Review of Yakuza
The Yakuza is an organized crime group based out of Japan and is considered one of the largest of its kind in the world. Sega wants to take you into their world with Yakuza, an action adventure game created by Toshihiro Nagoshi and award-winning novelist Seishu Hase. This game was hailed in Japan for being the first game to explore the culture of this organization with a level of detail and authenticity unheard of before.
Players are cast as Kiryu Kazuma, formerly of the Tojo Clan. After serving a 10 year prison term for supposedly killing a superior he finds a lot has changed. He is soon caught up in a plot revolving around finding his girlfriend, 10 billion yen stolen from his former clan, helping a young girl find her mother and feuding crime families.
Making your way around to the various locations is made easy with a small map in the low-left corner. Buildings you can enter are shown as well as your destination. While going through the city you sometimes get put into a random battle- the items received after kicking their butts are somewhat unusual (a bottle of perfume?) but can come in handy in certain situations. Your health is shown with a bar in the top left corner along with a "heat guage" which fills up as you battle. Once this is full you can execute special maneuvers for extra damage.
Many items in the game can be picked up for use as a weapon but can only be used a few times before breaking. Your skills and attributes will build as you gain experience, accumulate weapons and items and engage in side missions. Each level will take longer to build but by the time you reach the end (taking about 13 hours) you should be maxed out.
One does not have to necessarily stick to the mission- if you're feeling the need for a change you can find an arcade with a minigame to play, hostess bars to try picking up some ladies (guess we know why the perfume then), batting cages, a casino and a safehouse to rest up and regain health, to name a few. You never usually get the time to take part in these side activities, however, as the missions themselves are somewhat urgent and keep you from straying too far.
Before you start thinking this is something like a GTA Japan would be this game is a lot more linear than that. You are much more limited in where you can go here and you don't see any new areas until you have completed a chapter. One other item of note is the lack of gunplay. Just about all battles are done hand-to-hand.
The fighting system was designed to allow for chaining combos easily for taking on groups of thugs. For the most part, however, I wound up using basic combos for most of the battles. The system itself works well but the camera will make things difficult at times. There were moments I thought I was going in the right direction when it would make a quick change and suddenly I'd be running away from my opponent. There seems to be no way of controlling the camera so this could be a problem for some.
Graphically the game is well done, with the streets looking very much like downtown areas in Japanese cities. There seems to be a large number of character models used. Unfortunately you don't quite get that "real city" feel as you can't so basic things like ride the bikes or drive a car. Your movement is a bit on the stiff side and sometimes is a bit more difficult than it should be.
The cutscenes are well done and help expand the story but there are some things to pick out that detract slightly. The big thing here is the use of American actors to voice the characters. They pulled in some big name talent here for this including Michael Madsen (Sin City, Kill Bill), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Racael Leigh Cook (She's All That) and Mark Hamill (yep, Luke Skywalker himself). While the idea was good the lip sync is off at times due to being done to the Japanese dialogue and sometimes sounds like they are trying too hard to match it up. Personally, I think having the original dialogue with subtitles would have been better. One other small gripe is the voices are not used in-game. You are stuck with reading the text while looking at the characters look at each other. This seems very odd considering the PS2's power.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Yakuza' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Lyndon MacLeod © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 22 Yakuza in-game screenshot slideshow
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