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PS3 Preview – Yakuza: Dead Souls

October 6, 2011 Written by Heath Hindman


Yakuza: Dead Souls begins in the Sunshine Orphanage with which Yakuza 3 made us so familiar. Kazuma gets a phone call from his adopted niece Haruka, who’s being held captive by an off-screen yakuza boss who presumably isn’t going to live to see the end credits, if Kazuma has anything to say about it. Her distressed voice informs him that she’s being held in Kamurocho, which has been the primary setting for all previous Yakuza titles. Expressing his toughness and badassery with his hands, Kazuma crushes the phone while still holding it to his ear, and we’re on our way in the PS3′s latest Yakuza adventure.

Yakuza: Dead Souls (called Ryu Ga Gotoku: Of the End in Japan) will feature four playable characters, with Shun Akiyama up first. It’s not clear if this is going to work like Suikoden III where you could switch among the multiple characters at intervals, if you wanted to, or if their separate sagas must be played in a set order. Akiyama is keeping it real in Tokyo when he is suddenly required to accompany a fat chick named Flower. The subtle joke the game is trying to make is that fat people are constantly funny or annoying and need not be taken seriously. Oh, Japan! You so tolerant!

We later see this guy breaking into the HQ of some well-armed and well-dressed men. Non-spoiler: he’s a zombie. Non-spoiler: a lot of people are about to get killed. Upon arrival in the conference room, our unnamed villain is met with a barrage. I expected the bullets to kill the zombie and then see the end credits roll, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. Undead wrong. Ooohhh. Despite taking bullets all over his body and even one square in the forehead, the zombie doesn’t fall. Meanwhile, Akiyama and his chubby friend are going about their business when they notice a lot of flashes and hear the unmistakable sound of gunshots. A man gets hurled from the window of a building’s second or third floor and faceplants into the pavement not too far in front of them.

“Heh,” Akiyama jokes, trying to calm down his companion. “Looks like someone didn’t pay his bills. A graduate of the Kazuma Kiryu School of Ass Kicking, he’s seen this type of thing before. When the once-down man — a zombie now — gets up and starts eating people, everyone takes note that something is not normal. For whatever reason, a group of ten men emptying clips into zombies doesn’t phase them…but when Akiyama obtains one of their same guns and he fires it, they die. I suppose we just have to shrug and say, “It’s a video game.” We need to make a few allowances, I suppose.

As the game has gone on, it’s become clear that there is far less RPG and far more shooter in this game than previous entries. There’s usually been some way to go level grind if you really wanted to, but while this game still has experience points, levels, and customizable skills, I haven’t found a point where one can really go grind anything up. This is not a statement of opinion on the matter; it’s an observation. Another thing prospective players should be aware of is that so far, save points have been fairly uncommon. I did finally get a hideout though, so perhaps that ends after getting to this point.

Unlike previous Yakuza games which focused 90 per cent of their combat on the hand-to-hand aspect of things, fighting in this one is all about firearms. The cover has each character holding what will probably turn out to be a favorite gun of his. So far, Akiyama’s primary tool of death (“undeath?”) has been a 9mm handgun. Holding R2 brings up crosshairs, helping the player pull off head shots, which are one-hit kills despite the aforementioned inconsistency. When Akiyama’s heat gauge fills up, he can try “Heat Sniping,” which will trigger a Quick-Time Event zooming in on an item that, if shot, can cause some beautiful destruction. An early example of this is shooting the gas tank of a car, causing it to explode and take out the crew of zombies huddling around it probably talking about how they wish it had brains so that they could eat them and then listen to The Cure.

After meeting a comrade who runs a secret gun shop in what will surely become your weapon store of choice, then clearing a building with him in tow, Akiyama arrives in a relatively normal-looking part of the city, kept that way thanks to huge metal barriers that can be seen all over the place.

I’m about two hours in and have been having a good time with Yakuza: Dead Souls. It seems like, so far, this is a decently fun side story to the Yakuza series. You can find out my final verdict in the full review which will go up closer to, appropriately, Halloween.