After playing Yakuza 4 for even just a few minutes I realized I was not in Maryland or even America anymore. This game is an import but unlike major import games say like Final Fantasy or Front Mission or even the hit-or-miss Dynasty Warriors game series; Yakuza 4 and the game series of Yakuza are all in Japanese and so they come with English subtitles. Most games that are imported that don’t have any English voice acting are due to the fact that they are niche games, or far too out in left field because of the differences in culture. And the company importing them are afraid that the potential players will not like their product and so in an effort to not lose profit they dont spend money on voice acting.
This game unlike the previous three has you start out as a new character; Akiyama. He is one of four characters that you play as throughout the game and is one smooth operator er, I mean loan shark. Originally Akiyama was destitute prior to this game after having been black balled and used as a scapegoat for illegal misappropriations at a bank he worked at. This information however you don’t find out till close to the end of his part of the story.
Now I don’t want to spoil any more than I will with Akiyama, so that means you’ll need to pick this game to play and find out about the other three characters though I will indeed mention them here. I have little to no problem going more in depth with Akiyama’s story mainly because his entire portion felt like a tutorial. For new comers to the series such as I you were introduced to the fictional over world that was like a Tokyo district.
Throughout this fictional Tokyo district that the game will evolve through you will as Akiyama and then the later characters randomly come up against street punks, thugs, other Yakuza group members and even tourists that just want to punch your face in. For no good reason. You learn with Akiyama the fighting system that occurs with in this game. I have to say while on an easy difficulty you can just button mash the kick button and till everyone’s defeated in harder difficulties the combo system that evolves throughout the game becomes increasingly handy. You can evolve your combo’s by leveling them up and adding new skills to your skills collection and I kind of like this system. You can also pick up random pieces such as cones, bikes… and shrubbery to bash into your assailing opponents.
Besides learning on how the games fighting mechanic goes you do have these random encounters and they all tend to give some sad excuse as an apology and then hand over ever hundred to several thousand yen to you as forgiveness. I find it funny that a group of tourists wanted to bash my face in and to give them my money so they could have fun and then I proceeded to destroy them where in the end they gave me 10,000 yen as an apology… Now if you would have just played nice you would have had that 10,000 yen to have fun with… no you have nothing but a bloody destroyed face and everyone around is laughing at you as you cry and have no play money. After learning how to fight you also learn how to escape from being chased and even how to chase others yourself while being Akiyama though the fighting is the most entertaining.
Outside of fighting and chasing you also see one of the games mini games with Akiyama and the American equivalent would be a lounge where people go and talk to employees. In the Japanese culture guys go to these places to talk to girls and socialize with them, it’s a harmless thing and the purpose isn’t to get blue balls but to find someone they may have a connection with, and sometimes the girls do indeed leave because they find that someone that they fall in love with and sometimes the girls don’t because they like the attention they get. It’s a win, win thing and it’s completely nonsexual. Akiyama’s part in this all is that he owns one, and the mini game is where you have a girl, and you dress her up and train her to become the most attractive and interesting conversationalist in your shop. This is the only visible mini-game throughout this game as it’s associated with Tutoriyama. The other mini games you must search throughout the game in typical Japanese game style. Where what’s going on ceases to matter because you’re searching for keys for a locker even though 37 minutes ago you should have saved a girl/guy who should be rightfully dead by now because you have been piddling around with some mini game.
Each of the four people that you will play are all different in their own way. Akiyama is actually a decent role model for a kid despite his inherent procrastination he disdains vileness, is up front about who he is and is actually a kind person and has a positive view on women (can’t say the same for most ‘gangsters’. Saejima is a prison escapee and is a hardened criminal and member of the Yakuza world and was sent to prison for a mass murder spree killing eighteen Ueno Seiwa Yakuza clan members, he is the imbodiment of everything wrong with the Yakuza world and what has happened to it since its beginning days. So it goes without saying he’s not a good role model. Tanimura is a police officer that seemingly is a gambling corrupt cop that is considered a parasite so again corruption is not good role model material regardless of his reasons. His character is shone to be just and a positive being stating that the world can’t be black and white. The last and returning protagonist is Kazuma Kiryu. Now when I talked to some fans of this game it seemed like they were mixed on having the four players, and one of them being Kiryu who was the main protagonists for the previous three games. Some of them were hoping they had moved on from Kiryu and where bringing a new story to the series. Others were lamenting that they got rid of Kiryu of course the collective sighs regardless of why occurred when he indeed reappeared in the game.
As a role model Kiryu is trying to truly portray what a Yakuza member truly is in real life and what they mean or originally how they are supposed to have been. Now I’m not saying that he is or isn’t a good role model simply out of the context that we as Westerners don’t completely understand the context of the Yakuza. We do have our own form however: Street Gangs and Mafia. While most of these groups started with pure intentions they often times turn to greed, violence and turning their backs on their original purpose. Kiryu strives to always stay true to his purpose: a protector. In my eyes.
These four characters are all related through the story that unfolds throughout Yakuza 4, and despite this games copious usage of cinematic events I’d have to say it is an entertaining foray into the Japanese culture. I personally would not have bought this game for full price but the people who are fans of this series undoubtedly did and would again. The again may or may never happen as on December 6th of 2012 Yakuza 5 was released and yet even now September 15th of 2013 there has been no official word whether Yakuza 5 will ever see release here in America or won’t see release… If it ever does you can be sure we will play it and review it both in a serious context as well as from a game series fan perspective.
Honestly this game and this series to me seems like a mix of Grand Theft Auto and Rise to Honor than a true Japanese GTA. All and all the scores:
Or a 70 out of 100.
Now If I was a fan of this series I would give it a higher score as it expanded the game series, fixed some issues and made its own and would be use to the gaming quirkiness that comes with this game. While I’m use to the Japanese quirky game style, I’m not a fan of this series so I decided to as accurately as i could come up with a number that fans may be able to agree with but at the same time didn’t feel unreasonable or completely biased:
Game Series Fan (GSF) score: 82/100.
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