A colleague raved to me about Yazuka 3 last year, when I saw Yakuza 4 available for £25 a few weeks after its release I snapped it up. It did take a few hours to get to grips with but I’m very glad I stuck with it.
The Yakuza series is set around the fictional setting of Kamurocho, and is very similar to the game world used in Yaukza 3 with the addition of some underground and rooftop areas. Like most of the major cities in Japan most people get around on foot, there is no GTA style car jacking to be had here but it isn’t needed. If you just want to detour from the main story there is plenty here to keep you busy. There are large amount of shops, attractions and mini-games, roughly one per street. These are normally coloured on your map so you know where to go when you just want to wonder around. You can also look them up in an index but its not that intuitive.
The story telling is done in typical Japanese fashion, the story happens, new character appear and disappear. There is no western style handholding, nothing is spoon fed to you which can be a little difficult at first but is quite rewarding by the end. If like me you aren’t familar with works of the Yakuza the first hour or so can be quite difficult to understand as there are quite long cutscenes which throw you in at the deepend with talk of Clans, Familys and Brothers. The cutscenes are usually split about 50% prerendered voice work and 50% text although there doesn’t seem to be any rules defining what sort of content each one contains. Over the course of the game you switch between four different characters and by the end of the game you have a rich tapastry of history, double crossing, lying and deceit. As long as you stick with it for the first few hours there are enough twists and turns to keep you interested until the end when all the story threads are pulled together.
The real suprising joy of the game is the combat. It seems extremely simple at first but has enough depth to keep you wanting more. Best of all are the heat moves which can be used once your heat bar fills up, these are often extremely brutal and more often than not envolve breaking some faces. Dispite never killing anyone in combat this is somehow much for disturbingly violent then anything you would see in GTA. Despite being more comic book like the fighting is much more bone crunching.
Yakuza 4 is very quirky and very Japanese in its nature, almost every fight ends in an apology, every street has a hostess bar and it is all of its stories have a strong moral backbone. This is a game that ticks all of the boxes, it might not be to everyone’s tastes, just like some of items on sale in restaurants.