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Yakuza 4 Review


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On 09/10/2011 at 09:16 PM by Nick DiMola

Yakuza 4 The Movie, coming to a PlayStation 3 near you.
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of the series and those looking for a unique gaming experience steeped in Japanese culture.

It's hard to make heads or tails on Yakuza 4. It's an absolutely weird game that's steeped in Japanese culture. Calling it a game is even a little off, it's more like some game-movie hybrid. There are hours upon hours of cutscenes that drive the story, and the various tasks you perform in the sandbox world of the game. Don't mistake this for a Grand Theft Auto clone; it's something completely unto itself. If you've played Yakuza 3, I'm sure this is all old hat, but unlike that title, this one hasn't been censored in any way for its western release.

Having not played any games in the series since the first, it's clear that quite a bit has changed, but the core fighting mechanics established there don't seem much different here. A rigid combo system and a range of attacks, both innate and learned, drive how you attack and defeat your foes. Thankfully, there's much more to the experience now, with fewer back-to-back fights featuring similar enemies. Players will still spend most of their time fighting foes thanks to random encounters on the streets and story-driven fights, but there are an enormous number of side tasks to complete otherwise.

Players take on the role of four different characters in four unique episodes of the game. As with prior games in the series, it mostly chronicles Kazuma Kiryu, an ex-Tojo chairman, but players start as the kindhearted loan shark Shun Akiyama in the first episode. Eventually you are introduced to both a bad cop and an escaped inmate. All four characters' paths will eventually intertwine, tying the entire experience together.

While the story itself can be cumbersome and the cut scenes run a bit too long and are a bit too frequent, there's still something unbelievably intriguing about the whole thing. The characters, even when engaging in mundane tasks, are interesting to observe. Thanks to excellent voice acting and dialogue, it's all far more bearable than your typical story driven game, especially for someone like me who doesn't typically take well to such overhead in my gaming experiences.

As mentioned earlier, the sheer variety and scope of side tasks available are mind-boggling. While games like Grand Theft Auto offer a ton of actual quests, Yakuza 4 has such quests in addition to activities with varying appeal. Pachinko, claw games, gambling, training and dating hostesses, finding locker keys, creating and modifying weapons, underground fighting circuits, bowling, baseball, golf, and random other encounters and events that pop up while traversing the streets. I'm sure there are even more out there that I haven't seen or can't remember; needless to say, the game is vast.

All of this takes place in an extremely detailed world with some really great looking character models and in-game cut scene animations. Given the variety of tasks, it helps that the world that encompasses it all is interesting and visually appealing.

There's little question that the core fighting mechanic of the game isn't enough to hold up the entire experience. It's decent enough and can be fun at times, but your tactics rarely need to change from fight to fight, allowing you to get comfortable in your own style. Given that things change pace so often, this repetitiveness never really has a chance of catching up. Even if you are just engaging in the main storyline this holds true, but exploring the various side content should provide all of the variety necessary.

What I still can't decide is whether or not I truly enjoy the sum of the parts of Yakuza 4. It was extremely engaging at points, but quite boring at others. I think it's such a different game from what I'm accustomed to that it managed to hold my attention well enough for quite a while. I'm not sure that will hold true for most players looking for more instant gratification and a familiar experience to become immersed in.

If you are looking to get into the Yakuza series, 4 is probably as good a starting point as any; the experience is self-contained despite an overarching plot line. While I can't guarantee the experience will be for everyone, those with an interest in Japanese culture will likely find the most enjoyment in the storyline, cut scenes, and world created by Sega.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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