Of the three Yakuza games that have launched on the PlayStation in the past, not much has changed. Yakuza 4 hasn't changed much either - instead it's tweaked one pivotal element that separates it from its predecessors. Here, Kazuma Kiryu is no longer the lead protagonist - instead he shares that privilege with three other characters. That's a big departure for the franchise.
- Characters. With Kazuma Kiryu not the only character to-hand in Yakuza 4, the franchise's traditional combat has been mixed up some to give these characters there own identity. Convict Taiga Saejima is much slower but stronger than his counter-parts, while cop Masayoshi Tanimura has some new grappling moves. Homeless Shun Akiyama is quick and agile, and finally Kazume Kiryu is the all-rounder with a mix of speed and combat. Each of these characters have their own intertwining campaign, giving Yakuza, for the first-time, a sense of immediacy and variation.
- Heat moves. As you fight in Yakuza you're able to build up a power-bar known as the "Heat Gauge". New characters means new Heat Finishers, so instead of getting bored slamming people's faces against walls, you're now able to suplex opponents, among a host of other new moves. SEGA's also redone the animations that accompany these moves, so you'll be able to watch faces crash into objects with some satisfaction.
- The full game. Yakuza 4 will add subtitles to the already excellent Japanese voice acting just like Yakuza 3. Unlike Yakuza 3, however, Yakuza 4 will not be a rush-job. That means no content from the original game will be cut. Thankfully! Hostess clubs will remain in tact, allowing you to flirt with various ladies and buy them goodies. Even with content missing, Yakuza 3 was super-huge, so we dread to think how many hours we're going to pile in Yakuza 4. But at the same time, we can't wait.