Kazuma? Kazuma!!!!!! My Yakuza 3 Review

I'm sure there are quite a few of you out there that were turned off of this game based on Jeff's Quicklook; if so, you're missing out. Don't get me wrong, this game has a ton of filler, and I mean a TON of filler. Whether it's playing terribly realized mini-games, going on horrible errands for townsfolk, or visiting Club Sega's amazing "shooter," Yakuza 3 has it's faults. But with every fault comes redeeming qualities. 
  
Yakuza 3 isn't necessarily a beautiful game. It boasts a low resolution, outside of in-game engine cut-scenes (you'll know what I mean when you see it), and some mediocre animations. However, there's so much fine detail to each area that the game is almost breathtaking at times. The diversity of characters walking around the streets of Okinawa and Tokyo are varied and do interesting things. Don't forget about the certain "essence" set-pieces which provide hilarious moments(old lady doing a back flip on her scooter). The buildings do look slightly bland yet they are also very unique to each area and you quickly learn to find your way around in an otherwise confusing set of environments. The visuals are mixed, but there are definitely things to love about how the game looks.
 
Yakuza at its heart, is an RPG. Sure, you fight enemies in a brawler type setting but these fights take place in what are basically random events much like any JRPG. Walking around the streets, you'll be interrupted by varying individuals, ranging from "street punks" to "con men." None of these fights are difficult and to a point, become a bit annoying. The brawling/fighting gets a bit repetitive if it weren't for the area and weapon/specific special moves and finishers that include things like picking up an enemy and smashing him on a railing or teeing up a guy's face with your golf club.  
 
But what's really important about Yakuza and what sucks you in is the story and characters. Spend more than a few hours with Yakuza 3, skip the majority of the side-mission and mini-game stuff and you'll come to love the game. Yakuza 3 has one of the most unique, interesting, funny, and heart-wrenching stories from any game of this generation. There were moments, especially towards the end that almost brought me to tears. You'll come to love each character, especially your own Kazuma, and others like Rikiya, a local Yakuza who looks up to Kazuma like an older brother or even a father. Every character is interesting, and I mean every character. There wasn't one moment in the game where I thought to myself "oi, this character is an idiot, I don't want to spend any more time with him/her," and that includes the children; Children in most games or movies can become very annoying but these never did. 
 
Skipping most of the side-events brought the games finishing time down to around 22 hours and I could probably drop that to around 15 on a second play-through. Give it a chance, Yakuza 3 is easily one of the best games of 2010.    

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The Surprise Games of 2010

2010 has been a great year for "surprises." What I mean buy a surprise game are those titles that totally come out of nowhere, smacking you on the face, and saying, "hey, I'm badass!" Here are my biggest surprise games of 2010, 
 
Splatterhouse 
  I think most of us are familiar with Splatterhouse, a "classic?" series released on several systems years ago. I'd heard of the re-make/re-invention of Splatterhouse at some point in time but I never expecting anything from it other than probably boring gameplay and lots of gore. The latter was definitely correct but I was also treated to fun gameplay, visually interesting design level and character design, and a hilarious and campy set of characters. It's not an amazing game, but I got through the game in two days without being bored once.
 
Nier 
  Square-Enix. . . Ugh, what have you done to yourselves? At one point in time, the announcement of a new game coming from the company would have resulted in my eyes being lit up with excitement. Now however, I tend to just not care. Fortunately, Nier turned out to be a fantastic game. Interesting characters, stories, and locales coupled with fun combat and great level design turned Nier into something special.
 
Metro 2033 
  Like one Mr. Snider, I have a thing for eastern block games. Why? Well, the eastern block tends to still hold by the old standard that gamers aren't "stupid." They develop games for the true  "core" gamer, not the guys and gals that just play ME2 and COD. Metro 2033 while not difficult, is definitely a niche title. It brought to the table a fascinating world and story, along with some amazing visuals and some fantastic gameplay systems.
 
 Other suprises, 
 
Darksiders
3D Dot Game Heroes 
Resonance of Fate 
Deadly Premonition 
Amnesia 
VVVVVV

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The Most Disappointing (High Profile) Games of 2010

I'm sure that there are going to be quite a few of you that will take issue to these selections. That's what I'm going for though, and all criticisms are welcome; please leave out the unnecessary name calling though. 
  
Mass Effect 2
 I didn't play ME1 on the 360. My first experience with the series was about a year after it was released, on the PC. With a rock solid framerate, limited technical problems, and an easy to use control system,the PC version of ME1 was supposedly far superior that the 360 counterpart. I didn't love the game, but I did find it very enjoyable; it coupled an interesting and robust story with some decent and great characters to create a flshed-out and diverse world. The ending, in particular, was fantastic and the game is definitely up there among Bioware's best.  

ME2 did many things right, but also, many things wrong. It streamlined the action experience, bringing in a Gears style cover and shooting system with fairly tight controls. ME2 also developed a large and diverse character list with very interesting missions pertaining to those individuals characters histories. On the other hand, Bioware basically stripped out everything relating to a customizable and interesting RPG sans the character selection and missions. Any tactics and strategy relating to combat was gone, character customization was completely stripped, and the overall story was diminished into a boring and lacking narrative. I don't see why Bioware would dump all of the RPG customization and strategy unless they felt that it was a necessary removal in order to ease the development of the game. 
 
Splinter Cell Conviction 
Over the past several years, Ubisoft has gotten in the habit of "dumbing down" their games in an effort to appeal to a larger audience. The previous few splinter cells, especially Chaos Theory were fascinating and unique experiences. The Splinter Cell series was at one time, the pinnacle of stealth gaming for the current generation (Thief 2 is still king). With Conviction, like with Prince of Persia, Ubisoft stripped out the majority of the originating games mechanics. Sure, you could go into stealth, but why would you? It's far easier to pick off guys with your silenced gun rather than to hide and develop unique strategies to kill enemies without being seen. I found myself running around levels like a madmen rather than using strategic stealth tactics to take down my opponents. Without that well-tuned stealth mechanic, Splinter Cell is just another derivative shooter. 
 
Fable III 
I didn't like Fable II. I beat the game but it wasn't an enjoyable experience. In Fable II, I started off as a "good" character, trying to bring justice and love to the world. Yet as the game progressed, I become so damn annoyed with the game that I decided to just say "screw it" and started to kill everyone and anything. That's very abnormal for me. When I play an RPG I always stick to the good path; going "evil" is a good indicator of my hatred for the second game in the series. 
 
I didn't expect a lot from Fable III, but I did expect it to be an improved experience over Fable II. What I got though, was an even more annoying, irritating, and downright frustrating experience. I don't understand how this game went through a QA process without testers shouting about the annoyances of the customization system and the horrible newly designed interactive character system. Who was the genius that thought going into an in-game hub to change weapons and armor was a good idea? I would have been the first person in the development team to stand up after this was mentioned and would have said "are you crazy? That's crazy talk, no one is going to want to deal with that nonsense." Maybe someone did say that though, maybe Molyneux just offed him/her? 

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