Friday, January 18, 2013

Yakuza 4 Review - PS3

Yakuza 4 is a mafia movie in a JRPG/brawler hybrid. Through four acts and a short finale, I played as a loan shark, an escaped convict, a jaded cop and that reformed yakuza I mentioned a while ago. Each time I'd start as one of these guys, I'd begin leveling him up, learning new moves, and figuring out his personal history.

The majority of their habits boil down to punching and kicking dudes in the face. As I'd walk down the street in Tokyo's fictional red light district (the spot where nearly the entire game plays out), random people would run up and challenge me to brawls. This is that JPRG element at work. I get in the random battle, smear my opponent's blood on my knuckles, and bank experience points to make my character better than ever. As I wail on guys, I'm filling a Heat meter that allows me to execute devastating finishers like bashing a guy's head with a baseball bat.

If you're keeping track, all that fighting is largely untouched from Yakuza 3. Nearly all the Heat finishers I've seen are recycled from the last game. The new characters come with unique abilities -- the policeman can parry and the con man can bulldoze people -- but outside of a few person-specific moves, it's well-worn territory. Not to mention that I spent all this time leveling-up a character just to switch to another and do it all over again to unlock very similar moves.

The story plays out in cutscenes that can be pretty awesome and pack a punch. Watching the convict Taiga Saejima walk into a ramen shop and blow more than a dozen guys away or breakdown in front of a deathmatch crowd as he recounts what it's like to kill a man are truly awesome moments. Yakuza 4 has more than a few of these "OMG" sections, and I love it for that.

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