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Yakuza 5 (PS3) Hands-On Impression [Tokyo Game Show]

September 20, 2012 Written by Heath Hindman

OK, now that you’ve seen about half of the trailer and gotten some info, here’s how it went for me during my time with Yakuza 5 at the Tokyo Game Show.

Two men in suits were talking to Kazuma as he washed his car, saying they needed some help. He said he had better things to do and told them “That’s your life now, not mine.” They did that classic Japanese drama thing where they say his name all dramatically after that, as if to reveal they know more about him that they had previously let on. I’m not sure why directors love this so much. We all knew that they knew. Oh well.

Kazuma sets off through the streets of Fukuoka, a first for the Yakuza series. Along the way, he gets challenged by aggressive thugs and punks, and the player must teach these dudes a lesson. The opening scenes were initially advertised to not have any transition into and out of battle, but that was a little bit exaggerated, it seems. While it’s true there was no fading and no text to manually mash through beforehand (just a voice clip), Kazuma and his attacker did just stand there doing nothing for like five straight seconds while the PS3 was obviously loading. After each battle was over, there was indeed a fade to black.

I felt right at home during the aforementioned combat. The usual moves and three-button combos were there, and the favorite extensions we’ve become so familiar with over the years. The grappling/throwing seemed easier than I remember it being, but as with most demos, the default settings at the booth might have been Easy mode. (They assume you’re terrible at games and are stupid, at these trade shows.)

I was a little disappointed in the high amount of graphic overlap I saw. I noticed legs going into the sides of buildings, people walking through each other and so on, fairly often. It’s been in plenty of games, Yakuza included, but for some reason I kept seeing it happen all over the place in Yakuza 5 today. The game still looks as good as the series ever has in both cinema and gameplay, overall. Likewise, the controls, sound, and presentation, all check out.

After the mid-boss battle that ended the demo, one of the defeated men yelled “Fourth Chairman!” as Kazuma was walking away. Kazuma handled it with expected levels of smooth. I could be wrong, but I feel like this part of the game would be happening before his big ol’ horn honk rage that I mentioned in the trailer rundown.

The game is set for a December release in Japan and I’d bet Spring or Summer 2013 in North America. Then again, it’s the largest-scale Yakuza game ever, so translating all of this stuff may take longer than usual. We’ll see.