by Liam Edwards
reviewed on PS3
“Bash their heads in!”
Yakuza 4’s gameplay has not changed since the very beginning. It is a good old fashion beat-em’ up that involves using items and power-ups to knock down enemies. In previous Yakuza games you only ever played as Kazuma, with his specific style of fighting involving kicking and countering. With Yakuza 4, each character has his own style: Akiyama’s is rush-down, Saejima is brutal charge attacks, Tanimura is all about being fast and Kazuma is very much a battery character. None of the characters have moves that feel similar; they all play in different ways and require you to think differently with each character. This is a nice addition to the series’ gameplay and adds new life to the new title.
Although the fighting in Yakuza can feel unresponsive and a bit dated, there isn’t anything more fun than cracking other Yakuza members’ heads in with a bicycle. Each character has his own abilities and moves. You can unlock these abilities by earning experience points and leveling up. You earn points by fighting other members of Yakuza clans, street gangs and petty criminals. You can also gain 500 experience points each time you talk to a person of interest within the city. This contributes to the RPG-lite elements Yakuza is known for.
Unfortunately, some of those RPG elements can be very boring. Much of the game requires that you do menial tasks such as gathering information, finding people or just running from one area of the town to another. These parts really bring the game down. In some sections you may be asked to run to one end of the town to find something out, get there and realize you don’t have an item you need, and then have to run back to get it. They are pointless tasks and missions that pad out the lengthy gameplay more than needed.
Very much like Yakuza 3, 4 still has no need for items or created weapons. Like 3, you can create weapons by taking specific items to a man who then turns them into weapons. These weapons may last at most three fights, and are not worth it. The characters are fairly overpowered and have no real need for the use of weapons other than the items already found on the street around them. Similarly, the characters are capable of taking on anyone and the game can be fairly easy, so gathering items to increase stats is unnecessary in Yakuza 4.
Mini-games, mini-games everywhere!
What Yakuza 4 certainly doesn’t lack is mini-games and other sub-story missions. Yakuza 3 was packed full of activities to do outside of the main game, and Yakuza 4 features even more activities – so much so that there might be too much to do. Each character has different areas and activities they can access: Akiyama can run his own hostess bar, Saejima can train a martial arts champion, Tanimura can stop crimes from happening by intercepting chatter over police radio and Kazuma has a battle mode in which he takes out gangs around the city.
As well as missions such as these, Kamurocho has so much to do. With bars, restaurants, batting centres, bowling, hostess clubs, karaoke, arcades, martial arts tournaments, gambling, going the cinema, going on dates, pool and darts the list is endless. If you wanted to do everything within the game, I am willing to bet that it would take you well over the 100 hour mark to participate in everything and finish the main story. Although this does offer a huge replayability factor, as the minigames are well done, in the end they are only minigames and are just distractions from the main story.
Fantastic cut-scenes and beautiful production value.
Some very boring parts, too similar to its predecessor.