Friday, October 14, 2011

Virtual Gangstah!

Well well, I certainly do love me some video games. I especially love video games that enable me to be the toughest Yakuza EVER! And so I finally got around to picking up Yakuza 3 for PS3!

The box art for the North American release of Yakuza 3
Alright so this game isn't all that new (Yakuza 4 has been out for a while now) but back when it came out I didn't own a PS3 and I was totally stoked because I was afraid that this series would be discontinued in North America as it never really achieved the same popularity here as it did in Japan. Also I'm only now playing through Yakuza 2 for PS2 which was a pretty damn hard game to find, ended up paying 40 bucks on ebay and it didn't even come with the instructions. ANYWAY...

What is the Yakuza Series of video-games? Basically your a Yakuza named Kazuma Kiriyu (the guy on the cover) who is ridiculously strong and good at fighting (although the later installments have multiple protagonists). For those of you who don't know; Yakuza is essentially a term used to describe Japanese organized crime groups and their members. It is uncountable and can be used to describe a single member (a Yakuza) or a collective (of Yakuza). The games all have very complicated and in-depth story-lines featuring a plethora of characters many of whom are voiced and modeled after real A-list Japanese actors! Talk about production value. At its core, a Yakuza game will have you running from plot point A to B fighting all manner of people with a combat system that is ridiculously fun as it is violent as all manner of objects can be used as weapons. In the fights you have a "spirit meter" which once filled up allow you to use a brutal object specific special attack which is often very cinematic and violent but also TOTALLY COOL AND OVER-THE-TOP!

Kazuma Kiriyu utilizing what appears to be tank of some-sort in a brawl against some nasty characters. 
For me what really sets these games apart is the amount of detail in their story lines and characters and the amount of exploring you can do in the locales. There is ALOT of game here already as the stories for these games usually run from about 15-25 hours but for those who want to do all the extra stuff  you're in for a lot of content. I've been playing Yakuza 2 for 41 hours so far and I've still got 5 chapters to go! Talk about getting your money's worth.There are tonnes of side missions and activities you can do such as playing sports and dating girls in the worlds which are modeled after real Japanese cities. 

Tokyo as depicted in Yakuza 3

To sum it up, I would say that the Yakuza series represents the evolution of the beat-em-up games done right. It seems that in the past decade a few game developers have tried to capture the essence of the old arcade beat-em-up games from the 80's and 90's (Remember those? There's a screen shot below if you don't know what I mean) and bring it into the 21st century. But until Yakuza came along no one really got it right (except for Shenmue; more on that later...). Yakuza mixes all kinds detailed story elements hand picked from the best crime dramas and Japanese manga with addictive brawler game-play! It's awesome to live the life of a badass, Yakuza who fights like a beast, drinks, smokes, get's all the ladies, and is still a chivalrous admirable dude, in the comfort and safety of your own home! GOOD TIMES! Now all they gotta do is make a version called Bancho where you play as a Japanese bike gangster with a heart of gold. Common Sega! You know you want to! 

A screen shot from the NeoGeo classic Burning Fight, probably what Yakuza would have looked like 20 years ago.
  PS: For the most part the Yakuza games take place in modern Japan, however, there is a Japanese only release of the series that takes place in feudal Japan. In this one you play as the famous wondering swordsman Miyamoto Musashi and there is not much in the way of yakuza-ing going on there. The reason of that is the Japanese title of the series is actually Ryu Ga Gotaku which translates to something like Heart of the Dragon, a title that is not inherently yakuza related, so really the games could be about any badass person. I think a non-stereotypical-non-overly-sexualized-and-therefore-believable female protagonist might be pretty wicked! Can you do it SEGA? CAN YOU?! MAKE HER A BANCHO!
SOMETHING LIKE THIS! BAD ASS!!!!!! (That's Akira from Rival schools.) 

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