Kimberley Ellis
24 Mar, 2010

Yakuza 3 Review

PS3 Review | A great fusion of gaming flavours.
The Yakuza series has long been a cult franchise in Western gaming, as its unique blend of open world beat em' up action, fused with elements of role-playing gaming - and a storyline that'll make any soap opera writer green with envy - leaves many Western gamers unsure of what to make of this strange beast. Interestingly enough, it has taken 12 months for the title to get a localised release in Western nations and in a somewhat perplexing move on its publishers part, the title has found itself sandwiched between some of the PlayStation 3's hottest titles of the moment in Final Fantasy XIII and God of War III meaning that many will overlook it in favour of its newer, prettier counterparts. But for those of you that take the time to delve into what it has to offer, you'll peel back the many layers of this game to find a uniquely Japanese video game with a hell of a lot to offer.

For those not familiar with the series, Yakuza 3 is the third title which follows the exploits of Kazuma Kiryu, a former Japanese mafia boss who hangs up his dapper suit in favour of a Hawaiian shirt and a slice of the quiet life. For those overwhelmed by jumping into the this game without having played the first two, the game offers a nifty option of being able to watch a narrated video (roughly thirty minutes long) which gives you a synopsis of the two previous titles and helps you to establish an emotional connection to the characters - though be warned, if you're itching to jump head first into the action, sitting through these introductory videos will prove to be a little tiresome.

The story in Yakuza 3 picks up the action a year post the events of Yakuza 2. Here we find that Kaz has left the criminal world behind him and moved to Okinawa to open an orphanage, where Kaz plays the role of foster father to a number of local children. The early part of the game will see you navigating tasks that most parents could relate to as Kaz will find himself teaching children the value of money, confronting the school bully and dolling out dating advise in the most hilarious of fashions. While these familiar scenes may seem banal to many gamers, they serve to establish the importance of family and the traditions / moral code that Kaz lives by, making the eroding of this code even more apparent as he watches a new breed of Yakuza rise up the ranks, a breed hellbent on seeking out money and power.

Ultimately, Kaz gets pulled back into the Yakuza life when the land that Sunshine Orphanage is built on becomes the centrepiece for a turf war between high-ranking politicians and local crime families, leading him to solve problems the only way he knows how - by busting up faces.

Konnichiha Kamurocho.

Konnichiha Kamurocho.

Kaz soon leaves the comfort of his sleepy Okinawan town and heads back to the mainland to try and piece together who is trying to get their hands on his land while also dealing with power struggles within the Yakuza and the raging gang wars plaguing his old stomping ground of Kamurocho. Once you arrive in Kamurocho, you'll really begin to realise just how uniquely Japanese this game is. For those of you that do enjoy a Japanese import title or two, have a think about it. How many Japanese games have you played where the dialogue is still recorded in Japanese? How about a game that leaves the mythical creatures, giant swords and funky big hair at home in favour of a more contemporary look at Japan? Outside of Yakuza 3, you'd be hard pressed to find another title that ticks all of these boxes on the PlayStation 3. Ironically, for a game that is billed as an epic brawler, you'll find that its sense of uniqueness through its presentation and quirky fusion of gameplay style will define your experience with the title rather than the brutality of its fighting mechanics - leaving an impression on you long after you have put down the controller.

At the heart of Yakuza 3's gameplay is a highly engaging combat system, which uses a formula which is equal parts Final Fantasy and Tekken. As you move through Kamurocho you will automatically be drawn into random brawls on the street where you’ll face off against enemies (sometimes in a one-on-one battle, sometimes in an all-in brawl-style) and give them a taste of your arsekickery through a number of punches, kicks, throws and weapons in your arsenal. For each enemy you smack down, Kaz will be rewarded with experience points which can be used to purchase upgrades to his skills. These upgrades unlock a slew of new punch/kick combos, special moves, and a whole host of passive abilities (such as upgrading your health meter). As well demonstrating his martial arts prowess, Kaz is also able to pick up objects from the environment and use them in combat to whale on his opponents. Just as you would in any J-RPG, Kaz can also equip a variety of different weapons (from bicycles to flamethrowers), armour, and accessories. The fights of Yakuza 3 are fast, fluid and intense, particularly the boss battles –which will test the mettle of the best button mashers around. Though with a combination of quick-time events and some sound tactics through using of the old noodle, you won’t find any of the game’s fights to be frustratingly punishing. The only downside to the brawling aspect of the title is that the random fights can start to be annoying they feel quite samey and will often annoy you right when you’re concentrating on completing a mission task. The game also includes an element of crafting, with players able to perform modifications on their weapons and armour. While some may find it to be a fun distraction for a while, the function doesn't feel very fleshed out as players are able to complete the entire game without having to embark on the crafting process. Making players utilise this system in order to complete missions would have added some extra depth to the title.

My axe kick's gonna give you a bruise.

My axe kick's gonna give you a bruise.

It is a well-publicised fact that some content has been cut from Yakuza 3 for its Western release. The good news is, there’s so much going on in the game that at the end of the day you’re not really missing out on much. We completed the main story of the game in around 20 hours and found that we'd barely cracked 10% in the game completion stakes, that's how much content SEGA have jammed inside this game. If the main story gets a little much for you, there are dozens of side missions and shopping/entertainment venues to explore which will allow you to: chase after a sneaky crook, play arcade games (we shake our fist at you, stupid Yen stealing skill tester), go fishing, try your luck at gambling, practise your baseball swing at the batting cages or indulge in a little bit of karaoke. While some of these activities are just mindless time wasters, others actually serve a purpose. For instance, fishing allows you to make some money by selling your catch at the market, while eating at a restaurant will replenish your health, while completing side missions will increase your cash flow and bank of experience points. The bad news though is that SEGA could have done a better job of covering up the omissions, as there are unusable aspects of these additions still in the game (such as the mahjong club you can walk into, but can't actually do anything) which makes it seem like someone came along with their scissors and randomly chopped out stuff. Too be honest, it's a little sloppy coming from an experienced party such as SEGA.

For all the whinging, petitioning and all-around sulking going on over the cut content since the game's Western release, it's great to see that the edition of the title we have received is no sub-standard offering. Yes, it is disappointing that content has been cut from the game, and that has understandably upset some people, but for those of you that refuse to purchase the title because of this fact, you're doing yourself and Yakuza 3 a great disservice by not sampling what the game has to offer.

Visually, the title is a mixed bag. On one hand there is some great CGI work in the games numerous cut-scenes, and in the look of the game's main characters. But upon closer inspection of the game world, you'll come to realise that aspects of the title look relatively prehistoric. The animation and textures in many areas of the game would have been cutting edge a few years back, but now they look glaringly outdated - and quite frankly out of place - on the PlayStation 3 standards. Knowing that a Yakuza title is pumped out every twelve months in Japan makes this fact no real surprise, but it's disappointing when you compare the lovingly created Kazuma up against the jaggied criminals he fights, it gives the game an aura of being incomplete. When the game already has a language barrier for Western audiences to contend with, substandard graphics will serve as just another reason for Westerners to not embrace what Yakuza 3 has to offer and instead entice gamers to go and pick up something like the graphically stunning Uncharted 2 or God of War III.

Graphically, Yakuza 3 isn't the catch of the day.

Graphically, Yakuza 3 isn't the catch of the day.

As mentioned, those that hate subtitles should probably turn away now as Yakuza 3 has them in spades. Though this may require some extra effort on your part to get the gist of what's going on, the use of Japanese voice actors is one of the game's strongest points. Why? It's a well-known fact that the Yakuza series makes a lot of cash over in Japan and because of this fact the developer hires many big-name Japanese actors to play major characters in the game, and it definitely shows in Yakuza 3. While many big-name Hollywood actors rarely lend there voices to a title that isn't a licensed video game which pimps their movie, Japanese actors are quite up to the challenge of video game work. The standard of the voice acting on offer in this title is something rarely seen in the gaming scene (regardless of the game's origin) and you'll notice it early on when you tense up at the sounds of men shouting at each other. And by shouting we don't mean badly acting bouts of shouting, we mean blood vein bursting, eyes bulging out of your sockets intensity of shouting, a genuine conveyance of emotion that is rarely found in video games today.

At the end of the day, Yakuza 3 is like the video game equivalent of a foreign film. To those that are tempted to indulge in it, we implore you to go and judge Yakuza 3 for yourself as it serves as a great combination of brawling gameplay, mini-game compilation and light RPG. For those that are not open to the prospect of playing through a foreign title, nothing is likely to change your opinion on the matter.
The Score
Yakuza 3 is a delicious serving of bone cracking action with a dash of RPG sensibilities to boot. Those looking for a good dose of brawling action to sink some hours into should look no further. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 years ago
Been playing this game for the past 30 hours and i agree mostly with the review. The game is like going to Japan without the plane ticket. Gameplay wise, the only complaints i have is the random battles and the more obvious one, the lack of content cut from the Japanese version. Hostess bars, mahjong, shoji, massage parlours as well as the sidemissions along with it, all gone. Contrary to what Sega would lead you to believe, it IS very noticeable, when you try to go to Club Ageha and you cant interact with the building at all. As one of the biggest Yakuza fans out there, I have been very disappointed at the 30 odd side missions missing from the English version.

At the end of the day though, the quality of the game still shines through and as the review above mentioned, there is still tons of stuff to do in the game, and the mini games the games have to offer are great fun (especially the fishing and pool). The storyline although familiar if you have played one of the previous games in the Yakuza series on the PS2, is still fantastic.

I may be a Yakuza fanatic, but the game is the first title in about a year that has had me playing a video game until 5am in the morning which is testamount to how great this game is. To all of you interested out there that didnt get this game a week ago due to God Of War 3 and FFXIII, pick this game up as IMO, most FF fans will dig this game more than FFXIII. All i can hope is that Sega release the missing content as free DLC over the next month or two as i would love to experience this game like it was originally intended
4 years ago
Great review, thank you Kimberley.

I purchased this game on release date and, unfortunately, have only put a couple of hours into it (you know, with all the other major titles that have come out). But, those hours were filled with indepth meaningful conversations on life, choices, consequences and some good old fashion ass kicking.

I've hardly scratched the surface, but this game is deep, very deep. I'm new to Yakuza, this is my first, but the game has some lengthy summaries of the previous two titles that help get the player up to speed. It's very plot heavy and wordy, but I personally prefer the Japanese voices and English subtitles, its more true to form and involving. If you enjoyed Shenmue (like I did, go Dreamcast!), then I can recommend this title.

Thank you SEGA for localising this for western audiences and I look forward to Yakuza 4 icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
This game is awesome. Also bought it on release day (after loving the demo) and have so far sunk about 10 hours into it (would have been far more if my ps3 hadn't gotten a yellow light...). I've thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, even if some of the story is a little soapish sometimes ("We didn't eat yet because we were waiting for Izumi.... We're family!!"). Like the review said there's enough going on that I really don't miss the edited content (altho obviously I'd prefer it to be in there but it's a small price to pay considering how close it came to not being released here). Still, I can see this game isn't for everyone, with it's dated (but charming, to me at least) graphics and a not quite as open as GTA world, but I urge people to at least try the demo and if you like what you see snap it up, this will be one of those games that will be very hard to find in a couple months time.
4 years ago
Hey guys, is it just me or has Sega been on a roll lately icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
ill be playing this right after i finish heavy rain and yakuza 2. can't wait!
4 years ago
Do I need to play other Yakuza games before this one or can I jump right in?
4 years ago
RXWAG wrote
Do I need to play other Yakuza games before this one or can I jump right in?
There are 2 videos you can watch that are accessible through the main menu that fills you in on what happened in Yakuza 1 and 2. They explain the story pretty well I think.

Good review! I've only just started playing this and I'm really enjoying it. I've even put down GoWIII for a little bit just to play it (when I'm not playing BFBC2 that is). There are really a lot of things to do in this game which just makes playing it even more fun and should make the game last for a long time. Hopefully we can get a Yakuza 4 release in the future too!
4 years ago
Jahanzeb wrote
Hey guys, is it just me or has Sega been on a roll lately icon_smile.gif
Seems so. Funny what happens when you listen to your core audience. Now, only if they could let me unleash some rage, make some crazy money, jam it with Earl, slay some dragons in their trap or chase a psycho fox icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
Great game, hope Yakuza 4 hits Oz shores
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  11/03/2010 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
  SEGA Australia
  Action Adventure
Year Made:

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