Saturday, August 4

Yakuza review

the first game in my PS3 - the first disc of any kind to go in my PS3 - and it's a PS2 game that i ended up finishing in the first play session. on the PS3. it's... ironic. or something. i knew i was close to the end, but i didn't think i was quite that close.

yes, i've beaten another game - Yakuza, for the PS2. here's my review.

i had wanted to get my hands on this game ever since i heard about it way back in 2005. it was an action adventure game with a semi-open world that took you into the heart of the Japanese crime organization, the Yakuza. now, being a fan of action adventure games with open worlds (semi-open or otherwise) AND being a huge fan of Japanese culture, this game practically SCREAMED "pick me up." so, after waiting for a price drop, i did. a year and a half though, it's a long time for expectations to build...

thankfully, in this case, the somewhat-high expectations hardly made a difference.

you play as Kazuma, an ex-Yakuza that's back from a 10-year stint in jail just as the shit is hitting the fan back home. you get caught up in a tale that is as big as involving the entire organization and as small as your circle of 3-4 friends that dissolved when you went to jail 10 years ago. it's a crime story, it's a Shakespearean story... it's an action story. there were twists (some you saw coming, some you didn't), there was death, and there was hope. it's a dark, adult story. pretty well written.

there are small side missions for you to do throughout the game as you travel through a semi-open city (that is just laden in everything Japanese contemporary, so beautiful), and then of course there's the main storyline. i clocked almost 20 hours of gameplay in on this game, which is pretty much perfect for an action adventure, and i could have played for maybe 5-10 more hours completing more side missions.

one note: to throw you right into this world, they throw around Japanese/Yakuza titles, terms, and names all OVER the place and, well, it's a lot to keep track of. while i found it quite refreshing, it might frustrate some people - i mean it even frustrated me once in a while, but usually it was more confusing than anything, but i'd eventually get it (and there's a dossier in the pause menu to help you out with some of the people).


- there is a load time going INTO combat and another load time getting OUT OF combat. FYI - combat is, oh, 25-50% of the game. so you're running around the city and you see a guy that wants to fight. load screen. approximately 5-10 seconds later the fight begins. fight over. load screen. 5 seconds later you're back in the city proper. it's my MAIN complaint about the game, the main one that kept it from being truly great.

- the game CAN get quite repetitive: run around, fight, cutscene, fight, run around, fight, cutscene... i could normally only play the game for 2-3 hours at a time before growing tired of it. the one thing that saved it overall is the side missions, but those could be frustrating in their own rite.

- side missions were frustrating because you'd lose track of what you're doing for who, and so you'd normally check your journal inside the pause menu... except there IS no journal. all it says are the titles of the open missions you're on, and most of the titles are cryptic and/or involve names of people you can't keep straight. yeah. thanks.

- combat takes a little getting used to, especially since there is no "true" lock-on like us gamers are used to in 3D action games nowadays, and the camera can be a little wonky. eventually you learn that the dodge move is a friend of yours, so that if you find your "lock-on" is no longer locked on to who you want, you can dodge out of the way, shift the camera around, and lock on again.

- you're given lots of moves to do in combat, but i found myself sticking to pretty much one combo after i learned it.

- there were some camera issues in general, especially when fighting indoors.

- the voice acting takes a little getting used to (i.e. it's not that good). i heard that the Japanese version (which did much better in Japan, more on that later) had famous actors for the parts, so maybe they ran out of money when they were doing it in English, but whatever. it's no different from, say, a Capcom game.

now, with all that said, this game was VERY refreshing, and for that it earns high marks. i loved, LOVED the world, liked the story (both the larger story and then the more personal story right along side it), like the storytelling, and liked the characters. for its minor faults (and despite the damn load times), combat was quite fun and satisfying, and going around helping people with the side missions was also fun and satisfying.

i give it an 8.75 out of 10, with a margin of error of 0.50 (i could be convinced to go up or down 0.50 points if i heard compelling arguments). had there been no load times in and out of combat, had it been seamless, i would have easily given this a 9.25 or higher. it's just that refreshing of a game.

now, i said above that this game did really well in Japan - SO well in fact that SEGA released a sequel, Yakuza 2, a mere year later. and what's the status on the game coming state-side? there are rumors that it's coming this fall... but i wouldn't be surprised if we don't see it. there really wasn't much talk about Yakuza when it came out here, and i haven't heard of anyone else that's played it that i know, or on any of my sites, so i can safely assume it didn't do as well here. guess all i can do is hope for a US release. i'd really like to see what they do with a sequel (my gut tells me it'll be "more of the same," so i probably won't like it as much as the original, but i'd still like to play it), especially with where this story ended.

- kawitchate

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