Yakuza (PlayStation 2) review
"Published by: SEGA "
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Amusement Vision
Genre: Action Adventure
Number of Players: 1-2
US: September 5, 2006
ESRB Rating M
Content Descriptors: Mature Sexual Themes, Realistic Blood, Realistic Violence, Strong Language, Use of Tobacco and Alcohol
Yakuza Review by Geek Woman
Yakuza is a game of contrasts. Inside the game is a compelling movie feature - length story unfolding as you play. At it's heart is a a fighting game from the PS2's heyday, unfortunately we aren't expecting fighting games from five years ago anymore. This is great franchise that I would like to see more of on a next gen console that can handle the both the graphic depth of the vast Yakuza underground world as well as having a dynamic fighting engine. Making this game a PS2 exclusive wasn't the best choice. Yakuza 2 is all ready out in Japan, but it may never come here.
As it is, the flaws may over come the strengths in most cases. But what kept me playing in spite of the annoying and unforgivable flaws was the novel. This is a game that requires patience. If you are enough of a Japanese genre fan to have dealt with some of the other pesky titles like the Fatal Frame and Siren games then you know what is in store for you. This title might only suit the fandom and be a rental for anyone else.
The major problems with the game are with the game play itself. It was very disappointing. At first you are given a training mission and simple button press sequences eventually become better combo moves as Kazuma gains levels. there are so many interesting little details in the game that make it almost so good. It almost makes you love it for the potential that you can see it has. the HP restoration is a combination of points from fighting as well as consuming food. Your character can stop in for a Bento box or a Beef Noodle Bowl to increase experience points as well as refilling the health meter. Vitamins, juice and medicines can be purchases at several colorful variety stores and restaurants.
Kazuma fights mostly with a very limited range of martial arts moves. In the game he has the reputation of being a champion the "Dojima Dragon" but his mechanics are worse that the lame fight engine in Urban Reign. It just doesn't work with the story to have such a badly done fighter playing as this legendary Yakuza. The game has been compared to Grand Theft Auto, but it is nothing like it. Kazuma doesn't have weapons, he can pick up items from the environment including swords as well as sign posts, grave stones, lanterns and lead pipes. But he doesn't keep an arsenal and rarely has access to any guns. Travel is strictly on foot.
There are many save points so that doesn't become an issue, even though the character has to walk or run every where. In the game one of the beginning levels is what many websites have called "the worst stealth sequence in all of gaming". I agreed for an afternoon and almost threw in the towel at that point. But then I realized what the cryptic clues in the game meant. You have to try to blend in at the infamous funeral. You go up to one group after another and chat with them, timing it so that the guards don't nab you. Believe it or not this insufferable level is solved by you actually waltzing right in through the front door.
The other major problems are with the rest of the controls. Kazuma can't jump or climb. The camera control that is usually mapped to the right analog stick, instead moves the view on the mini-map. It is completely useless. In a fighting sequence there is not auto targeting, in fact there is no targeting at all. Three punches out of four will go off into thin air while the enemies turn their heads. You don't loose because the enemy AI is particularly smart, it's because your character won't face them to fight them. When you are walking down the street you may not be able to see or distinguish where your character is. The odd ball locked camera angles make getting around in a city with street signs that are all in Japanese a challenge. The perspective is reverse axis so up is down and down is up. Trying to run from one mission to the next is irritating. You run into random street fights over and over and they aren't easy to avoid when you are in a hurry to complete something. Game play gets repetitive fast. When you get into a fight there is a title screen that will say "VS.Street Hoodlums" or whoever, then another screen where the enemies are letter-boxed, then there is a still shot, and then you fight. You can go to the bathroom while it is loading a fight.
The idea of a virtual Japan is fascinating. Yakuza reproduces the atmosphere of an upscale Japanese city with the blazing neon, the jumbotrons, and the packed streets full of people. I wouldn't mind a game that was just a sim of Virtual Japan alone, there is so much to explore in this game and it only scratches the surface of what it could be. The characters are blocky and clumsy. The shops look interesting on the outside, but many of them are exactly the same on the inside. The art becomes repetitive, as if the designers just took on too much and couldn't finish it. In some places like in Purgatory you have an enormous, beautiful aquarium, but there are only two fish in it. There is a highly detailed control room, but you can't use the maps in it. In other places the environments are stagnant. While in a fighting sequence the environments become interactive and most of it can be used as weapons. It lacks consistency. The cut scenes are long and are what holds your interest.
Marketing Efforts to Women
This was not designed to be a girl game. But it is one that some women might enjoy despite of the ruggedness and sexism of it. The language is filthy. The women in the game are either being kidnapped, or always running off someplace or being killed. The entire game is one female -in - peril rescue mission after another. The story has so many plot twists that it keeps you playing and swearing right along with the characters since it is so frustrating to play. Yet you become involved in it and want to know what happens next. The game would have benefited from having a playable female character. It might have changed the story a bit and made it interesting to play as that character Yumi for instance, who is absent for most of the game. In the Tenchu series of action adventure games, you can play as a female Samurai and the story is slightly different when you play as her or her male counterpart. Female Yakuza may be rare but not entirely unheard of as in the case of the anime Gokusen which is about a young woman who is a female Oyabun.
The game-play is frustrating and annoying. It depletes the enjoyment factor down considerably. If you adapt to the blind-spots and weirdness of the controls in this game you might enjoy it. However all that adjustment can hardly be called fun. Even still I was compelled to play the whole game to see the ending. This isn't a graphic novel though, it's a video game. I don't play video games to read, I play them to have a good time, playing them. I give Yakuza a disappointed and below average 4 out of 10.
Pros: It was a good idea to bring a Yakuza novel to gaming.
CONS: The game play and graphics fall short of such lofty goals.
Total Rating - 4
Game-play - 3
Enjoyment - 5
Graphics - 4
Sound/Music - 4
Community review by geekwoman (June 14, 2007)
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