Adz Plays... Yakuza 4

While waiting for the 360 to arrive, I decided to have a good shot at Yakuza 4. I bought it a while ago and even played a little bit, but something else came up. This time, I have seen it through to completion....and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a real ride.

Story

The story takes place in the fictional district of Kamurocho, which is roughly based on Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Japan. You initially play as Shun Akiyama, a loaner with some pretty unique conditions. Instead of repayment, he only expects his clients to pass a test of his making. If they pass, they get the money. Simple as.

You will play as various characters as the story progresses (which is pretty much apparent from the intro). Each 'part' (split up with 'chapters') has their own character. Each character has their own story to tell, but they're all somehow involved with the overarching storyline. All the stories weave together nicely and form the overall picture.

I really enjoyed the story. Some of it was predictable, while other scenes took me by surprise. There's more twists than a plate of fusilli pasta. I really don't want to say too much about the storyline. All I will say is that some big stuff goes down between various Yakuza clans. As you might expect, they don't like to mess around...

Gameplay

Yakuza 4 is a brawler set in an open world environment. A lot of the time, you're going to be fighting off enemies in direct combat. There are projectile weapons occasionally, but you'll be mainly fighting either with your fists or anything that's lying around. I'm not a huge fan of repetitive fighting games, but the combat in this game feels very satisfying. Even when I was fighting wave after wave of enemies, I didn't get bored. For me, that's really something.

Each character has their own fighting-style. They also have various abilities to unlock as they level up. You get to choose which abilities they learn by spending soul points, which you get 3 of each time you level up. Some unlock completely new abilities, while others improve existing ones. There isn't a great deal of difference between the fighting styles, so you shouldn't have too much trouble getting to grips with them. I'm not exactly a seasoned fighter, but I got on alright. I played the game on 'Normal'. I found it challenging enough for me (especially some of the boss battles). I'm glad I didn't play it on 'Hard', as I think I would have been too frustrated to have fun.

As well as combat, there's scenes where you have to chase down or evade your enemies. They work well enough, but they're not the best parts of the game. You're also encouraged to seek things out at various points in the story. These parts are mainly linear (you'll get pointed in the right direction if you wander off too much), but one or two of them are a bit more involved.

While the game presents an open world, it is a lot smaller than anything you'll see in games like GTA or Red Dead Redemption. The game also lacks driveable vehicles, but they aren't exactly needed. What you do get is a variety of locations to shop, play games and eat. It's worth having a look around (very few of the activities are touched upon in the story missions). A lot of the activities are surprisingly polished. I even managed to find a golf course at one point, which had a very playable golf game. That said, side-activities have been a feature of the Yakuza games since the very first title, so maybe their quality shouldn't be too much of a shock.

Worst moment of the game? I'll put it in a spoiler field...

The bit where you have to chase down the crooked cop in a speedboat. Whilst it only took three tries, I didn't find that bit fun at all. The speedboat didn't control well. Having to shoot at the same time didn't help matters. It had the potential to be one of the best scenes in the game, but it came off as janky.

Presentation

Graphics-wise, they've put the PS3 to good use. All the character animations do the job nicely in cut-scenes. It really helps you to get involved with the storyline. The game world also benefits greatly from the highly-detailed graphics.

The game often switches from voice-acted scenes to just text, then back to voice-acting. While I understand it wouldn't be cost-effective to do all the scenes with voice-acting, it seems a bit of an odd way to do it. I think a more sensible solution would be to have a bit with voice-acting, then the rest of it in text (before going back to gameplay). As for the quality of said voice-acting, it's top notch. All the voices suit their respective characters. You can definitely tell they're professionals, unlike some games I've played (I'm looking at you, Grandia and Shadow Hearts...) All the voice acting is in Japanese with subtitles, which I feel was the correct way to go about it.

While the game is mainly serious, there is some comic relief here and there. For example, when you first learn 'revelations' with Akiyama, you're presented with a very unusual scene. It seems a little out of place from the rest of the game (my reaction was 'Ok, wasn't expecting that...), but I didn't have a problem with it. After all, it is a Japanese game. I guess you've always got to expect a level of craziness. A lot of the fight scenes are awesomely ridiculous, too.

The game world is very authentic. Having been to Japan twice, I can say first-hand that it really feels like the streets of Tokyo. As mentioned before, the district it's set in is fictional, but it's very similar to the real-life counterpart. They also licensed some items and locations (such as C.C. Lemon and Club Sega), which really helps.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a good brawler with a great storyline and equally great characters, Yakuza 4 fits the bill. Even if you're not particularly into these types of games, it might be worth a shot. A combat-heavy game must be special when even I can enjoy it.

...oh, one thing I should note is the lengthy install time when you first play the game. Like Metal Solid Gear 4, it's mandatory. While it's happening, you might want to do something else. Might be a good idea to mute the TV, too. Whilst there's nothing particularly wrong with the song that plays, it might grate on you after hearing it for the umpteenth time.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Other Stuff

As you may seen in a status update, I now have a 360 again. That means the next game I cover WILL be Enslaved (no messing this time). As I've already played a good chunk of it, the next blog shouldn't be far away at all. I just hope I can cope with it after not playing for so long. I'm not worried about the story (I still remember it), but the gameplay could be an issue. Anyway, I'll see how it goes...

No idea what I'll be covering after Enslaved. I'll need to have a think about it. It'll probably be something I already own. As for recent games that have peaked my interest, I definitely want to check out 'Dishonored' (yes, I will put it in quotation marks), as I've seen and heard good things. I also want to check out the controversial Resident Evil 6 at some point. From what I played of the demo, it doesn't look as terrible as some people have been saying. Even the quick look seemed a bit harsh. I guess I'll find out for sure when I play the full game. That's still a way off, though.

Thanks for reading and expect another blog fairly soon.

9 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by AdzPearson

While waiting for the 360 to arrive, I decided to have a good shot at Yakuza 4. I bought it a while ago and even played a little bit, but something else came up. This time, I have seen it through to completion....and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a real ride.

Story

The story takes place in the fictional district of Kamurocho, which is roughly based on Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Japan. You initially play as Shun Akiyama, a loaner with some pretty unique conditions. Instead of repayment, he only expects his clients to pass a test of his making. If they pass, they get the money. Simple as.

You will play as various characters as the story progresses (which is pretty much apparent from the intro). Each 'part' (split up with 'chapters') has their own character. Each character has their own story to tell, but they're all somehow involved with the overarching storyline. All the stories weave together nicely and form the overall picture.

I really enjoyed the story. Some of it was predictable, while other scenes took me by surprise. There's more twists than a plate of fusilli pasta. I really don't want to say too much about the storyline. All I will say is that some big stuff goes down between various Yakuza clans. As you might expect, they don't like to mess around...

Gameplay

Yakuza 4 is a brawler set in an open world environment. A lot of the time, you're going to be fighting off enemies in direct combat. There are projectile weapons occasionally, but you'll be mainly fighting either with your fists or anything that's lying around. I'm not a huge fan of repetitive fighting games, but the combat in this game feels very satisfying. Even when I was fighting wave after wave of enemies, I didn't get bored. For me, that's really something.

Each character has their own fighting-style. They also have various abilities to unlock as they level up. You get to choose which abilities they learn by spending soul points, which you get 3 of each time you level up. Some unlock completely new abilities, while others improve existing ones. There isn't a great deal of difference between the fighting styles, so you shouldn't have too much trouble getting to grips with them. I'm not exactly a seasoned fighter, but I got on alright. I played the game on 'Normal'. I found it challenging enough for me (especially some of the boss battles). I'm glad I didn't play it on 'Hard', as I think I would have been too frustrated to have fun.

As well as combat, there's scenes where you have to chase down or evade your enemies. They work well enough, but they're not the best parts of the game. You're also encouraged to seek things out at various points in the story. These parts are mainly linear (you'll get pointed in the right direction if you wander off too much), but one or two of them are a bit more involved.

While the game presents an open world, it is a lot smaller than anything you'll see in games like GTA or Red Dead Redemption. The game also lacks driveable vehicles, but they aren't exactly needed. What you do get is a variety of locations to shop, play games and eat. It's worth having a look around (very few of the activities are touched upon in the story missions). A lot of the activities are surprisingly polished. I even managed to find a golf course at one point, which had a very playable golf game. That said, side-activities have been a feature of the Yakuza games since the very first title, so maybe their quality shouldn't be too much of a shock.

Worst moment of the game? I'll put it in a spoiler field...

The bit where you have to chase down the crooked cop in a speedboat. Whilst it only took three tries, I didn't find that bit fun at all. The speedboat didn't control well. Having to shoot at the same time didn't help matters. It had the potential to be one of the best scenes in the game, but it came off as janky.

Presentation

Graphics-wise, they've put the PS3 to good use. All the character animations do the job nicely in cut-scenes. It really helps you to get involved with the storyline. The game world also benefits greatly from the highly-detailed graphics.

The game often switches from voice-acted scenes to just text, then back to voice-acting. While I understand it wouldn't be cost-effective to do all the scenes with voice-acting, it seems a bit of an odd way to do it. I think a more sensible solution would be to have a bit with voice-acting, then the rest of it in text (before going back to gameplay). As for the quality of said voice-acting, it's top notch. All the voices suit their respective characters. You can definitely tell they're professionals, unlike some games I've played (I'm looking at you, Grandia and Shadow Hearts...) All the voice acting is in Japanese with subtitles, which I feel was the correct way to go about it.

While the game is mainly serious, there is some comic relief here and there. For example, when you first learn 'revelations' with Akiyama, you're presented with a very unusual scene. It seems a little out of place from the rest of the game (my reaction was 'Ok, wasn't expecting that...), but I didn't have a problem with it. After all, it is a Japanese game. I guess you've always got to expect a level of craziness. A lot of the fight scenes are awesomely ridiculous, too.

The game world is very authentic. Having been to Japan twice, I can say first-hand that it really feels like the streets of Tokyo. As mentioned before, the district it's set in is fictional, but it's very similar to the real-life counterpart. They also licensed some items and locations (such as C.C. Lemon and Club Sega), which really helps.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a good brawler with a great storyline and equally great characters, Yakuza 4 fits the bill. Even if you're not particularly into these types of games, it might be worth a shot. A combat-heavy game must be special when even I can enjoy it.

...oh, one thing I should note is the lengthy install time when you first play the game. Like Metal Solid Gear 4, it's mandatory. While it's happening, you might want to do something else. Might be a good idea to mute the TV, too. Whilst there's nothing particularly wrong with the song that plays, it might grate on you after hearing it for the umpteenth time.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Other Stuff

As you may seen in a status update, I now have a 360 again. That means the next game I cover WILL be Enslaved (no messing this time). As I've already played a good chunk of it, the next blog shouldn't be far away at all. I just hope I can cope with it after not playing for so long. I'm not worried about the story (I still remember it), but the gameplay could be an issue. Anyway, I'll see how it goes...

No idea what I'll be covering after Enslaved. I'll need to have a think about it. It'll probably be something I already own. As for recent games that have peaked my interest, I definitely want to check out 'Dishonored' (yes, I will put it in quotation marks), as I've seen and heard good things. I also want to check out the controversial Resident Evil 6 at some point. From what I played of the demo, it doesn't look as terrible as some people have been saying. Even the quick look seemed a bit harsh. I guess I'll find out for sure when I play the full game. That's still a way off, though.

Thanks for reading and expect another blog fairly soon.

Posted by Claude

A lot of people enjoyed Enslaved. I have yet to play it. Not even sure if it's worth it now.

Posted by AdzPearson

@Claude: I'd say it's worth giving a try. I actually ended up completing it earlier today and it was a good experience on the most part. The story was well done (if a bit lacking at the very end) and there was plenty of nice set pieces. Combat wasn't great for me, but there was plenty to make me look past it. I'll be going into it in more detail in my next blog. It'll probably appear on Tuesday.

Posted by Claude

Thanks for the reply. I might have to check it out one day. It's pretty inexpensive now too.

Posted by Demoskinos

@AdzPearson: I agree with you about the worst moment. Ugh... there is even a harder version of that section in the "challenge" mode that they have once you beat the game. Somehow....somehow I actually managed to beat it.

Posted by Sooty

Yakuza 4 is great, 3 is probably the best game I've played in a long time.

Posted by AdzPearson

@Demoskinos: Damn, the version in the main game was bad enough. XD I probably won't be trying that any time soon.

@Sooty: I definitely want to play 3 at some point. I'd like to see the other stuff that went down in Kamurocho. I'll also check out Dead Souls, too (I still prefer 'Yakuza of the End' as a title). Probably won't bother with the older games, unless I find out they're highly recommended.

Edited by Sooty

@AdzPearson said:

@Demoskinos: Damn, the version in the main game was bad enough. XD I probably won't be trying that any time soon.

@Sooty: I definitely want to play 3 at some point. I'd like to see the other stuff that went down in Kamurocho. I'll also check out Dead Souls, too (I still prefer 'Yakuza of the End' as a title). Probably won't bother with the older games, unless I find out they're highly recommended.

Yakuza 3 has arguably one of the most moving scenes in gaming history! It's so well 'acted'.

I hear Dead Souls is pretty bad but I do plan to check it out. I imported Yakuza: Kenzan from Japan this year which is excellent too.

Edit: Oh! Yakuza 2 holds up fairly well actually, you should check that out. The first game not so much, super long load times and the English voice acting is really out of place.

Edited by Petiew

Yakuza 4 is one of my favourite games, glad to see you enjoyed it! 
Definitely give Yakuza 3 a try, but you should wait a while before diving into it. I went from 3 to 4 quickly and the gameplay is so similar you might get burned out. However 3 added a small section of Okinawa which was a nice change.
 
The only major gripe I had with this game, and the Yakuza series in general was a certain plot point/action (Spoilers for Y4 and previous games)

Posted by AdzPearson

@Sooty: Ah, cool. Might keep tabs on 2 as well, then. Yeah, Dead Souls seemed a bit fiddly going by the quick look (particularly the boss battle). Hopefully it doesn't plague too much of the game.

@Petiew: Yeah, I like to avoid burning out whenever I can. I'm currently on a break from JRPGs for that very reason, as I played a lot of them over the past few months (mainly because I didn't have a lot of choice until my new 360 came around). I'll definitely be waiting a bit before going to 3.

As for the gripe you had...

...it's something that seems to happen a lot in films, too. I usually find myself thinking 'Why didn't you do something to prevent it?!' in moments like that. I've kind of got to the point of accepting it, as it's so commonplace across action films/games, but it's still a bit silly...especially when it gets used by the same franchise multiple times.