Sega loves us. Yakuza 4 includes the missing content that was omitted from the non-Japanese release of Yakuza 3. The hostess clubs, the dating, and all the hotspots that make the seedy nightlife of Kamurocho exciting are present and accounted for.
The biggest change to the series is the inclusion of 4 playable characters with stories that eventually intersect. Unlike Yakuza 3 where Kazuma was the main focus, Yakuza 4 begins by introducing the first of the new characters – Akiyama. Known as the ‘Lifeline of Tokyo’, Akiyama is the owner of Sky Finance in Tokyo’s ‘Sin District’.
While it’s not explained right away, the events that occurred at the Millennium Tower in Yakuza 3 led to his eventual wealth and opening Sky Finance. Since Sky Finance is known to help people truly in need, a desperate young lady by the name of Lily approaches Akiyama to borrow 1 million yen.
Even though Akiyama has his concerns, he agrees to loan the money under one condition: that she – Lily – can make a minimum of 3 million yen as a hostess in his club within 3 days. Once the agreement is made, the story begins to unravel very quickly.
All the familiar gangs/families return, including the Shibata Family and the Ueno Clan. It’s learned very early on that just about every Yakuza family from Yakuza 3 – even those that had cameo appearances – play a major role in the story this time around.
The same brawling JRPG elements that made the Yakuza series popular are present and haven’t changed since Yakuza 3. The cinematic Heat moves still make your adrenaline rush; the overwhelming odds during fights still excite; and using environmental pieces like bicycles, benches and signs to pummel opponents has never been so gratifying.
Like Yakuza 3, you gain experience during fights. Once you have leveled, you can upgrade your fighting abilities via the Ability menu. From there, new attacks, blocks and combos can be learned to improve combat skills.
Additionally, there is a feature to learn new skills by evaluating the locals of Tokyo by using a cellphone. When an event is encountered, taking a picture could unlock a new move. This results in a QTE (basically resembling snapshots taken by a cellphone) to capture the scenario. At the end, three choices are given to decide if anything was learned. If done correctly, a new move will be unlocked.
Combat is pretty straight-forward: the Square button punches; Triangle kicks; X button dodges; Circle grabs the opponent; and the analog stick is used for movement. There is a Heat gauge underneath the health bar, located in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Once the gauge fills, Heat moves can be executed.
A good way to execute a Heat move would be to grab an opponent with the Circle button, approach a wall, and then press the Triangle button. An adrenaline-pumping cinema is played, showing the enemy’s jaw being dislocated. The battles in Yakuza 4 are brutal; they are not for the faint-of-heart or the squeamish.
When you grow tired of busting heads and following the main story (which is very unlikely), there are plenty of businesses to visit and side quests to complete. Your time can also be spent in bars playing darts, playing Mahjong for yen, bowling for fun, and even dating beautiful Asian women, depending on your mood.
Since the Hostess element was omitted from Yakuza 3, gamers will more than likely seek this feature out in Yakuza 4. The dating/hostess element is fun; you can take your date bowling and even be intimate to some degree. In fact, you can do just about anything.
Yakuza 4 also comes with a card to redeem clothing for the main characters. It will also unlock the following game modes: Endless Survival Tag, Battle King and Speed King. There is constantly something to do; Yakuza 4 is laden with features to keep any gamer busy for hours. Even if you’re not into brawlers, Yakuza 4’s GTA-style environment, RPG elements, gorgeous 3D graphics, and rock soundtrack may be enough to convert you. And that’s not including the story and all its intricacies.
Whether you’re a fan or new to the series, Yakuza 4 has something for everyone. Don’t deprive yourself of this experience; Yakuza 4 by Sega is single-handedly the best sequel in the series, bar none. It is well worth the price of admission.
Platform: Playstation 3
ESRB: M (Mature)
|Yakuza 4's graphics are simply breathtaking.|
|The rock music is fantastic and the bone-crunching sound effects are satisfying.|
|Yakuza 4's gameplay is so diverse, you can spend hours playing and still find something new.|
|This is the best sequel in the series.|