I found this in a bargain bin last week for $10, and it was a pretty blind-buy for me. I'd heard of it, but I had always (mistakenly) thought it was some kind of Japanese GTA. So glad I was so wrong.
For the first hour or so I was honestly pretty bored and thought the game would end up in my "death-bin" with other lack-luster, unfinished titles; the two most recent being Fairytale Fights and Genji: Days of the Blade. Luckily, I stuck it out for a little while longer and saw the gem here. Put simply, this is one of, if not the single-most engrossing narrative I have ever experienced in a game.
Not only have I not skipped a single cut-scene here (which I am very prone to do in a lot of games), I found myself actually sitting and watching an hour or so of cut-scenes from the previous two games just to get a better understanding of the characters and story-line leading up to Y3. If you had told me I would be doing that prior to playing this, I never would have believed it. The story here is just so engrossing, and the whole level of immersion or feeling of actually being in Japan is just amazing.
This game is slow going at first, especially to a new-comer to the franchise, and I just hated the fight engine when I first experienced it; it seemed really boring and repetitive. Fortunately, as with any good RPG, the system evolved with my character, and after a few hours playing it, I started really enjoying the battles. The environments and interaction with them quickly became the star of the show, and now the somewhat limited mechanics of the actual fighting system are more of a means to an end. You smack guys around a little till you can finish them off with one of the outstanding environmental attacks. The sheer amount of options for both fisticuffs and weapon-play almost rivals Dead Rising, and I spend more time just looking for a fight now as doing anything else the game has to offer.
And speaking of things it has to offer... I'm just blown away. I'm sure I'm not even half-way through this title yet and I've already played excellent, almost fully realized games of Golf, Pool, Darts, Baseball, Cee-Lo, Bowling, and a few other things I'm sure I'm forgetting. Plus there are video games, dating simulators; the list just goes on and on. The amount of content and stuff to do here is just staggering.
It's a little clunky to control, and some of it feels a little dated to me, but it's not hampering the experience at all. I am just having a total blast playing this. Next to Mortal Kombat (9), this is easily going to be one of the games I spent the most time playing this year, and I have no doubt that it will be one of those special games that I fondly remember playing years later.
It's unfortunate that I'm hearing bad things about part 4. It would have been really exciting to have another game to jump to when I finished this one.