settings through the options menu are knocks. 3.5 Play Value
There’s a lot to do but it can get repetitive and even feel tedious. This title really doesn’t have widespread appeal. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Rich Stories to Tell: Japanese author Masayoshi Yokoyama returns to deliver the next chapter of Yakuza bringing the game to life through a rich cast of characters and dozens of stories. All told across over 100 missions and engaging mini-games featuring original Japanese voice cast to ensure the authenticity fans have come to expect.
  • Ultimate Street Brawls: Seamlessly transition into intense fights more brutal than ever before thanks to the improved fighting engine and the power of the PlayStation 3. By stringing together a combination of fighting moves, players can unleash devastating moves to take out multiple enemies simultaneously or use objects in the environment as weapons.
  • Real-world Immersion: Discover the authentic, sandy beaches of Okinawa or travel to the neon-lit adult playgrounds of Tokyo. Become a regular at nightclubs, restaurants, and real-world stores to uncover hidden truths and gain access to side missions.
  • New ways to Explore: With new locations to venture through, the all-new free camera mode and high energy chase battles, Yakuza 3 offers an unprecedented level of exploration and interaction not seen in the franchise before.
  • The Yakuza series is the brainchild of Toshihiro Nagoshi. Along with the Yakuza saga, Toshihiro also created the beloved Super Monkey Ball series and has worked on other well known SEGA games such as Daytona USA, F-Zero GX, and Spikeout.

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