Yakuza 4 Review (PS3)

Game Review: Yakuza 4
Release: March 15, 2011
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: SEGA
Players: 1
MSRP: $59.95
ESRB Rating: M

The mean streets of Kamurocho are rife with the Yakuza, Japan’s equivalent of the Mafia. The lives of four men are intertwined on these streets; Kazuma Kiryu, Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, and Masayoshi Tanimura will all affect each other’s lives in SEGA’s long running Yakuza series. Does Yakuza 4 make up for past transgressions with this new, nearly-unmodified sequel, or is it just a crime waiting to happen?

Yakuza 4 comes after the Yakuza 3 debacle, with much of the content cut that SEGA believed wouldn’t appeal to Americans. It also comes out at the time of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which have put spin-off title Yakuza Of The End in question in Japan, given it’s setting in a post-apocalyptic Kamurocho. The game franchise, for the uninitiated, can be considered Japan’s take on the Grand Theft Auto games. In them, you dive into the criminal underworld while at the same time, taking part in sidequests, minigames, and the like.

The main gameplay, outside of talking to people to advance the plot, is a fighting game. Each of the four characters have their different fighting styles, able to purchase and acquire new moves as you level up from fighting. A HEAT meter builds up as you fight, grapple moves let you throw your enemies around, taunts power up your HEAT meter and make your enemies fearful, and you can always take a swig of an energy drink or down a rice ball to up your strength or rage during the middle of a battle.

The game has a quality, if not predictable, story, with some plot points being predictable, and the air of a good crime noir story riding throughout. The action, for the most part, interacts well with the story, and times will boil down to where you wander the streets of Kamurocho looking for a fight (and usually won’t have to wait too long). There’s enough to distract yourself with if you don’t want to (or can’t figure out how to) advance the plot, and it moves snappily enough if you just what to fly through the main story. The game comes with the DLC that was released later in Japan, but oddly enough as a redeemable code. Whether this is a factor against selling used copies or just a remnant of it being DLC in Japan is unknown; either way, it’s included.

While it’s understandable that the game’s not dubbed (given the sheer amount of voice dialogue and possible backlash a poor dub could receive), there’s tons of inconsequential dialogue that’s not translated. While none of it is required for actions or plot, it would be nice to know what people are yelling or cheering as you pass by. One moment early in the game has a man seeing the underwear of a girl; while the scene is subtitled, minor knowledge of Japanese knows that he mutters “red” and she responds with “pervert”; even in a subtitled scene, it misses these bits.

When it comes to actual gameplay, things seem to grind to a halt when you have to deal with the hostess segments. While players bemoaned the absence of the segments from it’s predecessor, they partly don’t gel with the main crime-based gameplay. It throws things for a loop when, one second, you’re fighting thugs on the mean streets, and the next you’re playing a high-graphic version of Barbie’s Fashion Makeover.

Yakuza 4 offers a nice diversion from the True Crimes and Grand Theft Autos that focus on the Mafia and thuggery, and instead gives a look at the Japanese world of illicit businesses. While the game has come nearly complete to America, one part that’s here doesn’t honestly improve the fun of the game. The game tackles enough genres and does them well, all held together by a pretty good story. If you’re looking for a new take on the criminal underworld, it’s worth a run through these streets.

  • Fun fighting engine
  • Great cohesive story
  • Hostess segments slow the game

Final Score:

8 out of 10

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