By Sam Coles
Back in the day during the peak of the 7th generation of consoles I wouldn’t touch Japanese games with a ten foot barge pole. Why is that? I wasn’t a fan of the quirkiness when it came to the humour etc. however with the PS4 I have been exposed to some gems like Yakuza 0. After playing Yakuza 0 I went back and played Yakuza 4 on the PS3 which has been sat on my shelf for a while and it is a fantastic game you should play if you have a PS3 knocking around still.
Yakuza 4’s story is told from not one but four different protagonist Akiyama a charismatic money lender who doesn’t charge interest, Saejima a man who is on death row after murdering 18 Yakuza members, Tanimura a young but corrupt police officer and finally the series staple Kiryu who is more a background character in this game. They offer new cast who get embroiled in another power struggle in the Tojo clan where they have to stop them and Kiryu basically comes back to bang their heads together and then runs off back to his orphanage in Okinawa. The story is very engaging and as usual the Japanese cast pull off a superb performance with excellent voice acting. The story is really dark in places however it’s not afraid to crack a smile to lighten the tone this is what I like to call the Metal Gear effect as it disarms you for those emotional moments.
The gameplay is largely unchanged from the last three games where you have the open hub of Kamurocho a fictional district of Tokyo where you’re free to explore hostess clubs, bars, restaurants and play Sega classics in arcades. When you’re moving around the world you’ll get into the fights and these play out similar to Final Fantasy in terms of the random encounters as there will be the flashy transition and you’ll be in battle mode. When you’re in combat the controls are similar to a fighting game and it is really satisfying to nail a combo as you see blood fly everywhere when you beat the living daylights out of a thug with a bicycle.
Each character has a unique style ranging from a happy medium to strong and slow which can take some getting used to but it keeps the fighting fresh and varied. You have an ability called heat and what this entails is that you can pull off finishers which are spectacularly brutal from a standard curb stomp to jamming a baseball bat in your enemy’s mouth.
The visuals look beautiful but I wouldn’t expect anything less from a PS3 exclusive as most exclusives on the PS3 far exceed anything that the 360 could do. Animation with lip syncing during cutscenes look beautiful perfectly matching the voices coupled with the insane detail of district you explore is beautiful it feels alive.
The only issue I have with the game is that the dialogue swaps from fully voiced to text which is annoying because the acting in the game when it’s fully voiced is amazing I don’t understand why they swap between the two.
Overall Yakuza 4 is a great crime drama from start to finish with some dark and tense moments with some funny moments to lighten the tone. It can be really hard to find due to the low distribution in the west and you can’t find it below £10 I got lucky one time but you’re generally going to find it for £15-£20+.