Yakuza Retrospective part 1: Yakuza for the PS2 review

Oh, Sega, how you have fallen. You used to be so great, but now you’re just making money, publishing other companies’ great works like Platinum Game’s Madworld and Bayonetta. It doesn’t help when you have released junk after junk after junk. Admittedly, you did release that Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing, which was fun and all, but it doesn’t help when you are the guys who made Sonic the Hedgehog from 2006 and the two Iron Man video games, which are considered to be utterly pointless and utter garbage. I’m not even adding all the other horrible Sonic games you have made that ripped off more popular games. Why not change things up a bit and work on a different franchise for once, and not rely on horrible Sonic games or the already released Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors that you guys released for the Wii? However, I am glad that Sonic Colors has done well. Why not dump him as your mascot and use a different franchise as your flagship series? Well, I’ve got one franchise you can use as your flagship series, Yakuza. Often seen as Sega’s answer to GTA, the Yakuza series is a well-designed series that is very popular in Japan and has a good fan base here in the states. Ladies and gentlemen, this is my retrospective on the famous Yakuza series. Just a heads up, I will only be doing a review of the three games that have come here in America, so no Yakuza spin-off game or Yakuza 4 (yet). Let’s start with the first game, Yakuza, for the PS2.
The story of Yakuza puts us in the shoes of a high-ranking member of the Tojo clan, Kazuma Kiryu, one of the coolest and toughest men around. He finds out that his friend and Yakuza brother, Nishiki, murdered the leader of his division. However, Kazuma, for some reason, takes the hit and is sent to jail for 10 years. He is punished by being expelled from the Tojo clan, and basically his life is in the gutter. After getting released from prison, Kazuma sets out on getting revenge and learning about 10 billion yen being stolen. Kazuma must find out why Nishiki did this to him and find out where the 10 billion yen has gone. It’s a great story, but granted, it is slow-paced, but I think it’s better if it moves slowly since you need to get the feel for everything that the game has to offer. It might start out slowly in your opinion, but if you just get through the first few chapters, then you will get the feel and the groove of the game. Let’s get to gameplay.
The game play is a mix between free roaming sandbox combined with beat em’ up action, some RPG elements, and some mini-games added into the mix. The main part of the game is to get info on where you need to go, walk from point A to point B, and break some skulls when you get there, or from in between. It’s funny, since for some reason, Kasuma manages to annoy everyone for no good reason, and you enter in random battles. Yes, I said it, a beat em’ up with random battles. You basically fight a group of normal people or gang members and get some experience and money. It’s hilarious since sometimes when you run into people they are asking you for money, and then when you beat them like silly putty, they give you like 200 grand. It’s funny. There are also some unique areas like one where you are riding in a car doing a third person rail-shooting-like ordeal. You will also have the option to go through some mini-games, like going to hostess bars, playing those crane games, baseball, and taking some side quests like guard duty or making your own Yakuza family. You can also equip yourself with weapons that you can use to fight enemies, but they only have limited amounts of time they can be used, kind of like the Axe from Animal Crossing or the to be more accurate, the weapons you use in Dead Rising. Kazuma can also equip items to increase defenses, like a bulletproof vest and what not. While not a deep fighting system, you will learn an array of moves that you can use against enemies. You also have a blue meter that rises when you hurt enemies, and you can pull off cool super moves or finisher moves, depending on how much health is left on the opponent or what item you are using.
The graphics are very good, in my opinion. This is during the time when people were using the Playstation 2 to its full potential, and this is one of those games. It gives off a vibe that you would get if you were watching a Japanese film with unique shading and lighting and different camera angles. The music, while it seems like it gets repetitive at times, is overall pretty good, with 5 composers making the soundtrack for the game. It also uses the song, Amazing Grace, by John Newton in the credits, which is nice. A lot of the characters here, while some play minor roles, are pretty likeable, I think.
However, there are some things that are not that well implemented in Yakuza, and I am going to tell you what. While the fighting works well, and the controls are good for most of the time, they should have put in a lock-on system since it gets annoying when you fight faster enemies. The dash moves could have also been better implemented since it’s awkward trying to dodge faster attacks later in the game. The voice acting isn’t that good. It’s like no one cared what they were doing, and even with the talents of Mark Hamill it doesn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the voice actors in the game, but they just don’t do a good job. Sega could have easily gone cheap and just use the Japanese dub and English subtitles like the later games.
All and all, even with the game’s faults Yakuza is still a good game. Granted, some areas won’t age well, but overall it’s a must rent if you want to check out the beginning of the series, though now I need to check out the rest of the series. Check in for more reviews and more of the Yakuza retrospective on camseyeview.blogspot.com.
This game gets an 8 out of 10