|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 Jonathan Marx
The Yakuza series is the evolution of the street brawler. Playing through the beat-'em-up scenarios on the city streets of Tokyo and the island of Okinawa in Yakuza 3, I couldn't help but recall childhood summer hours and allowances lost to games such as Double Dragon and Bad Dudes at the boardwalk arcade. Without a doubt, the previously mentioned Data East classics, along with SEGA's more recent Streets of Rage console franchise, shaped Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi's concept, giving modern gamers a taste of the old-school love.
Of course, tired brawler tropes such as linear side-scrolling, a lack of real combos, poor/non-existent storytelling, and the inability to customize your character(s) have all gone out the window in Yakuza 3. This contemporary beat-'em-up drops players into a semi-open world, gives you a few fun combos to execute, retells a surprisingly interesting narrative, and rewards your grinding with ever-improving skills and talents.
Yakuza 3 continues the story of Kazuma Kiryu. This time, rather than duking it out exclusively on the tough streets of Tokyo and Osaka, Kazuma finds himself on the island of Okinawa (of Karate Kid fame) protecting the children of the Morning Glory orphanage. That's right; the "selfish" Yakuza life proved to be unsatisfactory to this former orphan-turned-Tojo Clan chairman, preferring to move away from his enemies to take up a more meaningful existence as the head of a sleepy island orphanage. Unfortunately, politics soon get in the way, forcing Kazuma to once again brawl his way to justice. While I know this recap seems a bit on the goofy side, the story told in Yakuza 3 is actually pretty engaging; certainly it does more than enough to prop up the somewhat repetitive action gameplay.
As you might expect from a brawler, you're going to be mashing a lot of buttons. Throughout the game, you'll enter into set-piece fights against bosses and their underlings. These fights make up the majority of gameplay in Yakuza 3. You can kind of think of them as Tekken-like bouts, but without the same depth of combos found in the Tekken franchise. It's unfortunate but true; the combat in Yakuza 3 can get dull if you try to rush straight through the game. This game is quite fun, but it's best enjoyed over a handful of sessions due to its lack of complexity.
Even so, there are a number of ways to kick enemy-butt, including the ability to use objects from the environment (chairs, tables, bicycles, pool cues, etc.), guard against and evade enemy attacks, pull off finishing moves, and tap into special 'Heat' powers, that'll put a smile on your face.
While most of the time you'll just be hammering the Square button, being able to tap Triangle to perform headbutts, wall smashes, and head stomps keeps you feeling like a badass. Moreover, building up your 'Heat' meter will let you pull off special moves - talents you'll acquire by dumping experience points into new skills - which enhances the fighting experience a bit more.
Yes, Yakuza 3 goes beyond the standard beat-'em-up conventions by letting you improve Kazuma over time. By taking out baddies, you'll be rewarded with cash and experience that can be put toward purchasing new items, crafting goodies, and improving and refining your fighting skills. While this customization and leveling mechanic is nowhere near as complex as you'd find in a JRPG, there are enough options and important, game-changing upgrades to make the fighting grind that often sets in more than bearable.