+Lots of mini-games and activities
-Long cut scenes
-Some mini-games are too weird
Final score: 7 / 10
A functional PlayStation 3
Yakuza 4, to a Western gamer like myself, is definitely an odd beast, as you can hardly tell that this open world, Grand Theft Auto-style game, but without the Auto part and based on the Japanese mob called the Yakuza, could manage to attract millions of fans in its native country and a small yet fiercely loyal following in the West.
After playing for a few hours, however, you realize that there's more than meets the Western eye, and Yakuza 4 is testimony that even a game as fundamentally Japanese as this one, with elements like karaoke or hostess training, as well as its all-Japanese dialog, can manage to touch upon elements that can attract gamers from all over the world, not just in the East or the West.
So, is Yakuza 4 a worthy risk for a gamer who wants to see a fresh take on the old open world, beat-em up genre or should it be sleeping with the fishes thanks to a pair of concrete shoes? Let's find out.
Engage in fights ...
... and in complicated stories
The story of Yakuza 4 is definitely on the weird side, especially for someone new to the franchise, largely because the title isn't shy about throwing at you all sorts of names for the various Yakuza families, and lots of hints to previous installments in the series.
Unlike last year's Yakuza 3, however, this time Sega has introduced a special sort of story, which follows not one but four main characters over the course of its campaign. As you can imagine, the characters are quite unique, ranging from a loan shark with a heart of gold to a dirty cop who's trying to fix his problems, a reformed convict and, of course, Kazuma, the protagonist of the last games in the franchise.
A single element connects all of them, a woman who must get 100 million yen, but, along the way, the campaign takes you through all sorts of different scenarios and side quests that will please you in some moments, amaze you in other ones, or downright shock you at some times through their sheer awkwardness.
But while it is worth investing in the story, Sega goes pretty much out of its way to make this extremely hard, by using extremely lengthy cut scenes to deliver most of the back story about characters and events. When you're not being forced to see the characters in the cut scenes, you're required to read text boxes that deliver the key information about your actions.
You could start skipping the cut scenes altogether, but some of them contain some pretty important things. For example, I skipped one of the first cut scenes because it was just two characters talking, and then found that the Yakuza member I was chatting with was shot. Why or how he ended up like that was a complete mystery, so it pays to be patient.
In the end, Yakuza 4's story is definitely worthy of a daytime soap opera, but you should really be passionate about it to thoroughly enjoy the narrative.
Yakuza 4 is basically one of the most Japanese games I've ever played, from needing to push four or five different buttons before the game starts, to trying to teach girls how to become hostesses or learning fight moves from creeps who steal the underwear of young girls.
In the game, you'll either be engaging in fights all over the fictional red light district of Kamurocho, or trying to unravel some of the epic plot lines that are taking place within. Each of the game's four different characters has a unique flavor, with different combat moves and various side quests needing to be completed.
You'll go from trying to train guys to become successful fighters to girls who want to become successful hostesses. In between these activities, you'll meet unique characters from rather fat former Army soldiers who teach you combat techniques on a building's roof to photographers who teach you to analyze videos and pick up special moves.
Yakuza 4 basically offers you more ways to spend time than lots of other games these days. You can just try to explore the streets of Kamurocho and meet all of its unique characters, but also engage in various side quests which offer surprising endings.
While these activities can seem trivial at first, they do require a lot of thought, especially when it comes to training hostesses, for example, as you can develop their talents, including conversation or charm, to dressing them up so that clients will find them attractive.
You can also engage in the wide array of mini-games offered by Yakuza 4, from karaoke to pachinko games, massage ones or a certain adult-themed ping pong, not to mention play poker, darts or pool with your various lady friends.
The combat system is basically just like the one seen in Yakuza 3, but there are a few changes that make them quite enjoyable, especially since every character has his own special moves that suit their character.
There are still some surprisingly robust role-playing game mechanics underneath Yakuza 4, as you gain in levels throughout its action, which gives you points that you can spend in unlocking new moves or upgrade your abilities. You can also use different items like weapons or drinks during gameplay, as well as enter special modes, depending on your Heat level, which allows you to pull off flamboyant executions.
In terms of overall gameplay, Yakuza 4 can get a bit tedious, especially with the never-ending street fights, but there are quite a few attractive things here that will please gamers.
Use improvised weapons ...
... and upgrade your powers
Graphics and Audio
Yakuza 4's engine is getting a bit old these days, so you'll notice some pretty major downsides to it if you compare it to other open world titles like Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV, for example. The virtual world of Kamurocho is definitely filled with life and color, but also with invisible walls which always remind you that you can interact with just a few things and people.
Still, for its intended purpose, Yakuza 4 looks decent enough to keep you going through its rather lengthy story, but, if you just came off of Crysis 2, like myself, the visual downgrade is extremely apparent.
Sound-wise, Yakuza 4 handles itself pretty good, with different voice actors lending their talents to make all characters sound believable. While it is a bit weird to hear them talk only in Japanese, their dialog does amp up the immersion factor.
Customize hostesses ...
... and learn moves from perverts
Yakuza 4 can't really be described in a single way, as Sega's new open world title offers lots of various means to have fun.
It may not appeal to everyone, but, if you like taking risks and trying out new experiences, as well as see an inside look into Japanese life, then you should definitely check out Yakuza 4.
Dude, you really need to get off your relative "Westernness" and just try to experience a different yet fascinating society. But, I guess, that's nearly impossible when you never leave home or don't have Asian friends. Yakuza 4 is not for small-minded gamers. You obviously never even bothered to check the game's options.