Sun, 20 May 2007
by: Australian Ninja
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Ah, Japanese organised crime. Who among us can say we haven't tried to put out a hit on someone at one time or another. Maybe someone cheated on you with your Mother's Brother's Uncle?
Put out a hit. Someone baked your Level 50 pet Pokemon into a Pikachu Pie? Put out a hit. It solves all the problems in the world, except for when the cops come a calling - but you can just put out a hit on them too - it's a win-win situation.
Yakuza is a third person beat 'em up set in Japan, with a reasonable story and various side missions in addition to the core game. The lead character Kazuma goes away to prison, then ten years later he is back with a vengeance, to beat up helpless street punks and help a whiny little girl. The game was created by some obscure company called SEGA, whom I think used to make games about a decomposing rat or something that could run really really fast, possibly.
The main game has Kazuma running around the streets of Tokyo engaging in frequent battles with street thugs on your way to the 'trigger cut scene' point for the next storyline mission. Kazuma recently got out of prison, so has catching up to do with old 'friends' in the outside world. During the course of the game you will beat up poorly dressed fashion disasters such as the humble Goon, Punks with low self-esteem, the always crafty Onlooker and of course some actual Mafia -pretty much the kind of cannon-fodder tough guys you'd encounter in any typical old game such as Final Fight.
Unlike the old daze beat 'em though - in Yakuza you have a map to run around, shops to visit, items to buy and side quests to complete in addition to the main storyline game. These features may be nothing new, but they are certainly implemented better than in similar format games such as Final Fight Streetwise or that other B grade Capcom game Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance
|"Coming up it's an all new episode of Kazuma shopping challenge extreme" (most boring screenshot ever) |
The quality of Yakuza however is a hell of lot better than either of those mediocre games though, or any of the other recent lacklustre 3D beat-em-ups.
Lucky for us the combat is quite good in Yakuza. It's a bit slow for my liking but the combos and specials are cool, and the level of brutality is delicious high.
Grinding some idiot gang member's face into the wall with a sickening crunch, or hearing the 'crack' of a good stomp to the face is very satisfying.
The variety of everyday objects used as weapons is also very creative and fun. Beating up a mobster with a golf club is great; beating up a mobster with a gigantic traffic cone is just priceless. You can pick up just about anything in the background and bash people with it. Signs, bats, a bicycle, knives, pipes etc plus a heap of unique weapons you can buy from dealers - such as an ironing board iron.
Those weapons sure will come in handy as the essence of Yakuza is an old school beat 'em up game. It may play differently, but the core of the game is fighting multiple enemies using punches, kicks, weapons and the odd special move. Where it differs from a purely action based game is through the addition of RPG-like stat increases and gaining new moves. Add to that a complicated, dramatic storyline, a decent size map to explore and healthy doses of side quests and you find yourself with plenty to do.
The story is reasonable, but the voice acting used for the delivery via the frequent cut-scenes is very average. This comes as a surprise considering it includes Eliza Dushku and Mark Hamill and a heap of other Goofy Goober actors - but I would never have picked them without reading the insert in the game's cover. The voice acting is adequate but never more than adequate and it's surprising considering all the main story is spoken dialogue.
Things to bitch about?
|Come to Australia, and we'll give you the big boot! |
Well, the games loading times are frequent and painfully long. Kazuma could walk a bit faster, as it takes a while to travel around the map on foot, but there are some taxis. The graphics are a little bland, but then the game had a big gap between Japan and Oz release dates, so that's forgivable.
Also the fights are short and most of the game is spent running around the city and watching cut-scenes. Nowhere near as bad as The Bouncer, but it can grate at times. Finally, the text used in NPC interactions is crummy. The font used just could have been more eyeball friendly by using a rounder, chunkier font with better background contrast. It sure would have avoided the straining of this Ninja's precious reviewing eyeballs. I'm not joking about that eye-strain by the way.
At times the game is quite bizarre. People will fight you for no real reason and make bird-like squawking sounds as they approach you. During the fight you will hear "Fuck you!" [and other delightfully un-necessary variations of sentences featuring the F word] so often you would think it were the games catch-cry.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a big "F-You" on the back of the retail versions cover. Because, you know, SEGA being the squeaky clean peddlers of hardcore smut that they are. I know that sentence is just wrong, but it makes about as much sense as the strange swearing in the game. No, in fact my sentence makes 5% more sense than SEGA's game.
Yakuza is satisfying if you put the hours in. It starts off kind of slow, but then really picks up steam as you progress. The main game is enjoyable, but it's not something I'd recommend for everyone. Fans of beat 'em ups and Japanese cinema [e.g. Yakuza films] are likely to enjoy it. The side quests / things to do include; finding obscure weapons, dating high priced call girls, gambling and pit fighting among other things.
All up Yakuza is an enjoyable but average game that I think is muddied by the frequent loading, cut scenes and delayed PAL release. Frankly I just wanted more combat, without the bloody loading.
by: Australian Ninja
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More articles by Australian Ninja
Enjoyable game that is equal parts tasty action, story and swearing simulator with a side order of some WJF - 'Wacky Japanese Factor.'