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Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan!

First thing’s first: I did not play through Yakuza or Yakuza 2, and so this preview is entirely based on this being my first Yakuza game. Being that 3 takes place in an entirely different era with different characters, it is also an entirely different game overall as well, and the first entry on the PS3.

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When I started to play this game, I had no idea what to expect. I played a few minutes of the original Yakuza’s demo, but ideally this didn’t give me much of an indication of the series other than it seemed like it was influenced by GTA. Whether or not this is the case, this certainly gave me the impression that this entry would be the same, only in ancient Japan. The narrative plays a very big role, and throughout you are treated with very well-done cut-scenes that boast incredible voice talent. The story is deep, interesting, and is also, well, incredibly Japanese. If you have to have this game now, then I’m sure you can get by the story just by paying attention to the cut-scenes, but you’ll obviously be missing a lot of what is going on.

The controls are fairly simple. You move and control the camera like most action games designed for the venerable PlayStation controller, although in some areas you are restricted to the camera angle the game dictates, and are not able to move it. Outside of combat, i.e. when you explore, you are only able to move about and interact with people. You can pull up a menu to access your inventory, skills, a map, and any other information about the story, characters, and other general stuff. As you play, small mini-map accompanies you in the corner as well. This tells you where to go, and if you don’t know any Japanese it seems like you could get by just fine by chugging through the text. If you played Shenmue, this game is going to be very similar in many ways.

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As far as combat goes, you are able to learn different skills and such as you progress. You begin with hand-to-hand, and from there you get weapons. I prefer using the two-swords style, but sometimes hand-to-hand is fun as well. You have three meters: a standard health meter, an experience points bar, and a meter that measures your aggression as you fight. Once this last meter begins to peak, your character gains a glowing blue aura that lets you do different sorts of finishing type moves, depending on what you’re using at the time. By winning fights, you gain experience. This levels you up, raising your stats. Like the first game, you are able to pick up objects on the ground and use them as weapons, such as branches. Overall, it’s simple and fun, and never gets tedious.

Graphically, the game is incredibly detailed. Again, parallels of Shenmue can be drawn with the realistic style that still manages to be unique. Everything is just as it should be, with no slowdown at all. The sound is quite phenomenal as well, especially when you walk around town and hear the boisterous cries and conversations of the inhabitants. The soundtrack is comprised of a mix of electronic, rock, and hip-hop, with the opening being one of the coolest intro songs I’ve heard in a Japanese game in years.

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The game utilizes the ability to save to the hard drive, and I must say that it sped the load times up quite a bit. Not that they were incredibly excruciating or anything, but it is noticeable. The save system might annoy some people, since you can’t just pause and save, but there are save points around, and you are also able to save after each chapter is concluded.

I am quite pleased with this game, and hopefully it will be released outside of Japan this year. The game has influenced me quite a bit and I will now be buying the first two games based on how amazing this experience has been. A note to importers/non-Japanese speakers: as I said before, you could probably get by with just skipping through a lot of the in-game stuff, and the maps tell you where to go as well. The only problems I could foresee besides the obvious story comprehension would be managing your inventory, as you have no real means of telling what does what without knowing what it says. If these problems don’t discourage you, then I implore you to get this game right away, and enjoy this awesome Sega title!

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2008.

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