Sega held off on bringing Yakuza 3 stateside, even after the game saw great sales in Japan. After a year of waiting, the game has finally hit the US, bringing GTA-style gameplay with a heavily Japanese flavor. The game features plenty of fights, story, and a ton of mini games to keep you busy during your trip into Japan. The question is though, is this game worthy of its Yakuza name or does it fall a few punches short of a knockout?
Yakuza 3 continues the story of the legendary 4th Chairman of the Tojo Clan, “The Dragon of Dojima,” Kazuma Kiryu. Looking for a way out of the life of a Yakuza, Kazuma decides to settle down and run the Sunshine Orphanage that he grew up in. The story is told in its original language with English subtitles, something that really adds to the presentation of the game. The game is all about the Japanese culture and setting, so having it in its original language further enhances the feeling of being in Japan. A great feature in the game for those who have not played the first two or need to refresh their memory, is a setting at the start screen to view a recap of the first and the second games. This is a great way to get backstory and catch you up on all the events leading up to this third game.
On your attempt to run the straight and narrow, you find that trouble follows you, and you cannot help but get caught back up in the wrong crowd. Luckily, though, your character is always up for throwing his knuckles around and he just happens to be very good at it. This is where the combat comes into play, and boy is it ever fun to throw down with your fellow combatants. Fights happen at random on the streets, with punks and Yakuza alike approaching you and picking a fight. Once the fight is started, you are introduced to the combatants, and then it’s on. Combat breaks down into light and strong attacks, with the ability to block, grab, and dodge.
Fighting won’t just be done with your bare hands as you can pick up various different objects around the fighting area, which happens to resemble a school-yard fight where a group of onlookers encircle the combatants. The objects you can pick up vary from bikes along the side of the street to trash cans and couches. Each object that you pick up has a set number of uses and once these are gone the object will break. Aside from these objects you can also equip various different weapons for your character to use and these can be easily cycled through using the D-Pad during combat.
Additionally, you build up your heat gauge with each successful attack on an enemy. Once you have filled up your gauge, you will notice a blue aura around your character, indicating that you are in heat mode. This mode allows you to pull off secret techniques to put a major hurt on anyone caught in them. Most of these secret techniques can only be used in certain conditions, like when holding an object or grabbing an opponent. During boss battles, you will get to use a Super Finish, which again is based around your heat gauge. Combat also employs the use of Quick Time Events, but these are not as intense as say the ones in Heavy Rain. For the most part, you will only have to use these during the boss battles and sometimes during story fights.
The combat can become very intense, as every hit taken and given feels very heavy, and you will almost always fight more than one enemy, outside of some boss battles. Enemies will come at you with various different weapons and fighting styles, meaning you will need to make sure to block and dodge correctly. The boss battles are very interesting, as each boss has a unique set of moves, meaning you will have to employ a new strategy during each fight. You will also have the option to improve your character’s attributes and learn new moves through experience gained during combat.
New to the combat side of things is the chase battle. Just as the name sounds, you are given a task to run down someone attempting to flee from you. Both the chaser and the chased have a running gauge that decreases as either character runs into something or someone in their way. You must successfully navigate through crowded streets and jump over obstacles to gain on your enemy. Once close, you can bump into the person you are chasing to decrease their gauge, then tackle them once they are empty.