Saturday, March 19, 2011
Very occasionally, I can still get excited enough about a video game that I want it on the day it comes out. One such game is Yakuza 4 - indeed, it's much maligned predecessor, the 'hacked to bits for UK release', Yakuza 3 - was the very game that made me get a Ps3 in the first place.
I've loved the Yakuza franchise, since I first read about it's development in a UK videogame magazine in 2004 (0r 2005 - however, it took me a long time - a further three years - before I got round to playing it, as I was strictly into the Dreamcast at that time, and could not bring myself to play the PS2...). It was promoted as "the spiritual successor to Shenmue" (my favourite videogame of all time) - and coming from Sega, with the promise of being a brawling adventure story set in a virtual Japanese underworld replete with a host of mini-games and dating sims, well I was enthralled and hooked by the concept straight away. As a Shenmue lover, there was always a yearning for the 'never coming' Shenmue 3 (it still hasn't arrived yet!) - maybe Yakuza could be a methadone for the cold turkey of waiting for a conclusion to Shenmue?
Now it's seven years later and I've investsed hours and hours in this game and it's following incarnations... from the English speaking Yakuza 1 (starring Mark Hamill and Michael Madsen), through to the syrupy, orphan heavy dramas of Yakuza 3... and I've loved every minute of it.
So far, the ultra cool (yet always caring) Kazuma Kiryu has not made an appearance. The only notable change is that the kung fu action seems even tighter and more responsive than ever, with the ability to stand on one leg and deliver a lightning flurry of kicks to your opponent a pleasing addition. As usual there is a plethora of weapons to be picked up and employed against your foes (Die Hard Arcade style), and thankfully the dating sim side of the game has returned (after being so cruelly cut from Yakuza 3's UK release).
Indeed it's the juxtaposition of sweet highly moral 'family values', slightly saucy romance simulation, frankly bizarre imagery and brutal gangland violence that makes this game so very quirky, so very Japanese, so very... Sega.
As of yet the other forte of the series, the ever twisting and supremely cinematic plotlines have not drawn me in, but another joy of the Yakuza series is how it's stories slowly unfold. I've had a few hours with Yakuza 4 and it's prompted me to blog for the first time in three months. if that's not a good reccomendation for a videogame, I don't know what is!
Yakuza Official Website
Yakuza at IGN
Yakuza at GamesTM forum
FK's first impression of the Yakuza franchise from back in 2008