Yakuza 4 - Review

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Release Date: 10/03/2011

Get Yakuza 4

The Yak is back!

If there was ever a game series to fulfil your Japan fantasies, Yakuza 4 is it. That is, if your Japan fantasies involve beating up hundreds of street-punks as well as wandering the streets of Tokyo, feasting on authentic Japanese food brands and playing in the arcades. Often thought of as the spiritual successor to the Shenmue games, Yakuza 4 is a third-person action-adventure set in a fastidiously detailed, only slightly fictionalised Kabuki-cho (Tokyo's nightlife centre).

There's a difference this time around, though - instead of starring good-guy gangster Kiryu Kazuma, Yakuza 4 has four main characters. Kazuma makes his return after Yakuza 3's cliffhanger ending, but only after about 15 hours.

First you're introduced to Shun Akiyama, a homeless-dude-turned-moneylender with a maroon suit and an excellent sense of humour. Taiga Saejima is an enormous mafia man who's just escaped from prison, having supposedly killed 18 people in a ramen bar in the Eighties. Masayoshi Tanimura, meanwhile, is a young ex-cop.

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Better brawling

All of them have their own distinct fighting styles, which bring much-needed variety to the Yakuza series' simplistic yet satisfying brawling system, keeping the fighting from becoming boring. It's massively violent with more visible damage, and some new brutal finishing moves.

The overarching story, as always, involves a lot of sinister suited gangsters in boardrooms and dead bodies and enormous piles of money and topless men fighting. But each of the four characters has their own story, too, and that's actually far more interesting. The game's divided into five parts - one for each character, and a final chapter where they all come together, letting you switch between them. It feels like four smaller games in one, rather than one enormous, sprawling plotline.

Fun on the side

As always, though, there's absolutely tonnes to do outside of the main story. The neon streets of the city are full of arcades, bars, restaurants and other distractions, and side-quests are hidden in every corner. In arcades, you can play games or win stuff from UFO catchers; there are pachinko parlours for authentic Japanese gambling; you can play darts in bars; visit a hot springs with a lady friend, and you can play an entertaining version of ping-pong - although the object of the game isn't so much to win as to be subjected to various images of girls in much-too-small dressing gowns.

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Yakuza 4 has a truly amazing sense of place, strengthened by the presence of real-life Japanese brands. The detail in the setting is incredible, from the deserted underground car-parks and towering rooftops to the bustling streets at ground level. It can also be an extremely funny game - it counterbalances the seriousness of its mafioso plot with light-hearted incidents like catching a rooftop-jumping bra thief, or watching Kazuma sing karaoke with a date.

Beaten into shape

The four-character structure completely changes the pacing, turning the game from a soup of openworld tasks interspersed with six hours of cutscene into a structured, episodic story. The Yakuza series' enduring problems - irritating random battles, ponderous story, repetitiveness and lack of direction - are mostly solved by the variety that the different characters bring to the fighting system and the plot. That said, there's still quite a lot of fighting involved - if mashing buttons to cause pain doesn't sound like your kind of thing, you might get bored of it quickly.

There's nothing quite like Yakuza 4, and we're very pleased that Sega has seen fit to release it outside of Japan. More than a fascinating cultural artefact, it's a great brawler and an impressively broad adventure game - and it tells a good story, too.

GAME's Verdict

The Good

  • Four great characters
  • An amazingly detailed setting.

The Bad

  • The fighting can get a bit repetitive.
  • Lots of very long cutscenes.
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Pegi Rating:

Suitable for people aged and over.

Genre

Fighting

Customer Rating:

No rating yet

SKU:

Reviews-183583
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