Yakuza 3 Review
Posted by Sammy Barker
Yakuza 3 once again focuses on the Fourth Chairman of the Tojo Clan, Kazuma Kiryu
The slow paced opening has Kazuma running an orphanage in Okinawa. However, a series of shootings and the overbearing polictical activity taking place in Tokyo sees Kazuma return to Kamurocho in search of a traitor within the Tojo Clan.
Yakuza 3's main storyline will take around 12 hours to complete, but there are enough sub-quests in the game to take the average player anywhere upwards of 50 hours.
As Yakuza 3 is an inherently Japanese game, designed for Japanese players, you're guaranteed a different experience here. The game is essentially a marriage of numerous classic SEGA franchises included Streets Of Rage, Shenmue and Virtua Fighter. It also has Grand Theft Auto and JRPG overtones. The game's pacing is significantly slower than other games of its kind, as you spend the opening four or five hours looking after the children living at your orphanage. It's a charming and inviting opening to the game, with threats hinted in the developing narrative and opening prologue. Let's be clear: Yakuza 3s opening will not draw everyone in, but those looking to be eased into the later action will find the charming sequence of missions where you go clothes shopping and fishing a delightful change from the action-driven experiences elsewhere on PS3. And there's absolutely a market for that.
In many ways Yakuza 3 looks a bit dated — the animations are stiff and the physics within the environment are non-existent. But then, this is an old game. It launched in 2009 in Japan. That doesn't mean you should take anything away from Yakuza 3's stunning environments though — each one meticulously crafted with superb attention to detail. If you're the kind of person who has an appreciation for Japanese city-centres, you'll be delighted with Yakuza 3's breathing environments.
What's most fascinating about Yakuza 3 is that the game is packed with submission content, meaning the world rarely feels empty as there's always something to discover within it. The substories aren't your token "fetch" missions either (though there are some examples of that), as they often provide their own unique narrative. A true example of a sub-story. Given that there are over 600 submissions to complete within Yakuza 3, our one complaint would be that there's not a decent method within the game's menus for keeping track of them all.
There's a complete family tree-esque character relationship file within Yakuza 3, allowing you to keep track of the game's structured relationships. What's most impressive is that there's clearly been a lot of consideration put into the game's cast, as each character has their own personality, back-story and quirks. It adds to the immersion of being part of a real Japanese city, and while the illusion isn't always construed through the canned conversation of some of the game's less important characters, the majority of the "key" cast are incredibly deep.
In contrast to Yakuza 3's exploration elements, a big part of the gameplay is Virtua Fighter-esque brawling. Here you attack with the Square button while initiating finishers with Triangle and grabs with Circle. It's not the most complex brawling mechanic you're likely to find, but it works in the context, and the fighting feels satisfying with finishers providing great visual rewards. Weapons are also a key-part of Yakuza 3, allowing access to a seemingly never-ending range of moves and finishers. Interestingly, completed fights are rewarded with EXP which, like an RPG, allows you to upgrade your range of attacks and generally become tougher.
From the very first cut-scene in Yakuza 3, you know it's a game made by SEGA. The oceans are a mass of over-saturated blues, clashing with a lighter hue in the sky and bright, fluffy clouds. It's a stark contrast, as Yakuza 3 is a pretty mature game. But from a artistic stance, it's 101% SEGA. Thank goodness for a company who continue to appreciate a complete colour palette in a high definition game.
Yakuza 3's achingly Japanese plot about corrupt government officials and seaside resorts is heavily soap opera inspired, but in a way has its own very engaging charm. The game's collection of interesting characters and ridiculous twists keeps you hooked. It's also quite a comical game, if not always intentionally so.
Make no doubt about it - there's a reason Yakuza 3 has taken so long to get localised and that's because it's an extremely niche product. Everything from the pacing, to the setting, to the design is fairly alien to a Western gamer, and that's perhaps where it gets much of its charm. It's not going to appeal to everyone, but those who do check it out are likely to fall in love.
When you put Yakuza 3 next to something like inFamous or Assassin's Creed, it looks very clunky. Granted, that's a weak comparison to make as they are all different games — but there's something about Yakuza 3's animation and visuals that make it look a bit canned. In contrast, the character models are fantastic. It's just when they start moving that the illusion's broken.
It's essentially the variety of Yakuza 3's world that make it so engaging. The relatively small open-world environment is literally teeming with side-missions and mini-games, all of which complement the soap opera-esque plot driving the adventure.