The Yakuza series is a very special series. The titles in the Yakuza series aren’t just games about beating other men to a bloody pulp; they are windows for us westerners to look into the Japanese world. Although you may know quite a lot about Japan, Yakuza will easily show you more. Through dialogue, set-pieces, gameplay and quirky mini-games, it teaches us westerners how very different we are from our Japanese friends.
This is why Yakuza 4 is a love/hate type of game. If you can both deal with it being so very quintessentially Japanese and featuring no western references at all, you will play one of the best RPGs to come out of Japan. If not, you have to give this game a miss, and ignore a very different experience.
If you played the previous Yakuza games, you will be familiar with the gameplay. Yakuza 4 does very little to deviate from the gameplay set in Yakuza 3, except a few minor changes. The major difference between the two games is that Yakuza 4’s story is now played out by an additional three characters.
Kazuma Kiryu is the badass from Okinawa and the lead character of the Yakuza titles. He returns in 4 but takes a back seat in the storyline. Kazuma is known as the “Dragon of Dojima” and was 4th Chairman of the Tojo clan. He is one of the most famous Yakuza in the business, but is also a good man with a merciful heart. He retired from being Yakuza-affiliated to run an orphanage in Yakuza 3. He is the last playable character in 4, and ultimately has the most disappointing part of the story to play. If you played 3, you know that Kazuma is by far one of the coolest characters to ever be featured in a video game. It was a slight disappointment to find out he takes a very minor role within Yakuza 4. But this frees up room for the three new characters’ stories to be told.
The three new characters are all very different in their own ways. The first is easily my favorite: Shun Akiyama, the owner of the finance business Sky Finance. He is a loan shark with a heart. His story was the most interesting to me because of his character portrayal. He wasn’t a Yakuza, he wasn’t out to beat guys up or get into trouble, and he was just a good man. This was an interesting plot point in a title all about getting what you want from other Yakuza, by any means necessary. He is known throughout Kamurocho as the “Lifeline” as he hands out loans without collateral or need of a guarantor. He puts potential loaners through tests; it is with these tests that he decides whether or not the client is worthy of the loan.
The second of the new characters is the criminal Taiga Saejima. An ex-Yakuza who carried out a massive assassination mission against a rival Yakuza clan in 1985, he is revered in Kamurocho as a legend among Yakuza clans. He spent 25-years in prison and was sentenced to the death penalty. He is out for revenge for a betrayal during his assassination mission, and he wants answers. His story had the potential to be thrilling and fantastic, but it somewhat falls flat towards the end.
The last of the new characters is the policeman Masayoshi Tanimura. He is known as the parasite of Kamurocho, as he takes bribes from criminals in return for turning a blind eye to their activities. He also has a gambling problem – he is the best description of a dirty cop I can think of. His story is the weakest out of the characters, but does not fail to deliver some fantastic set pieces.
The stories of each character intertwine intricately and you have to keep your eye out for references in each ones’ story to notice parts from previous chapters. Although they are all involved in one huge plot, their own stories are interesting and keep up with the high production values and narrative storytelling the Yakuza series is known for.
Fantastic cut-scenes and beautiful production value.
Some very boring parts, too similar to its predecessor.