Kazuma has returned in Yakuza 3 to bang heads, unravel a conspiracy, and to save an orphanage from being demolished by a resort construction project. Our hero has retired from the rough life of being a Yakuza, and has moved to the quiet island of Okinawa to be the owner of Sunshine Orphanage. Kaz believes his life will be quiet and free of all Yakuza influence, but he soon finds out differently.
As the story unfolds, it’s discovered that a vacation resort is planned for the small island of Okinawa. Unfortunately for Kaz and his orphaned children, the project demolition runs right through their location. The local Yakuza owns the land Kaz and the other residence live on, and they begin to harass the locals to vacate their homes so the project can commence. Thus begins Kaz’s forced involvement in the Yakuza and the unraveling of a conspiracy.
The story line really centers your attention on the characters. The first few chapters of Yakuza 3 has you interacting with the orphans and everyday life. Some situations may involve arguments among the children or a bully at school, or playing a game of baseball on the beach across the street. This might sound mundane at first, but the way it’s all presented is polished and connects with the evolving story.
Think of it as a living, breathing world. Key characters from the story will contact Kazuma when certain events are triggered, but you are not forced to travel a linear path. You can venture into the city to interact with locals, visit shops, and even look for street fights. Think Shenmue for Dreamcast without the real-world clock system.
There is plenty to do while visiting the cities. Sega has hidden items that can be recovered throughout the game, and they are inside lockers that require keys. These keys are randomly placed throughout the city and flash when you’re close to one. The items range from materials to weapons, and just about everything you find can be used at one point in your adventure. Speaking of collecting items, Yakuza 3 solves the ‘inventory full’ issue that other games have. Instead of having to run back home to empty your inventory, you are given the option to have things sent back for you. Bravo for such a time saving feature.
Combat is the mainstay element of Yakuza 3. The combat system is easy at first with a basic set of moves available (i.e. simple attacks, heavy attacks, and grapples), but as you encounter more fights, you will level up your skills to improve your abilities, perform more complex moves, and bone-crushing combos. These skills can be upgraded via a menu to increase the strength of your attacks. By chapter 10 your arsenal of moves will be far more complex than they were in the beginning. Some combat scenarios will trigger QTEs (Quick Time Events) and these are just simply amazing. Nothing is more satisfying than slamming a group of Yakuza thugs to the ground.
Your Heat Gauge is also important. It fills as you hit your enemies and empties when they hit you. When the Heat Gauge successfully fills, Kazuma glows blue (and eventually red) indicating that certain special moves and finishers can be activated. Knocking an enemy to the ground while the gauge is full will allow you to perform a devastating finisher, like a face crushing head stomp into the pavement.
Combat is not limited to your fists. Later in the game, you will have access to weapons like nunchucks, staffs, swords, stun guns, etc. The weapons have a numbered amount of uses, and this is the only drawback. Each hit that connects with your enemy counts towards the weapon’s degradation, and weakens the weapon’s overall integrity. Luckily the option to repair your weapons is available later.
Even the enviornment is fair game depending on where the fight is taking place. Things like chairs, tables, bikes, and even small business signs can be picked up and used as either weapons or projectiles. Like weapons however, they degrade quickly and break apart. Each broken piece can be used to beat on your opponent until nothing remains.
Yakuza 3 is extremely bloody. Blood drips from Kazuma’s mouth when struck multiple times, and his victims bleed heavily. Things get real messy when weapons are used. Despite all the carnage, there is no way to actually kill your enemies, no matter how hard you stomp them into the pavement.
In case you’re wondering, combat isn’t the only diversion in the world of Yakuza 3. Some situations have you racing through city streets after informants or following certain key characters to help further the story line. This action scene is pretty straight-forward and has you jumping over obstacles like trash cans and avoiding pedestrians as they walk the streets. Some chases may enter narrow alleys, and this makes controlling Kazuma very tricky. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting caught up on narrow walls when trying to make sharp turns. This is a forgivable offense since the rest of the game controls flawlessly.
Additional activities are included if you grow tired of busting heads and running an orphanage, including bowling and karaoke. Dating is also something that our hero can experience if you end up in the right place at the right time. Fans of the series will notice that certain mini games have been excluded from the U.S. release, and for some this has sparked a bit of controversy.
Ultimately, Kazuma will learn of a mysterious man that resembles his dead father. This elusive hit man is connected to a secret black-op group called Black Monday, responsible for shooting the new leader of the Tojo Clan, Daigo. The story will take many twists and turns, but the ride getting there is an incredible one.
Graphically, Yakuza 3 looks fantastic on the Playstation 3. The character models look smooth and realistic, and the cities light up with bright florescent signs at night. Everything comes to life. Unlike Bayonetta where the graphics looked muddy and washed out, Yakuza 3 has none of these problems.
Is Yakuza 3 for Playstation 3 worth your money? The answer is a resounding yes. Even though the hostess bars and Japanese trivia quiz from the Japanese version were omitted from the American release, Sega kept its fans in mind by including a free DLC code inside every copy of Yakuza 3. While it doesn’t include the hostess bars or Japanese trivia quiz, it does return some of the missing Japanese content like Battle for Survival. Kudos to Sega for doing this.
Yakuza 3 retails for $59.99 at your local video game retailer. Buy it; it’s worth every penny.
Mike ‘STGuy1040’ Pittaro
Platform: Playstation 3