Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Yakuza 4: A stroll through Kamurocho

I've been playing a lot of Yakuza 4 recently. First, I had to play it for review, which resulted in me barrelling my way through at break-neck speed, only stopping occasionally to take in the sights and sounds.

After I submitted my review, I decided to start from scratch and explore all the game has to offer at my own pace.

It's a beguiling series and one which has failed to garner the attention it so richly deserves from a gaming public seemingly more keen to feast on the latest glitzy big-budget shooter than explore the delights of the neon-tinged streets of Kamurocho.

This week, Yakuza 4 entered the UK games chart at disappointing No.25, but chances are that by this time next week, the latest entry in the Japanese crime-based series will have slipped beneath the waves and out of the public's consciousness.

It's a terrible shame, as those who have embraced the games have been well rewarded with deliciously over-the-top action, laced with healthy measures of gleeful humour.

Yakuza 3 was an excellent game, but Yakuza 4 trumps it at almost every turn. To the untrained eye, everything seems pretty much like it was before: Shops, restaurants and bars are exactly where you remember them, and you still have to take on random groups of sharp-suited yakuza and mouthy goons in puffer jackets.

But the four main characters have their own distinctive brawling styles, while there is now even more ways to waste your hard-earned yen.

Hostess bars, which were removed by Sega for last year's instalment, are back, while going out for a relaxing spa or massage leads to a series of unexpected - and disturbingly voyeuristic - events.

Darts, pool, table tennis, shogi, karaoke, bowling, mahjong, pachinko, poker, blackjack, golf, fishing and baseball are all open to the player, leading those of us who have gaming OCD down dark alleys and to the front doors of inconspicuous-looking buildings.

As if that wasn't enough to keep you going, the obligatory hunt for dozens of shiny locker keys continues - although this time you can track them with a handy mechanical beeper.

But while it's easy to frown when unleashing a not so brutal combo of fresh air swings thanks to Yakuza 4's stuffy camera, the real Yakuza magic comes from the game's location.

Kamurocho is an intoxicating sandbox which is ripe for exploration. And thanks to spruced up visuals from last year's offering, Yakuza 4 carries an atmosphere quite unlike any other game on the market.

Every street bustles with activity as people go about their daily business. Groups chatter excitedly outside bars, salarymen trudge home with mobiles pressed to their ears, brightly lit shop fronts vie for attention and giant billboards advertise a range of products and highlight doe-eyed Japanese idols.

The feel of being in the heart of Tokyo's fictional entertainment district is enhanced immeasurably by the brilliant use of audio. There's a constant buzz of chatter in the background, while J-Pop, tinfoil rock and funky jazz fusion gently waft from shop doorways as the player strolls by.

It really is a wonderful place to spend time in and you can almost smell the pork bone broth ramen as you saunter past Kyushu No.1 Star on the way back from a lengthy night knocking back strong drinks in the Champion District.

Rockstar can keep their Liberty City - give me a night out in Kamurocho any day.

While I took 52 hours to complete Yakuza 3, my completion percentage made depressing reading. Even after spending such a long time in the game's company, I only uncovered 28 per cent of all that game had to offer.

I'm playing Yakuza 4 as I would enjoy watching episodes of a much-loved DVD collection. A little every night is just the ticket after playing the latest games for review.

I won't get a perfect completion rating this time either, but I'll have a damn good time trying.


Sickr said...

Great review. I am SO tempted to purchase Yakuza 3/4 as I adored Shenmue on the Dreamcast. I hear there's some definite similarities. Will eventually get round to getting it as well as playing Heavy Rain.

toenail fungus remedy said...

I just got it a month ago and it was really a great buy. Love the game from the start to end.