Yakuza PlayStation 2

Published by SEGA
Developed by SEGA
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Yakuza, an introduction.

Fighting games have diversified in recent times. Attempts have been made to wrap a story around the fights and also to throw some RPG elements in there for good measure. Most of these efforts (such as Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance) just haven’t been that interesting. In fact only SEGA’s Shenmue can really be classed as a memorable game in this style. The latest game in with this formula, Yakuza, manages to be interesting and worthwhile. Focusing on the Japanese underworld, the game manages to come across as something unique. It’s also more compelling than previous attempts to create a game of this nature. 

What’s the game about?

In Yakuza you’ll play Kazuma, a member of the Dojima family. The game begins with Kazuma standing over the murdered body of the leader of the Dojima family. It looks like Kazuma has murdered him but before we see Kazuma arrested you’ll play out the previous day’s events, which show him to be innocent. Essentially what happens is that the head of the Dojima family had kidnapped Kazuma’s girlfriend, Yumi. Kazuma’s best friend, Nishiki, had attempted to rescue Yumi but on finding that Dojima had hurt her, Nishiki killed the Dojima boss. Kazuma learnt of the kidnapping and rushed to the boss’s office to find him dead and Yumi hurt.  With the police fast approaching the building and with the knowledge that Nishiki’s sister was close to death, Kazuma told Nishiki to take Yumi and escape leaving him to take the rap. Another friend, Shinji, visits Kazuma in prison and tells him that Yumi has amnesia and can’t remember anything that happened and doesn’t know who Kazuma is. Ten years after being imprisoned Kazuma is finally paroled but just before he leaves prison a letter arrives telling him that everything has changed. Things go from bad to worse when it’s announced that the Dojima 10 billion yen fortune has been stolen. It’s fair to say then that Kazuma is jumping out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.

What’s good about the game?

In the early part of the game the story definitely manages to grab your attention which is actually very important as it’s kind of a tutorial phase that would easily become boring if the story didn’t hold your attention. The most important aspect of the game, the combat, also feels satisfactory with a decent amount of combos and the ability to learn additional moves in a kind of RPG fashion. It’s not the deepest combat system you’ll have encountered but it’s good enough. Most of the combat is hand to hand. You can pick up various items to use. Usually they will break fairly quickly but they are effective whilst they last. Heat mode attacks can be performed by filling the appropriate gauge and these attacks are more powerful. Outside of the main plot you can play games in casinos and even visit the more seedy parts of town amongst other things.  There are even some optional side quests to undertake if you wish to do so.

What’s bad about the game?

The main problem with Yakuza is that it does become very repetitive. A majority of the fights (not including the boss fights) seem all too similar, as there’s not a great deal of variety in regards to the types of enemies you’ll face. Only the boss fights seem to present much of a challenge. This rather dulls the impact of having such an enjoyable combat system. There are a lot of small loading times to contend with, which aren’t exactly long (at least not when compared to certain games I could mention) but the number of them is a little irritating. Whilst the story begins well and will keep you glued to the game for the first couple of hours, it does begin to fall off pretty sharply in the latter stages and in many ways feels disappointing after such an interesting beginning.

How does it look?

Graphically Yakuza is fairly good. The disappointments come in the form of some collision detection problems and an awkward camera that isn’t as responsive as you would probably have hoped for. When walking around the streets you’ll notice that pedestrians simply appear out of nowhere which does look a little crude. The positives have to be the character models (although it’s odd how Kazuma doesn’t age whilst he’s in prison and yet some characters do), the detail shown in the Tokyo streets and the fact the game doesn’t slow down during the battles even though there are usually at least half a dozen enemies to contend with.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Yakuza is quite good in regards to catering for deaf gamers. The game does have subtitles and by default they are enabled. The games cutscenes are subtitled but here the dialogue is not colour-coded and there are no character names or portraits placed alongside the text. The dialogue also progresses at its own pace. During the main game things are better as the character’s name is placed alongside the dialogue and the text is colour-coded. You’ll also need to press the X button to move the dialogue forward meaning that you can read the text at your own pace. Objectives are given in text and can be recalled at any time by pressing the start button and selecting them from the menu. Whilst you’re walking around the streets of Tokyo you’ll notice various comments appear in text which are from bystanders. During battles the comments made by your enemies are not subtitled. Most of these comments are usually some form of profanity and it’s no real problem that such comments are not subtitled. All tutorial messages in the game are shown in text. 

Final thoughts.

Whilst Yakuza isn’t perfect and has its problems such as the multiple loading times, a lack of variety in the enemies you face and a story that doesn’t maintain its initial quality, it’s one of the best games of its type. Many will point to the Yakuza theme as its main selling point, which in fairness makes for a refreshing change, but even if you ignore the theme of the game it still manages to be a better game than most of this type and is easily superior to games such as Beat Down: Fist of Vengeance and Final Fight Streetwise.

Overall Game Rating: 7.9/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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After the flops that were Beat Down: Fists of Fury and Final Fight Streetwise it’s good to see a story based fighting game on the PlayStation 2 that actually works well. Yakuza isn’t perfect and it certainly isn’t up to the same standard of Shenmue but many will enjoy its original theme.