|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: CS1 Team||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 9, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
January 8, 2010 - Fans of the Yakuza series who reside in the U.S. certainly know that patience is a virtue. With every Yakuza title coming out in Japan at least a year or more before its eventual U.S. release, it can often be a painfully long wait for eager fans. In fact, there are still no current plans for a Stateside release of Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan!, the spinoff third entry in the series. Fortunately, SEGA has finally found it in their hearts to bring Yakuza 3 to the States, putting an end to the yearlong "will they, won't they" conjecture of avid fans. As with the previous two U.S. Yakuza releases, Yakuza 3 looks like it will also be well worth the wait.
Yakuza 3 will be the first Yakuza title in the States to be on the PS3. As you can imagine, this will allow for many improvements over what the first two titles could offer on the PS2. The most obvious of these enhancements will come in the form of the game's graphics. Not to say that the PS2 was a weak system or that the previous Yakuza's were bad looking games, but Yakuza 3 looks amazing in comparison. Both the character models and the environments have been vastly upgraded, giving the game a much more realistic appearance than in previous titles. This should result in making the world of Yakuza 3 even more immersive this time around.
The story of Yakuza 3 will take place in two locations: the island of Okinawa and the streets of Kamurocho. The more serene backdrop of Okinawa should provide a nice contrast to the dark, gritty, and familiar streets of Kamurocho. After the events of Yakuza 2, Kiryu Kazuma (series protagonist) and his adopted daughter Haruka decide to leave Kamurocho behind to live a more peaceful life, running an orphanage in Okinawa. After some pressure is applied to sell the land the orphanage is located on and an assassination attempt, Kiryu finds himself returning to Kamurocho to get to the bottom of things the only way he knows how. Much like in previous installments, this involves beating up everyone who tries to withhold any pertinent information or anyone seeking to do harm to his loved ones.
Brawling with foes, or even groups of opponents, still plays a large role in the gameplay of Yakuza 3. The fighting here will be some of the bloodiest and most brutal yet for the series, allowing for some devastating finishers such as a two footed stomp on the back of a downed enemy's head. You'll still be able to carry weapons or even pick up objects during a fight like a pole or a bicycle to use to your advantage. However, weapon swapping will be much easier this time around, since Yakuza 3 will use the same basic system that appeared in the yet to be released Stateside Ryu ga Gotoku Kenzan!. Players can assign their weapons, such as nunchakus and blade knuckles, to different directions on the D-pad and then simply tap it to quickly switch to it during battle. Kiryu will also be able to learn more fighting moves as he makes his way through his latest adventure. One example of this that has already been shown is an elbow to the face that he learns by watching a woman on the street defending herself against an unwanted advance by a perverted street thug. After witnessing the attack and successfully completing a quick-time event of button presses, Kiryu was able to add this move to his repertoire.
Fighting as well as exploring will be much quicker and smoother thanks to another improvement found in Yakuza 3. One of the largest criticisms of the first two Yakuzas came from all of the loading that was required that broke up the action. Every time you entered into a random battle or moved to a different part of the city, the action would stop and you'd be forced to wait for the game to load. In Yakuza 3 this is no longer an issue. Whenever you enter into a fight, the camera will simply pan out slightly, panning back in once you've beaten down the opposition. Similarly, the streets of Kamurocho can now be explored as a whole, without the need to load between separated chunks, making it feel much more like a complete game world rather than just a compilation of tiny areas.
Of course, there's more to Yakuza 3 than just simply fighting and exploring, there are also a host of side missions and mini-games to be found and participated in. Throughout your travels, you'll find a ton of distractions such as games of mahjong, billiards, bowling, poker, baseball, darts, roulette, and golf that can be played. There will even be arcades to find, which will have playable games inside as well as skill testing claw machines. While you will likely have more important things to do than trying to grab stuffed animals out of one of these contraptions, these optional mini-games will definitely be nice additions if you're looking for a short break from the rest of the thug-bashing action.
As a fan of the Yakuza series myself, I have to say that I'm ecstatic that Yakuza 3 has finally been confirmed for a U.S. release. It is a bit of a downer that the game is not receiving any English voice work, instead relying on subtitles only for you to understand what's going on, but at this point it seems like fans should just be collectively happy that it is coming out in the States at all. Here's hoping that the newest entry in the series will do well upon its release, despite coming out in a relatively loaded March for the PS3.
CCC Staff Contributor