Yakuza 3 - review

The cult Japanese game series Yakuza finally makes it debut on the PS3 with its third outing, Yakuza 3.

The game sees you play Kazuma Kiryu, the legendary fourth chairman of the Togo clan.

It isn't, however, the same game as the version released in Japan, having been surgically relieved of some of its mini-games, such as a Japanese quiz and an aromatherapy massage.

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While this has caused some uproar among long-term fans of the series, it probably isn't going to have too much effect for those of us who are aren't too up to speed on our Japanese general knowledge.

The story continues on from Yakuzas 1 and 2, with Kiryu giving up his life as a Yakuza and heading off to Okinawa to run an orphanage. However, if you've not played the series before, there are kindly-provided video summaries that get you up to speed on the story so far.

The beginning of the game is set around the orphanage and can only really be described as slow as the game tries to build the story and add some depth to the characters.

This takes place through some lovely-looking, but very long, cut scenes which allow you no option to skip through. However, the fact the scenes are in Japanese with English subtitles adds a certain authenticity to the story.

While, at points, these do stop to allow you to talk to people by pressing X, unfortunately, unlike Mass Effect, it feels very linear as it doesn't allow you any choice of dialogue or actions to try and elicit any different responses from the people you encounter.

In a way, this sums up the game. While it tries to show that life isn't all black and white, with stories about bullying, stealing, when the main protagonist comes to make a decision, those decisions are very black and white and usually end in force.

While initially the game may appear to be an Eastern version of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), it doesn't seem to fall into any one genre. The open world nature of the environment allows you freedom to explore both Okinawa and Tokyo, where you can talk to people, listen into conversations and indulge in mini-games ranging from golf and fishing to arcade machines. There are also a huge number of side missions.

As you run around these cities you will experience random combat encounters in the same manner as Japanese role-playing games. Instead of monsters appearing, you are faced with a number of opponents who either want to mug you or feel you've slighted them in some manner.

This is where Yakuza really excels, as the game then becomes more like an old school scrolling beat'em up. A crowd gathers around to watch you indulge in some quite brutal combat, as you fight not only with fists and feet, but with pretty much anything lying around that can be picked up and used as a weapon.

The more combat and missions you complete, the more experience points you gain, which allows you to level up and increase the special moves available to you. If there is one criticism of the combat system, it is the lack of a lock-on button, as sometimes you will find yourself going to hit an opponent but ending up flailing past them.

Normally random combat can become quite tiresome as you're stopped every couple of minutes, but the makers seem to have this sorted as the combat happens when you least expect it, and it never seems to get in the way of exploring the cities.

When you later start to face legions of Yakuza and end-of-level bosses, the game throws up quick-time events in the heat of the moment to either avoid a surprise attack in a corridor or a killer combo from a boss.

These work surprisingly well, as they do add a certain intensity to the combat. You never know when one's going to appear so you can't just button bash your way through a fight.

This is a game that has a lot to offer, aside from the main story, and an excellent combat mechanic which is more Streets of Rage than GTA4.

The game also boasts over 100 side missions and a host of mini games scattered throughout to keep you entertained and a number of post game modes to play through once you've completed the main story.

Where the game does suffer in comparison to GTA4 and Mass Effect is in terms of story and its lack of choice/consequences in conversations. It seams strange to play a Yakuza who isn't able threaten or coerce anyone other than other Yakuzas.

To be fair, a game like this isn't sold on the strength of its story, but the on the action available to the player, and in this it does excel.

8/10

Yakuza 3

Age restrictions: 18+

Sega

PS3 - 39.99

(Click here to buy it at www.game.co.uk)