Yakuza

Overview

To me it is so fascinating and at times peculiar to see that a console as aged as the PS2 still alive and kicking as well as it is. In fact, to see a game here in 2006 that seems "different" from what we have been seeing on the console thus far is a pretty interesting statement, but one I can easily make when talking about this game Yakuza from SEGA. SEGA has been known to try and give different gaming experiences and today we will find out if there latest game Yakuza will be able to live up to the test. How does it turn out? Read our full review to find out!

Gameplay

My first question with this game came from its title, which was what the heck does that mean? Well the literal definition from Dictionary.com is a "tightly knit Japanese criminal organizations having a ritualistic, strict code of honor." To me that is just a fancy way of saying they are the Japanese version of the mafia.

Whatever the case may be, there is a story behind the game and that is taking the role of Kazuma. He is really a pretty straightforward guy who is loyal to the bone and ends up being so loyal he gets thrown in prison for a decade. He comes back and finds everything in shambles. From there the story takes on many different forms, in which you will just see some really interesting segments that really paces the game very nicely. I have to say the developers managed to really keep you interested in the action at hand by keeping it from being the "typical" action game. The story is definitely one of the games stronger points and one that I really enjoyed.

One of the real neat aspects of Yakuza is the way it’s structured. This is really a game that crosses a linear path with the open ended style of the Grand Theft Auto series. The game allows you to go through the streets of Tokyo to make your way through both the story missions and some of the side missions that the game has to offer. But like I said, don’t think that you’re going to be in a full open experience as the game does usually tend to force you along to the next story mission.

Unlike many of the action brawlers out there today, Yakuza is a game that takes away the guns and goes back to the old fashion way, using your own two fists. Now that is not to say that guns and weapons are totally out of the picture, but this is a game that definitely focuses more on the hand to hand combat. And this is really what helps separate this game from other beat em’ ups out on the market right now. The combat system is extremely satisfying, mainly because the way the game manages to string together combos and some seriously intense moves. The game has a nice martial arts style that usually feels either too slow or way too over the top, and feels just right.

Another thing that the game does manage to accomplish is a good pace of action and some slight side missions and mini games. The game also has some RPG qualities to throw in the mix as well, with some random battles and the ability to increase your character’s ability. All of this manages to help make Yakuza a very good game. In the end, Yakuza does feel like it could have done more, but still manages to be a very good game. There really weren’t any problems with the game, nevertheless this game just didn’t have that new "flavor" that could have made it a top tier game.

Graphics

Visually you would think by now the Playstation 2 would have seen everything that there is to see, but Yakuza still manages to impress. The game really has the combat system down and the presentation of this is really one of the key aspects of why this game works. The game offers a good deal of variety, but one thing it does struggle with is the environments which to me seemed like they could have used a good deal more of detail and variety as all of Tokyo seems to be way too similar. With that being said, this is still a good looking game that looks even better when playing.

Fun Factor

If you couldn’t tell already I really enjoyed Yakuza, mostly because of its great style and manner in which it uses the hand to hand combat. Most games seem to rely so heavily on weapons that it is a breath of fresh air to see a game change the pace up a bit and throw some punches. The game manages to use the storyline to its advantage by giving gamers something to fight for throughout the whole experience, something in which many other games have failed at too. Yakuza could have done a few things to a larger scale, but the overall experience was very enjoyable.

Overall

It is still such a treat to see games like Yakuza use older hardware and still manage to succeed, proof that old hardware still has a place in this high tech society. For those who have any interest in brawlers or Japanese gangs, then I would highly recommend checking Yakuza out. It is really an interesting and fun experience.

The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.