We were excited. We've wanted to play Yakuza 3 for a long, long time and finally we got to go hands-on. It took about five minutes and then it dawned on us. "Dude, we're playing Yakuza 3."
SEGA's hesitation to release Yakuza 3 in the West rings loud in much of the game's design. This is Japanese, and it feels a far-cry from current Western Playstation 3 titles like, ooh, Uncharted 2. Granted, they're not really comparative, but Western games feel so different in terms of presentation now, it's almost jarring to see big text bubbles pop up on the screen as you come face to face with the various NPCs that flesh out Yakuza's sandbox-esque city.
Yakuza 3 is a year old, but it still looks reasonably pretty for its age. Facial features are well defined, with the lip-syncing favourably matching the words being uttered. That's not to say the game is comparable with a game like Uncharted 2, but it maintains a favourable charm, especially those who are enticed by the almost-futuristic looking sights of a modern-day Japan.
Our hands-on saw a group of ladies being ushered from a club. Apparently a private party's taking place inside, but this don't look like a party at all. It's not long after our grand entrance we're engaged in fisty-cuffs with the demo's antagonist. Aside from Yakuza 3's exploration, the bulk of the gameplay revolves around stark fighting segments. These segments have you initiating attacks with Square and Triangle, with grab moves attached to the Circle button. What's most awesome, and kinda brutal, about Yakuza 3 is that you can pick up practically any items around you. Cue lots of head smashing with bar-stools given our club-setting.
The fight's actually rather challenging, but after a few attempts we nail it and take a look around our surroundings. In a way, Yakuza 3 feels kind of archaic, and the Japanese design may put some off, but it's hard to deny the lure of rushing around a Japanese city and taking part in a spot of karaoke before beating up a host of guys.
It'll probably take some patience to get into, but Yakuza 3 already feels like the real-deal. Which is unsurprising seeing as it's actually 12-months old.
It hits next month.