Kazuma and Haruka, having severed their ties to the Yakuza world, have left Kamurocho to seek a new life in Okinawa where they manage an orphanage for children. However, their peaceful life is soon interrupted when a series of events unfold pulling Kazuma back into the shadowy past he thought he had left behind, in order to protect those he loves.
If you've played either of the first two games in the series that appeared on the PS3 (the first of which is reviewed here) then you should know what to expect from this game. For those that are unaware this is pretty much a Japanese equivalent of Grand Theft Auto. Split up into 12 chapters the main story sees you visiting a variety of people and locations, and completing various missions in Okinawa and a fictional section of Tokyo called Kamurocho.
As you travel around you'll enter numerous street fights which have only a couple of moments loading before you enter combat with one, or several, opponents. The majority of this combat is hand-to-hand however at times you can also pick up objects such as signs or bikes to use as weapons. It's also possible to equip Kazuma with up to three selectable weapons which break after a short period of use as well as clothing to increase his strength or abilities. It's also possible for Kazuma to learn new moves through "Revelations". Given the right conditions you will be able to record people around the city streets performing special moves on the camera phone and thereby learn them to use in battle. It's a great way to learn new moves. Kazuma can also be upgraded through the menu system using points earned for successfully completing fights. It must be said that combat in this game, while somewhat simplistic, is very enjoyable.
Beyond the main story missions and modes there is so much more to this game. In fact if you plough through the storyline you'll complete the game in perhaps 15 or so hours, but check out the stats and you'll see the game completion will be around 10%, if that. That's because there are so many side quests (around 100) as well as random street brawls, a couple of dozen "Hitman" missions, and other activities such as bowling, baseball, karaoke, fishing, upgrading weapons, shopping, finding locker keys, selling goods, playing pub games such as darts or pool, playing casino games including Blackjack, Poker or Roulette, enjoying some arcade games and so much more. The story mode in this game truly is scratching the surface of what the game has to offer.
We did have a few little disappointments with Yakuza 3. Firstly we felt that the game has a few too many slow sequences, primarily those when the lead character heads back to the orphanage. At times you just want to get back to the exploration, story or fighting sequences. Another of the disappointments is that a couple of the more obscure Japanese traditions have been removed from the game - including the Shogi Chess and Mahjong games - the latter of which is disappointing as I personally am a keen Mahjong player. Beyond that the repetitive, almost random, battles become somewhat annoying at times although if you're quick enough you can get away from them.
As you progress through the storyline you will be presented with a multitude of cut-scenes to flesh out the story. Some of these are fully voiced with subtitles while some cut scenes are only presented with text and no voiceovers. It would have been nice if Sega had been consistent on this one way or the other - after all the 50GB storage limit of Blu-Ray offers ample room.
On the positive side the characters in Yakuza 3 look stunning - almost photo-realistic in some places - with brilliant texturing and animation. The developers created 110 high-polygon characters (these are the main characters and ones that may appear in cut-scenes) which use around 18,000 to 20,000 polygons each as well as a further 250 low polygon (4,500-7,000 polygon) characters in minor roles. Cut-scenes too, which must stretch into a couple of hours in themselves, are very impressive with superb detail levels, and also some wonderful editing.
Backgrounds and locations are a bit of a mixed bag. At times they look superb with plenty of objects, signs, people and things to love. At other times though the texturing looks a bit bland, and objects a little blocky. Still, they are small niggles in an otherwise quite impressive looking game.
Yakuza 3 is a great game for so many reasons. It's unique, it's Japanese, it's entertaining and it has a great storyline to keep you playing for days. Visuals and audio are a bit hit and miss, but overall this is a superb title well worth checking out.
Review By: Dave Warner