pepsiman's Ryu ga Gotoku 4: Densetsu wo Tsugumono (PlayStation 3) review

Yakuza 4: Once More Down the Mirroring Rabbit Hole

When high profile Japanese games have been released overseas in recent years, they tend to garner a sort of critically analytical reception. Employing tropes and gameplay mechanics that are distinct and often operate differently than their western counterparts, Japanese games tend to, for better or for worse, attract the label of being “so Japanese” in terms of sensibilities and the sort of audience they attract. Although Yakuza 4 does exhibit some of these same apparent quirks, it's ultimately a Japanese game in a more abstract sense. Down to its very core, Yakuza 4 is a game whose themes, storylines, and commentaries are all tailored specifically for a native Japanese audience that is in tune with the trends and issues affecting Japan today. Because of that, there are likely a lot of little things that those who don't live there or at least study its language and culture will likely miss, but it's precisely that devotion to portraying a more skeptically realistic Japan that's also the greatest thing to be taken away from Yakuza 4 after playing it.

 Not everyone knows it at first, but this is what we'd call the point of no return.

Contrary to previous entries in the series that centered around the same protagonist, Kiryu Kazuma, Yakuza 4 has you experiencing the daily lives of three other playable characters in addition to him. As you might suspect, all four of them have ties that eventually force their initially separate lives to converge together for a common cause, brought about political strife within the Tojo Clan, the main yakuza entity that encompasses a variety of smaller member families. What starts out as just a minor fight between two members of lower tier families quickly turns into a murder that is tied into a larger conspiracy that affects the prospects of many more people. While this sort of setup is one that certainly isn't unfamiliar to those who like mafia-related fiction or have even played previous Yakuza installments, it remains engaging because of strong and surprisingly relatable characterizations that compliments what is by and large a plausible, down to earth plot, even if it's sometimes easy to get lost in the numerous nuances that are obsessed over in the game.

Naturally, the main focus of both the game's story and its actual gameplay is on the four playable characters that you'll play as over the course of the game. Despite the fact that they all by and large conduct their lives and work in the same fictional district of Kamurocho, they're all up to pretty different antics, which makes each of their segments feel distinct, even if they tend to operate pretty similarly on a mechanical level. At the start of the game, for example, you take on the role of Shun Akiyama, a kind, generous moneylender who only loans money to people that can pass tests that he specifically tailors towards them. He also happens to run a hostess club on the side when he isn't competing with more ferociously conventional loan sharks. Contrast all of that that with Masayoshi Tanimura, a low-ranking detective whose main driver in his life and work is figuring out what got his father killed while he was solving a mystery decades ago. When he's not directly focused on that, though, he's also known to provide assistance of all sorts to Kamurocho's immigrant population, illegal or otherwise, disgusted at the exploitation and oppression that often takes place at their expense. Each of the characters has these sorts of differences amongst themselves that ensures that playing through their respective storylines and sidequests doesn't feel like deja vu. Even when everyone does start to cross paths, it's done in a matter that respects their individuality. They have their own mentalities and ways of doing things and the situation won't change that.

 Quality time with the ladies can be in the cards, if you so desire.

There are also a number of universal sidequests and other nonessential activities in which all of the characters can engage, though. Kamurocho is designed to be the sort of place where you have something to do in nearly every nook and cranny, even if you're on the rooftops or underground. Whether you're up for gambling via pachinko, mahjong, or cards, want to play some arcade games at the local Club Sega, dine out at the local restaurants, or even take out a hostess for a date, you can conceivably and easily do so. The sheer diversity of activities means that you'll probably have some that you love and some that you don't really care for, but at the very least, you get the impression that you can do pretty much anything you'd actually want to do in a Japanese city and the game's sense of immersion benefits greatly from that. You also get rewarded in a variety of ways for going out of your way to try all of the different activities, so it isn't as though they're just there for the sake of being there. If you want to get everything out of the game and make your characters the best that they can be, it will be in your best interest to go out on the town quite frequently.

Of course, being a Yakuza game, there's also a lot of three-dimensional brawler combat through which to wade. This aspect of the game also exhibits a sense of shared similarities in the fundamentals that are accented with clear differences in execution between all four playable characters. Everyone shares the same basic means to rack up combo hits and execute special attacks, but their overall personalities and fighting styles also means that every character isn't a complete facsimile of the others. You can be successful at employing the same basic tactics across the board, but mastery comes in understanding their actual style and how to perform their circumstantially unique special attacks. Akiyama is a speedy man who focuses on kicks and improvises more with his surrounding environment than the other characters, whereas Tanimura is heavy on the counters and utilizing his opponents' own momentum and movements to deal damage. Longtime notorious yakuza Taiga Saejima, meanwhile, prefers to utilize brute force and charge attacks, while series mainstay Kiryu Kazuma prefers to be mobile and reactionary, able to remain powerful while still easily turning and changing directions mid-attack. These sorts of differences become more vivid the longer you play each one, as the game employs an experience point system that you'll use to unlock their trademark moves and abilities. Furthermore, doing certain types of sidequests will also provide you with more unique options to utilize with each character, sometimes even outright changing how you approach certain situations once a character has a specific move for dealing with them.

 There's no need to apologize. It actually feels pretty good to let it all out.

The actual combat itself in Yakuza 4 continues to be enjoyably violent and oftentimes brutal. Although a lot of the fighting with regular enemies can boil down into just using the same reliable combos and strategies, the special moves and environmental attacks that you can perform are what keep your attention. Both of these result in short cutscenes that are often interspersed with short, but easy to perform quick time events that are fun to watch just by virtue of how much damage the enemy is visibly receiving. You know an enemy is really going to hurt if a baseball bat knocks their legs out from under them and then sets up a home run on their head, for instance. The moves themselves are simple, but since the game doesn't flinch or cut away from the action as its happening, you're allowed to bask in every bit of pain you bring down upon the opposition. Plus, the fighting arenas are typically just spontaneously created as you walk around town and aren't confined to specific layouts, instilling a dynamic sense that a brawl can break out anywhere and at any time, which is often the case. Towards the end of the game, things can become stale if you partake in a lot of the random encounters with street punks and yakuza, but thankfully they can be avoided if you really just care about getting other business done.

On the technical side of things, Yakuza 4 is a game that's impressive in some places and merely adequate in others. Its greatest accomplishments in that regard are probably related to its data streaming and its visuals. While the game does have a forced install that still comes with some load times between cutscenes and certain activities, when you're just out and about roaming Kamurocho, there's no loading times whatsoever. You can walk from one end to the other without ever seeing the game stutter as it figures out what to bring up next, something which helps make the area feel like one cohesive place. Likewise, the graphics do a great job in the right places. While the models of non-player characters outside of the cutscenes can sometimes look a little low-end and even garish, the sheer attention to detail in the modeling and texturing of the surrounding scenery is something that's to be commended. Sega set out to create as realistic of a recreation of Tokyo's Kabukicho district as it conceivably could and it completely delivers on that front. Advertisements use real Japanese brand names and are laid out realistically. Convenience stores neatly stack their magazines right by the front windows, while bars are claustrophobically compact, barely able to fit more than the bartender and a few patrons at any time. Those who have lived in or at least visited Tokyo will probably be struck at just how true to the real thing Kamurocho is, while those who have only dreamt of going to Japan will get a good aesthetic primer on what the game looks like. Much like what you can actually go out and do in the game, what you can see and touch lends Yakuza 4 its own sense of realism that you can believe. In addition to issues with some character models, the game does have pop-in for the pedestrians and objects that inhabit the game as you run around in it, but usually it's so quickly resolved that they don't detract that much from how realistic Kamurocho otherwise typically appears.

 He might share the same voice actor as Catherine's Vincent, but Akiyama is a much better guy.

The sound design, music, and voice acting that Yakuza 4 is also really good. The sounds of punches, kicks, thumps, and what have you all sound appropriately rough and have a good amount of impact during the fights. Ambient sounds that you also hear while walking around town also, like the visuals, remain consistent with what you would actually encounter in real life. Music in the game is also composed well, primarily employed to get you jazzed for some energetic fighting, but it is also used to good effect to elicit other sentiments during cutscenes and optional activities. Voice acting in Yakuza 4 is probably the game's strongest suit, still utilizing the original edition's Japanese. Although it doesn't appear often enough outside of major cutscenes, what is there is great, full of inflections and nuances that help each character stand out even further than they already do. Those who speak Japanese will notice just how differently each person will talk as a reflection of their background, mannerisms, and even their birthplace, although those who don't know Japanese will still at least notice the emotionally convincing aspects of the performances.

A special note should also be made for the game's text localization. Games like Yakuza 4 often have unique translation issues related to the differences in English and Japanese that can make it difficult to have non-native versions remain reasonably true to the source material. Organizations like the yakuza make use of unique speech patterns and vocabulary words in Japanese that don't really have clear-cut counterparts in other languages. In Yakuza 4's case, certain liberties have indeed been taken to make the game feel more naturally worded in English, but usually they're intelligently done. The game's lines aren't straightforward textbook translations of the original Japanese, but that's also to its advantage. People are still written to be like the gangsters, policemen, and civilians that they really are and that's what ultimately makes a game that's so thoroughly set in Japan approachable to foreign audiences. They still might not completely understand everything that's going on without spending some time over in Japan themselves, but what's there is done in terms that they can relate to in their own language and that's what's important. There are a few very minor proofreading issues that can be spotted, but they're so sporadic that they're forgettable if you're not a writer yourself.

 By the end, you'll be more primed on yakuza politics than you'll have ever wanted to be.

Not unlike other entries in the Yakuza franchise, Yakuza 4 is best enjoyed if you have a personal interest and understanding of Japanese life and culture. This is a game that, unlike so much of today's pop culture exports from there, is concerned about portraying Japan at both its best and worst. It's not afraid to show off some cultural and political warts in telling its story and comprehending those aspects can be hard without some previous experience with them. There are also issues with parts of the gameplay and graphics that show that the development team was definitely stretched out thinly in places when trying to bring its Tokyo look-alike to life. Having said Yakuza 4's mission is a mostly successful one and there's no better place to start in searching for a more realistic portrayal of Japan in one of its own video games. It wasn't designed with Western tastes or sensibilities in mind, but that's also the selling point of the entire series.

23 Comments
Posted by Daveyo520

Well that is pretty long. 

Posted by mutha3

 @Daveyo520 said:

" Well that is pretty long.  "

.
 
I'll read up on this when I have the time-- still gotta finish up Yak3, anyway! I'm surprised to see you give out such a high-score, though. Better than Yak2? 
 
I am doubtful that this game surpasses the majesty of punching two tigers into submission.>:(
Posted by Video_Game_King

I am now sad that I haven't pumped out my "it might be as long" Bahamut Lagoon review by now. I'd comment on the actual review, but I have a policy against reading reviews for games that I might, in even the most remote sense, play in the future. However, on the intro points, yes, gamers do examine Japanese games as too Japanese, for reasons I don't understand. I'd say, "Why doesn't anybody complain about games that are too American", but I think Modern Warfare 2 and Homefront kinda defeated that question before it could even warrant discussion.

Posted by Pepsiman
@mutha3: Yakuza 4's plot, by and large, resonated with me a lot better than 2's. It unfortunately doesn't have tiger punching going for it, but it otherwise does a lot of little things right. The fact that it doesn't pander to the image of Japan as "hip, nerdy utopia" that even the government there is keen to project these days is something I really, really appreciate. Other people will probably feel differently about it, but as someone with my specific academic and personal interests when it comes to Japan, it scratched a lot of itches and scratched them well.
 
@Video_Game_King: Exactly. It really, really irks me to no end when people sum up their criticisms of a Japanese game by just saying "it's too Japanese" and don't say anything else to back it up. They hide behind the wall of "cultural differences" and the like that they probably don't even understand to begin with when they say stuff like that and that's just a load of bullshit to me. If a game from Japan is problematic, it's because some designer made it that way, not because "they had to appease their cultural sensibilities" or something. Saying something is "too Japanese" is just a lazy critique. A game is a game is a game, no matter where it comes from.
Posted by mutha3
@Pepsiman said:

" @mutha3: The fact that it doesn't pander to the image of Japan as "hip, nerdy utopia" that even the government there is keen to project these days is something I really, really appreciate.
"

Now admittely I can't say I  know a fraction as much about Japan as you do, but.... I feel confident enought to say  that Yakuza 2 certainly did not portray its world that way either. example: the police in Yak2 is shown as the types who likes to sweep things under a rug in order to avoid public outcry.   I though that was pretty damn ballsy since that was actually the Tokyo headquarters being "slandered". It also showed some bigotry going on in-between the two cities with both the police and the citizens(Osaka and Tokyo people I believe? it was something yakuza related.).
 
Haven't played 4 yet, though, and I sadly don't have the same context as you do when experiencing these things.

oh, and...
   


It unfortunately doesn't have tiger punching going for it,

 
Does it at least have chandelier punching?....please?:(
 


However, on the intro points, yes, gamers do examine Japanese games as too Japanese, for reasons I don't understand. 

 


@Video_Game_King: Exactly. It really, really irks me to no end when people sum up their criticisms of a Japanese game by just saying "it's too Japanese"

Yeah, that shit is really dumb.Its just an internet message board buzz-word.
 
Its actually vaguely xenophobic, I feel.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@mutha3 said:
" Yeah, that shit is really dumb.Its just an internet message board buzz-word.  Its actually vaguely xenophobic, I feel. "
That's pretty much the point I was trying to go for. Why do the foreign games come off as too whatever-their-culture-is? As I said before, there are some games that people will admit are too American, but it seems like people are more willing to latch onto "too Japanese" than they are to do the same for 'too American", supporting the xenophobia thing.
Posted by Yummylee

Yakuza 4 really is a great game, though virtually allof my criticisms stem far from the cultural contrast of what I'm most accustomed to. More so for me, Yakuza 4 kinda drops the ball just for how much they relied on recycled content from Yakuza 3. Kamurocho is an amazingly detailed City, but so was it back in Yakuza 3. The additions of the rooftops and underground areas was appreciated, though they don't make for very wondrous environments to travel amidst--which I know, that's kinda how traversing through a place like the sewers is meant to show, but I mean more for how bland it all looks. 
 
A lot of retreading NPC's, with a great deal of the very same generic, and plainly textured thugs from Yakuza 3 still populating the streets, also gives off a sign of laziness, frankly. 
 
There's still how the game is also really not ageing all to well in 2011 (or even 2010 for that matter, for its Japanese release) with the lack of user-placed way-points, and no new form of travel. Kamurocho may be adequately sized, but it's still large enough that having to walk everywere (minus the taxis that only take you to the four edges) can be a real chore. And at this point, it just can't be ignored how two thirds of the game is still in text. I can shrug off having the majority of the side stuff handled that way, but the main story segments too? It's a testament to the story at how much of a shame it is that it still features a surprising amount set up as boring text one-twos, and when there's was maybe 3-4 characters talking, it could also occasionally make it tough to keep up with who's saying what - especially with the natural habit of pressing X to quickly place the entire text on screen at once, instead of watching it slowly scroll. 
 
I am still enjoying a great deal, with its fun (though relatively easy) combat, surprisingly distinctive protagonists and it also had a lot of pretty entertaining sub-stories too. I'll no doubt make use of its extra curricular activities once the games complete at that, but speaking for whatever Yakuza 5'll be, I certainly hope it'll push the series more besides updated graphics and some new leads. I'd probably kinda like them to base it in another city maybe. Okinawa was a great alternative, with its own fully fleshed out identity over Kamurocho, and I was hoping Yakuza 4 would also give you a second city to hang in also. 
 
Anywhoo, great review and all that :P Hopefully this'll be put up on the front (I'm still shocked as to why your Catherine review wasn't placed up) as it's a good representation of what people need to read, to help determine whether this is worth the gamble or not.

Online
Posted by Pepsiman
@Abyssfull:  In full disclosure, I never did get around to playing 3 and 2 was the only other game in the series I had played prior to this one. I suspected that content recycling was definitely present in the game based on what I knew about 3, but since I couldn't speak specifically about that game, I just wrote about what I knew. Had I spent more time with the series previously, I imagine I wouldn't have been quite so forgiving, either. That being said, I suspect some of that might have had to do with them needing to create content for four protagonists, instead of just the usual one. It doesn't entirely justify it, but I imagine making that many characters fun to play probably eats up a lot of time and resources like creating another setting would. I certainly wouldn't be against them going back to how 2 and 3 did things by having other places to go to, though.
 
The voice acting stuff I understand, too. The more of it that's there, the better the immersion gets. In that instance, I think the main barrier might just be budgeting issues. I know the game has an absolute ton of Japanese advertisements, but seeing the list of people they got to do voices for this game, I know they got some pretty high-end talent to work on this one. Getting that many people to do even as much work that they put in for this game probably wasn't all that cheap, so I can only imagine how much havoc it would wreck on the budget if the scope was significantly extended. That being said, I agree that they should shoot for getting voicework in for all story scenes in future installments, if at all possible. Evolution as a whole for the Yakuza games seems contingent on how hellbent Sega really is on pumping one out every year, though. If they slowed down the pace, I imagine they could stamp out a lot of these issues if they really, really tried. Of the End seems like it was a shorter side project meant to give people a little breather, though, so maybe they'll come back to the actual fifth game more refreshed. We'll see.
 
@Video_Game_King: "OH, THAT STALKER. ISN'T IT SO COMMUNIST AND RUSSIAN!?"
 
@mutha3: No chandelier punching, either, but if it makes you feel any better, you can train a luchador wannabe as part of a sidequest.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@Pepsiman: 
 
I wouldn't know, as I've never touched a STALKER game, but as long as we're doing this...
 
"Oh, that Gears of War game? That game is what's wrong with American game design. For once, can't I play a game where the characters don't have realistically proportioned faces, or....uh....".....Damn it, I'm having trouble turning the typical "this game is too Japanese/anime/whatever" criticisms against them. I blame myself for that.
Posted by Shirogane
@Video_Game_King said:
" @Pepsiman: 
 
I wouldn't know, as I've never touched a STALKER game, but as long as we're doing this...
 
"Oh, that Gears of War game? That game is what's wrong with American game design. For once, can't I play a game where the characters don't have realistically proportioned faces, or....uh....".....Damn it, I'm having trouble turning the typical "this game is too Japanese/anime/whatever" criticisms against them. I blame myself for that. "

You didn't just speak about realistically proprotioned and Gears of War in the same sentence did you? 
 
I've played 2,3 and 4 of the series, but storywise, i still think 2 was the best, gameplay wise and other stuff, 4 is definitely the best. I mean, it has Akiyama, that dude is pure awesome.
Posted by mutha3

Yo, so Pepsiman, I finished Yakuza 4 yesterday.

And looking through your review now that I finished it.....


 it remains engaging because of strong and surprisingly relatable characterizations that compliments what is by and large a plausible, down to earth plot, even if it's sometimes easy to get lost in the numerous nuances that are obsessed over in the game.


I respect your opinion.


but,


wat
Posted by Pepsiman
@mutha3:  4 certainly has its elements of craziness, as they all tend to, but I still stand by what I said. As I've mentioned before, the game references a lot of pretty serious issues that face Japanese society, especially ones that the government tends to not even openly admit exist, and it's more than just "Japanese cops are crooked." There are few pieces of major Japanese fiction that really attempt to portray Japan's ongoing problems with things like loan sharks, illegal immigration, and foreign prostitution with a critical eye, let alone something produced by a major corporation. It's the frankness that goes along with the game's more subtle happenings that kept it all grounded for me in the end, even in the midst of some craziness that the main plotline can possess. I don't throw around statements like that without knowing full well what I mean.
Posted by mutha3
@Pepsiman said:

" @mutha3:  4 certainly has its elements of craziness, as they all tend to, but I still stand by what I said. As I've mentioned before, the game references a lot of pretty serious issues that face Japanese society, especially ones that the government tends to not even openly admit exist, and it's more than just "Japanese cops are crooked." There are few pieces of major Japanese fiction that really attempt to portray Japan's ongoing problems with things like loan sharks, illegal immigration, and foreign prostitution with a critical eye, let alone something produced by a major corporation.  It's the frankness that goes along with the game's more subtle happenings that kept it all grounded for me in the end, even in the midst of some craziness that the main plotline can possess. I don't throw around statements like that without knowing full well what I mean. 

I don't quite follow.

Yeah,  those portions of Yakuza 4 are very compelling and there are close enough parallels with cultures I am familiar with to know "oh shit, this is how the underworld operates in Japan, huh?"  (especially some of the Tanimura substories made me feel like they really researched their stuff).

....But I don't see how that makes up for the other 99% of the game. Look at this piece of plot which the entire game revolves around:


And that's ignoring the(many)other silly elements of the story and just the overall Yakuza experience where every single person knows magic kung fu, 1 guy beats up hundreds of people(and tigers!)......and the betrayels. jesus christ i can imagine on some of these cutscenes  a  box in the top right of the screen appear that says :"betrayal combo meter " .

...That's not to say that I don't like Yakuza 4, or even those silly elements. Hell, 2 is my favorite and its even sillier than 4. But I feel "Plausible, down to earth story" just completely misrepresents this game where people rip of their shirts in one motion, beat the shit out of each other with magic martial arts and then talk softly about their childhood or some shit.
Edited by mutha3

Forgot to mention this, but Yakuza 4's localization is pretty good, no?
 

It felt much less awkwardly written than 1 and 2 were, and 3 was also a huge step in the right direction. Glad to see Sega taking this series more seriously.

Posted by Pepsiman
@mutha3:  While I don't intend to change anything I wrote, perhaps in retrospect my wording could have been better, but do keep in mind that you'll probably never get me to agree with you entirely as a matter of perspective. What is perhaps extreme to you is probably less of a stretch to me after spending time there and doing independent research and becoming a little desensitized to what's really "out there" when it comes to Japanese society and the personalities it can produce. I understand where you're coming from, too, and admittedly I have difficulties explaining and attempting to rationalize even the simpler stuff in Japan to people outside my own department, let alone the realm of yakuza politics that I can't thankfully ever enter, but the tropes and forces involved and how I've come to know them, at least for me, make a lot of that game easier to swallow.

Case in point!


There's a lot going on in Yakuza 4 and as I essentially say in my own review, it's not necessarily supposed to make sense if you're not the right audience. It's a mob story; most people are supposed to feel like outsiders looking in, since if they're actually able to look at it and say, "Oh, this makes sense," then they're probably in way too deep in the actual subject matter to begin with. The same is true with western mob stories. Certainly at least a few people questioned Francis Ford Coppola when they see the severed horse head in The Godfather and wondered if anybody in la casa would really, really do something so outlandish. It's extreme because these are mobsters and they live the extreme life that we cannot ever hope to have, so there are plenty of things whose reasoning we're just not supposed to comprehend short of investing ourselves in their lifestyle personally. Their normalcy, if it's representative of what can actually happen, is outlandish to us and that's used to entertain us, hopefully to great effect. Yakuza 4 works in the same way. I did say that its plot is down-to-earth and humanistic since, to me at least, I can make some sense of out what can admittedly be lunacy if it's broken down to its fundamentals. There are things that make sense when I take into consideration certain psychological and political factors that can drive yakuza to do what they do. So when I say that, I'm speaking from my own perspective, as I do with every review and never inherently expect anyone to ever agree with it. But in the end, as a story about mobsters, not everything about Yakuza 4 is supposed to make sense, even to native audiences, since it's those outlandish things, those aspects about yakuza life that, whether recreated accurately or enhanced for drama, hold people's attention and keep them entertained. Again, the fact that we are a discussing it so heavily right now is a testament to it.

Really, what it probably boils down to is our different tolerance levels for suspension of disbelief. I do have a habit of not taking stories with the grain of salt I'm supposed to have and injecting my own logic when necessary if it means being able to stay invested in the story. So if I come across as being a bit crazy in trying to justify all these things, it's probably at least partially due to that.
Posted by Pepsiman
@mutha3: I really enjoyed 4's localization. It took some liberties that I probably wouldn't normally be comfortable making as a translator, but it's all true to the spirit of the original Japanese and in that regard, I think they did a really good job staying true to that with the English, especially in regards to the characters' personalities. A fair number of those characters either have dialog quirks or at least speak in very deliberate ways and the localization did surprisingly well at not losing very much of the linguistic effects behind them.
Posted by Underachiever007

Very well-written review. Yakuza 4 is the only Yakuza game I've played, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless.


@mutha3: I went with your advice and got 2. I'll start playing it this week.
Posted by mutha3
@Pepsiman: Thanks for the response. I always appreciate your 20 page essays;)
@Underachiever007
said:
" Very well-written review. Yakuza 4 is the only Yakuza game I've played, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless.

@mutha3: I went with your advice and got 2. I'll start playing it this week.
"
Well, you done god, m'boy. Awesome times are ahead. Possibly involving tigers. Two of them.
Posted by ahoodedfigure

I'm wondering what the differences are between the region releases now.  Well, I already wondered, since this looked like the kind of game I'd want to play.

Good to hear about the local color being right. I think games are just as good a depiction of a time as a film can be, so getting those little details, if this software's even playable ten or twenty years down the road, will be an interesting tour for everyone, even the Japan of the future.

Posted by Pepsiman
@ahoodedfigure: The only piece of content that was cut from international releases of Yakuza 4 was a really minor trivia game. It's heavily skewed towards Japan-specific knowledge, so while it would have been interesting for people like me who study and breathe that stuff daily to test their wits, it's understandable why it's not present outside of the Japanese releases. The game otherwise makes no mention of it directly and everything else is left completely intact.

Personally, my main reason for playing Yakuza games is precisely to get that local color. The plotlines are something that I also enjoy to a great degree, but my favorite thing about going through them is always how true to life they are in depicting the little details. A lot of people overseas play the games for that same reason, too, but while I was playing through 4, I was having nostalgic flashbacks constantly to my own time back in Tokyo. It just gets a lot of minor things right in the scenery and whatnot that tell me it was a game crafted by people who knew the area well. The fact that it also includes discussions of some pretty significant social issues that face Tokyo and Japan as a whole today was also something I really appreciated. Like the Shenmue games before it, I suspect that this game won't necessarily age all that gracefully, especially since some aspects of it are already dated, but if nothing else, it will continue to be a pretty representative time capsule of Tokyo in this era.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Pepsiman: I've found that if a style feels consistent, even if it's in a place that's completely fictional, it'll help so much with how the game feels. So many games seem designed in reverse, starting with what they think people will like to see and then working backward into something consistent (but it winds up feeling disjointed and samey). When people pay enough attention to real life details, though, you skip past both the problem of creating a consistent world and the problem of making a world look like Frankenstein's Monster.

I was talking recently in a blog about how important real-feeling aesthetics might be, that it sort of becomes an attraction in its own right in part because you're exploring it, not getting a passive tour.
Posted by LG_65

Really good review. I'm already getting my feet wet into this game, and loving it. I have to say that I find the main story significantly better than that of Yakuza 3, but slightly subpar than 1 and 2. Would you agree that the individual characters' stories were the biggest draw of Yakuza 4? And which one did you like best ?

Posted by Pepsiman

@LG_65: Pleasantly surprised to see a comment on this review after so long. But I agree that the characters are indeed the game's overall strongest asset. As a resident of Japan, I could babble on for days about just how much the get the little things in the environments right to convince you as a player that you're actually playing a game set in Japan, but when it comes down to it, it was definitely that cast of characters that ensured I was going to see the game to its completion. To that end, it's always been hard for me to pick a favorite. If you really pressed me, I'd probably go with Akiyama since, even if his characterization is really implausible as a loan shark with a heart of gold, he has a certain charm and overall philosophy that I can really latch onto. Tanimura is probably a close second, although his general plotline and side stories are probably my favorite out of the bunch since they touch upon a lot of current social issues that I connect with personally and I have yet to see any other mainstream Japanese game discuss in any meaningful capacity. Everybody else is great, though. My experience with this game has me greatly looking forward to 5 when it comes out here to the extent that I just might buy it at launch, something I very rarely do with Japanese games just because of how expensive they are here.

Other reviews for Ryu ga Gotoku 4: Densetsu wo Tsugumono (PlayStation 3)

    A much needed improvement, but not quite enough. 0

    A Ryu ga Gotoku game without Kiryu at center stage? Some might say it's sacrilegious, but I say it's about time. The strongest part of the RgG series has always been it's characters, and oddly enough, Kiryu has always been one of the weaker ones. The jump from 1 main character to 4 is a pretty odd choice for a series that evolves as slowly as this one, but it's one of the best things about RgG4.  Of the new characters Tanimura is by far my favorite. Both his fighting style and character storylin...

    7 out of 7 found this review helpful.

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