Attention all Yakuza series fans: the Yakuza 3 demo just launched in Japan last night. I was able to get my hands on the demo at a friend’s house, and let me tell you, it looks incredible. I had never played a Yakuza title before, so I was really excited to finally play this critically acclaimed series. The visuals were on par with any current-gen PS3 title, but was the gameplay fulfilling? Read on to find out.
First off, I’m going to be comparing this game to Shenmue. There’s no avoiding it; SEGA developed both game series, both have QTEs during fighting, both of the main characters father’s were murdered (Yakuza’s was a foster father), and both have a similar “walk around Asian city and get into random fights” structure. In terms of visuals however, Shenmue doesn’t hold a candle to Yakuza 3. The visuals are absolutely stunning. The environments are well detailed, each and every character’s face is rendered realistically down to the bumps on their cheeks, and there can be tons of on-screen characters at once with no slow down. The menus are also pretty sleek, and easy to use, despite being in Japanese. There’s an inventory menu, a cell phone option, and a controls menu.
When you start the demo, you’re in the heart of a fictional Tokyo (the plot centers around you going to Okinawa, but this is where you start off). You play the part of Kiryu Kazuma, a badass ex-Yakuza member who everyone apparently hates. The game plays just like Shenmue, or to a lesser extent, Grand Theft Auto. When you start off, you are on the bustling streets of Tokyo. Suddenly, there is some commotion inside a nearby club. I was given the option explore the streets at this time, but figured I’d do plenty of that later; for now, I head into the club.
Since the entire demo is in Japanese, I can’t comprehend what’s going on, but it’s pretty easy to figure out. I walk into the club, and there’s tons of money on the table (bad), with gangsters clamoring around it. Two of the gangsters are actually happy to see you, and the others look like they’re ready to beat your face in. Their leader, who I will refer to as “Cornrows”, wants to particularly clean your clock. As expected, battle ensues with Cornrows, and goons incorporated. Kiryu is able to lock on, block, punch, kick, grab, and doge. As previously mentioned, the battle system is a lot like Shenmue, but more robust. The grab moves are particularly fun, because you can grab enemies, and slam their faces into the wall. If an enemy is on the ground, you can grab their legs, and also throw them into the wall, or just plain throw them around for the heck of it.
If you are “on a roll” (IE smash some faces), your character glows blue or red. I can’t read the instructions, but I presume that you can unleash this power periodically. The reason I say that is because randomly you’ll be fighting, and all of a sudden the enemy will cough and wheeze, allowing you to do a QTE super attack on them. This is one thing not found in Shenmue, or most similar games: battles are either QTE, or all action, not both. I found the battle system also more fun due to the fact that you could pick up random weapons like barstools and lamps to bash your enemies with. As you bash your enemies, the weapon will fall apart.
Halfway into the battle, Cornrows will whip out a katana (!). I continued to beat his face in, and he eventually loses after a super move on my part. There is a long cutscene involving the two mobsters who like you, which has voice acting. After the cutscene, there is an in-game scene, which does not have voice overs. After all that, you set out on another mission. I immediately noticed that you can go into an option on the start menu, and apply experience points to each attack. If you’ve played the demo and haven’t tried this, do it! When you get outside, you get a text from someone on your cellphone, and a “codec” call, that does have a voice over. I also got a call from a random girl, so I wandered around until I found a club.
Outside the club, there’s a clerk; select the first option to go inside. Select the first option again, once inside, to sit down. Then there were 3 options (I have no idea what they were); I picked the first. I sat down with some girl, and then she immediately wanted a present. I gave her bottled water, and she looked pissed (purple clouds went above her head). To make up for it, I ordered her expensive wine (you can choose anything from expensive wine to fruit juice), and a nice dinner; hearts appeared above her head, and she was happy again (huzzah!). Then a long conversation occurred, and after every pause was a selectable option response. I randomly chose, but every answer I gave that ended in me nodding my head “yes”, she loved (the secret to relationship success). After the dinner, I left, but I have a feeling this will be a big part of the main game.
I started to head up the alley, but I was ambushed by two punks. I beat the crap out of one, slamming him into the ground and causing his nose to gush with blood. The other one cowered in fear on the ground. I picked him up by his foot and slammed him into the wall as well. Easy enough!
After the minor distraction, I stepped into a convenient store (Why couldn’t I find this sooner, when I had to give that girl a present?!). The store had your basic wares, health items, and Japanese magazines. It was pretty cool because the store looked like an authentic Japanese locale, but there wasn’t much to do there, so onward with my mission!
As I was walking the streets, I took in all the detail. Citizens were going about their daily business; some were texting on their cell phones, and others were drunk, hitting on random women in the street. Eventually I happenstance upon a dark alley, and that’s where a Wesker (from Resident Evil) look-alike came out with his entourage and ambushed me. All of these enemies are in suits, with thick black MIB glasses. I vanquished all the goons rather quickly, but Wesker was a different matter. He put up a good fight, but eventually I got him into a very long, adrenaline-filled QTE sequence. I pushed circle to initiate it (the grab button), which I assume is the super grab move. I had a second or so to push 5 buttons in succession, and with each press, I broke one of Wesker’s appendages.
After the fight, Wesker and Co. run away, and the demo ends. It was a pretty long demo if you run around and explore, especially if you don’t know where to go and don’t understand Japanese. Overall, Yakuza 3 is shaping up to be an awesome game so far. The battle system is incredibly robust, and there are a lot of “wow!” moments when beating the crud out of foes. Check out the demo if you can, because Yakuza 3 will most likely not hit US shores due to the lack of sales of it’s predecessors in the states. Of course, the PS3 is region free, so you could import it, but if SEGA does not include English subtitles, you probably won’t get far.
Tips for the Demo!
To learn new moves, press R3 to use Kiryu’s cellphone and aim it at “situations” on the street. Aim your cellphone at the drunk guy harassing the girl out of the first club, and the girl looking at the cardboard box.
The karaoke club is on the far eastern street next to the “Heaven Gate” cafe. Head over there for a mini-game.
Head east for the SEGA arcade. You can play the crane game, a quiz game (all in Japanese), and a SEGA shmup.
Press the d-pad in a fight to switch weapons. The brass knuckles are amazingly cheap.