Yakuza 4 Review
- Posted March 29th, 2011 at 13:43 EDT by Steven Williamson
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Yakuza 4 is the thinking man's brawler. Grab a drink, preferably in a very large glass, settle down and immerse yourself in the violent neon-lit streets of Kamurocho. Give it a chance and you'll find it hard to put down.
- The engrossing storyline and brilliant character building
- The chance to play as four different characters, which adds combat variety and replay value
- The immersive game world that charms with its odd side-quests, mini-games and brutal combat.
- The familiar backdrop of Kamurocho is starting to look a little stale
- Lots of combat animations taken straight from Yakuza 3
You’ve got to admire how Sega has yet to pander to western tastes and mass appeal by watering-down the quirky, Japanese-flavoured Yakuza experience. Some six years after its original debut in Japan, Yakuza is still a sprawling, action adventure full of bizarre mini-games, violent combat and cinematic quick time events (QTEs.) Likewise, its storyline is still rich with the country’s history of the infamous Yakuza gangs, while its colourful aesthetic and unorthodox side-quests represent the colourful culture of its people perfectly. From Japan’s obsession with karaoke and girls in school uniform, right down to the captivating, quintessential Japanese soundtrack - made up purely from home-grown musical talent - Yakuza 4 couldn’t be more Japanese if it tried; and it’s all the more better for it.
The dubbed English translation of character's voices in the first Yakuza game was quite horrible, but in Yakuza 2 the authentic Japanese experience was complete with a cast of believable characters that spoke in their native language. These authentic characters worked perfectly alongside the eccentric gameplay and brutal violence. It’s really this combination of the Japanese experience and hard-hitting combat - as well as the enticing neon-lit location (based on Tokyo’s Kabukichō district) - which makes the Yakuza series a cult favourite among many gamers. Yakuza 4 slots quite comfortable into that same cult classic bracket without ever really breaking a sweat, or trying too hard to be any different to its predecessors. As such, Yakuza 4 is essentially Yakuza as you probably already know it; a familiar and enjoyable mish-mash of brawler, Japanese eccentricities and general oddness.
In Yakuza 4, players once again venture out onto the dangerous streets of Kamurochô. This is a place where noodle bars and movie theatres sit side by side next to the city’s more seedy sights, including love hotels, gambling arenas and hostess bars. Combining exploration, combat and crazy mini-games, Yakuza 4 follows the same formula of previous games, but it opens up the existing neighbourhood with some brand new rooftop areas and an underground location where you can access the shopping arcades and city’s parking lots.
To the naked eye not much has changed visually from Yakuza 3. Disappointingly, Sega hasn’t come close to pushing the power of the PlayStation 3’s GPU, but Kamurochô is still a dazzlingly bright, effervescent city and an appealing place to explore. The fact that you never really know what you're going to be doing next - whether it be scouting for girls at the hostess bar, chasing a punk down a side alley after stealing your wallet, or fishing for eel and prawn in the middle of night – is part of Yakuza's appeal. Fortunately, the game largely paces itself well between lengthy cut-scenes and the ability to explore or take part in one of the dozens of fights you'll inevitably get caught up in.
Though gameplay will be instantly familiar to fans of the series, the big change this year lies largely in the storyline, and the fact that you can now play with one of four characters. Yakuza 4 is already likely to take up 20 hours+ (a conservative estimate) of gameplay time, so the replay value is taken to an unprecedented level with these four new story arcs. And it really is worth exploring these different characters. All four stories intertwine, and although it takes some time to get there, the way that each character’s destiny links and how everything comes together proves to be a real highlight. By playing through individually with each of these characters you get to experience one of the finest aspects of any Yakuza game – its colourful characters and the way the writers draw you into the game world so incredibly well.
It isn't always easy going, though. Yakuza 4 is just like the other games in the series in which you need to invest a lot of time to get the full experience. This largely involves sitting through reams of un-skippable text translated into English from Japanese. For some people this will undoubtedly be a really hard grind, especially when you hit sections where Sega has over-complicated things and characters just jabber away for the sake of it, adding nothing at all to the plot. Stick with it though, ... (continued on next page) ----