Cash Converters comes up trumps again! Although I'd heard of the Yakuza series, I really knew nothing about it, other than it was popular and pretty highly regarded. I had no clue about the gameplay, or anything. But it was £1.99. Perfect blog fodder, so I snapped it up.
If I'd known this was a golf game, I mightn't have bothered.
Yakuza puts you right in the heart of the Japanese underworld... in fact, it puts you in the shoes of an enforcer, with aspirations of starting his own "family". Trusted and respected by bosses, and with money, you're in prime position to go it on your own. Until your girlfriend is kidnapped, that is... and a chain of events is set in place that leads to you taking the rap for the murder of your own family's boss.
The first section of a game sees you playing this scenario out, and it serves to get you really involved in the story, as well as being a deent tutorial. You'll learn how to beat up large groups of thugs, which is what the majority of this game is about.
Just the seven of you? You couldn't make it more difficult than that?
The combat system is fairly straightforward. Punches are the order of the day... you can string together some pretty vicious combinations that will leave most thugs struggling to breathe. You're also able to put some other moves in there... a throw can scatter a few guys at once, while a suitably subdued bad guy can be slammed against a wall for maximum damage. And if all else fails, you can reach for the nearest chair or blunt instrument and beat the crap out of them with that.
Once you get out of jail, ten years later (game time, naturally!), the game becomes a more open-world affair. So when you're not on a mission, you have some freedom to explore. In doing so, you'll find a range of mini-games, which involve some daft games or (of course) more fights. Wandering the city is fun, as it's based on a real area of Tokyo. Pity, then, that it's often rendered Resident Evil-style, with fixed-camera views making you hobble around in a confused fashion.
This is what you get for fucking around with Yakuza! Go home to your mother!
Other than that, though, I found Yakuza an interesting and involved game. The gameplay itself is not especially stunning and in fact gets a bit repetitive, but the storyline and setting were enough to get me hooked. I can easily see why the series is up to a fourth game... it's not a world we generally have much access to, and it's sufficiently different to Grand Theft Auto to make it worth sticking with.