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April 18, 2010
Yakuza 3 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
9/3/2010SegaSegaCS1 Team1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Yakuza 3 is an impressive PS3 exclusive.
It may be little-known outside Japan but the Yakuza franchise has become one of the largest in that territory with the first two games amassing sales of almost 2 million units. Yakuza 3, or Ryu ga Gotoku 3 as it is called in Japan, was released in that territory in February 2009 and has sold a further 500,000 units and following constant pressure from gamers almost a year later Sega relented and decided to bring the game to the West as well. So here it is, Yakuza 3...

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.

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Offering some comfort...
Certainly one of the coolest features of this game is that either from the Main Menu, or from a very early sequence in the game when in a cemetery, you have an option to replay the story from the first two PS2 games as either a refresher, or as a bit of background for newcomers to the series. Sure, you can get by without watching these, however they will add a little depth and understanding to the story.

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.

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Facial animations and textures are stunning.
Now I have to say that I'm genuinely not an emotional person. I almost never cry, or even tear up, in movies, and it's even rarer for that to happen in a video game. In fact, I can't remember the last time I teared up in a game. After investing so many hours in this game, and really attaching to the characters and their plight, there are a couple of moments late in Yakuza 3 where things really pay off and yes, it does get pretty emotional to the point where, I admit it, the tears flowed.

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.

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Getting into a cage fight - Yakuza style!
Fortunately when you complete the main story mode you can then save your game data and re-enter the world with your current stats to work on getting all the trophies and completing all the side-quests. The European version of the game includes some downloadable content to unlock the Challenge and Battle Packs and the release also includes the soundtrack on CD as a bonus.

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.

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Serving up some food at the orphanage...
When discussing the visuals in this game there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first is that this series has never been about the very best visuals a console can provide - that goes back to the very first game, the second is that Yakuza 3 is actually quite and old game now having first been release on PS3 in Japan way back in February 2009 - that's over a year ago now and in a consoles life that's an entire generation of software and technology. The game is natively rendered at 720p but then upscaled to 1080p for those with compatible TV sets.

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.

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That's a pretty brutal punch in Yakuza 3.
As most of you would know Sega weren't going to bring this game to the West however with so much demand they decided to port the game, but leave the original dialogue and simply use English subtitles. While this may anger some we have to say that given the choice between not having this game, or going this path the choice is easy. While I don't understand Japanese, having the dialogue in this native format gives the game an authentic feel. You still 'hear' the emotion while reading the text and having English voiceovers on Japanese characters would look odd anyway. Music is good, as are the sound effects so the game still gets a solid score in the audio department.

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

GRAPHICSThe characters look superb, the backgrounds and locations a bit generic but also busy and authentic at times.
SOUNDSo we don't understand Japanese, but it sounds authentic. There are good music and solid effects.
GAMEPLAYConsider this a Japanese Grand Theft Auto and you'll have a rough idea what to expect. Always something to do and plenty to enjoy Yakuza 3 really is fun.
VALUEThe main story is compelling, and fairly lengthy at 25 hours or so, but you could spend just three times that on all the additional activities and exploration.
OVERALLYakuza 3 is slow in places, but essential gaming if you like Japanese culture and/or this series. Unique, fun and deep a big "Thank You" to Sega for releasing this outside Japan - now make it worth their efforts folks.

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