Yakuza Reader Review
Hell No! This game does enough to set itself apart from GTA, though this game isn't trying to be a GTA clone.
A Storybook Game
Perhaps the thing Sega focused on the most was the story, as it's truly fantastic, but it's not without it's flaws. The story was supervised by an acclaimed Japanese author. Though the story is really special, it has some problems, for example it has too many predictable sequences and moments. Kazuma, the main character, is mostly your typical hero who fights bad guys. The basic premise to Yakuza is that Kazuma takes the fall for his brother when he murders a leader of a Yakuza family, and in the process Kazuma gets arrested for 10 years. After Kazuma is released, he realizes that a lot has changed since he first went to prison. There's a lot to the story, including a missing 10 billion yen, a lot of feuding Yakuza families and their allies, a washed-up detective trying to put his life back together, a little girl looking for her mother, a voyeuristic underworld information dealer, and a lot more. It's really the story that's the main attraction in the game.
What You Do In Yakuza
A lot of the game involves you going from one point to another, for example you'll need to go to an area, then you'll do some fighting, then you'll go to another area, then fight some more, and keep doing the same until the chapter is over. Unfortunately this mission design involves a lot of running back and forth, and seeing as there's no cars you will have to walk everywhere, unless where you going is near a Taxi stop. But when you have to walk, you may find it extremely boring, but there are moments where the action heats up.
Now a mast majority of the game involves fighting against gangsters, members of the Yakuza and other enemies. Strangely, there's barely any guns in Yakuza, but when there is they're just little annoyances and won't do much damage. Now you can get into brawling anytime, what will happen is that a random guy will come up to you and say some line like 'You're a lucky man. Lucky in that you get to give me your money' and the brawl will begin. Once the brawl has started, you can do a set of moves and combos, which you can upgrade by spending experience points you earn by either eating food or by winning brawls, on your enemies until they're all KO'd. Now depending on how powerful or how big the enemies are, the harder it is to KO them e.g. if a guy is really big they'll have a bigger health meter. The fights are really fun to play, and look really cool, and seeing as brawling is the most you'll do, you find that the game is really fun most of the time.
Aside from the Brawling and Exploring, there's also some cool mini-games, which includes a coin-operated UFO catcher, an underground boxing circuit, a home-run derby at the batting cages, a casino with blackjack, roulette, and baccarat, and hostess minibars where you get to try to chat up pretty girls. I had most fun on the hostess bar. The hostess minibars turn Yakuza into a very basic dating sim; you sit down and start wining and dining a talkative girl whose job is to show lonely Japanese guys like you a good time. You get to order food and drinks and give her gifts while trying to tell her what she wants to hear when she occasionally asks you questions. But, perhaps like the real thing, none of it really goes anywhere.
The graphics are good, but not perfect. The good things about the graphics are the main characters models. The main characters look fantastic, with lot's of detail and they look really cool and gritty. But the other character models look a little bland, and don't have any detail to them. You'll walk around in a pretty accurate Japan, as you go through nightclubs, back alleys and bars, plus many more areas of Japan. Perhaps the best thing about the graphics is the look the fighting, it's really cool, with lot's of bone breaking moves, weapon shots and other cool touches.
The sound is great as well. The voice acting is very good, with actors like Micheal Madsen and Mark Hamill, which do fantastic jobs of reading their lines and acting. Also the script is very sharp, though a little sweary, as you'll hear them say f* and s* a lot. You certainly wouldn't want to get this if you're a little squeamish as it's very gory and has a lot of language. Also the in-game music is great, with a sort of mythical Japanese vibe to it.
The game will take you 10-15 hours to complete and there's a lot of mini-games to do as well. Or you could explore Japan for a bit, and see it in all of it's glory. Also you could try to maximise Kazuma's abilities. In the end it depends how you like doing the mini games.
In the end, Yakuza is a great game, but certainly not without it's flaws. If you want a game that vividly portrays the Yakuza, and you don't mind all the adult content, and you don't mind putting up with the gameplay, then you'll find Yakuza to be a great experience.
8 / 10