It seems like we’ve had to wait ages for Yakuza 3 to finally be localised (It’s actually going to a whole year since it’s Japanese release next week) so it’s nice to finally sit down and have a play with the demo – safe in the knowledge that the full game is out in a few weeks (12th of March in fact). If you’ve ever played Yakuza 1 or 2 the controls and mechanics should be instantly familiar – The game works by you running around crowded streets, watching a cutscene and getting into awesome fights.
The combat system is pretty easy to pick up, but has loads of hidden depth, with location specific finishing moves, and lots of weapons that all have their own move set and finishers too. The audio is satisfyingly Japanese with subtitled English – thus eschewing the rather dodgy dub of the first game (even if it did have one or two famous name to throw around) and the impact sounds are as satisfying as ever. The fairly hefty demo also allows the player to try out the Karaoke mini game and a Shooter arcade game, both of which have had a lot of work go into them, so they’re well worth checking out. The full game is supposed to have golf, Mahjong and all sorts of other mini game madness.
The only slightly downer is just how familiar this all feels. Yakuza 2 came out in 2006 (in Japan) and three years on and with a very different game in between (Kenzan) its a little strange to see so little change. The dialog is still written for the most part – the small city sections, camera flipping and crowds all feel a little dated in light of games like Assassins Creed 2 and characters outside of cut-scenes have very little animation work. It can feel at times playing a remastered version of Yakuza 2 (in a similar way to Resident Evil 1 on the Gamecube as opposed to the God of War remaster) but there is little doubting there is a ton on new content. Moves, mini-games, weapons, skills – everything has been bolstered and in the end the fighting is as satisfying as ever and is more than fun enough to carry the game. Of course Yakuza is always also about its story – which the demo can only hint at. Regardless of reservations then, I’m eagerly awaiting its release on March 12th – even if it does come with a much shitter cover than the Japanese version.
As for Yuya – it looks like HD gaming has done him no favours as he comes out looking particularly ugly. See for yourself – the demo is up on the PSN store (in EUR and US I believe)