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PlayStation 3 Review: Yakuza 4

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Following the devastating 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, conservative American shock jock Rush Limbaugh did what he’s best known for: he made a totally inappropriate and insensitive remark that offended anyone possessing even so much as a single functioning brain cell. The snide comment involved the ridiculing of earthquake survivors for continuing to recycle their rubbish even after such a cataclysmic event had taken place.

Now, if Rush Limbaugh had been born a total video game geek, he probably would have ridiculed the Japanese for recycling way too many elements from previously-released video games to create Yakuza 4 — which, coincidentally, was released in the U.S. around the same time as when the first earthquake hit.

Of course, that’s all entirely irrelevant, people.

The fact of the matter is Yakuza 4 isn’t a very original game. The story here — which is split into individual chapters à la some arty crime drama — relies on your bad guy character(s) getting into one fight after another with other bad guys. The game allows you to pick up certain objects around you, which you can use to bash your opponent in the noggin with; earning you “Heat” points so that you can deliver a destructive finale to your adversary that they’ll never remember.

The controls for said skirmishes aren’t the easiest to maneuver with your controller, though, as the directional targeting thingy tends to go out for a coffee quite a bit. Additionally, most of these “Heat” finales moves have been carried over from Yakuza 3, so there’s not a lot of new material to play with if you’re a series regular.

Story-wise, Yakuza 4 often feels like you’ve been trapped in an elevator with an avid, socially-inept RPG player that has erroneously mistaken you for someone who gives a shit. Cutaway sequences are meant to advance the story of whichever character you’re playing (you don’t get to choose who you play off the bat, either: you just go from one chap to another), but they are so drawn out that they simply become terminally interminable and intolerably uninteresting. Seriously, one segment had to have gone on for a good twenty minutes.

Worse still, you can’t bypass or pause these mini-movies — and, since the American distributors saw fit to leave these segments in their native Japanese language with English subtitles, it makes it very difficult for you to go off and make a sandwich or something unless you’re fluent in the Nipponese vernacular.

The box art for the Yakuza 4 prominently promotes a den of debauchery. In that respect, the game does not disappoint. Players are afforded every opportunity to play a variety of mini-games, including controlling a female “masseuse,” gambling, and dating the ladies of hostess clubs — things that will either entice or alienate, depending on how well you understand the culture of Japan.

Side missions abound here, too, including teaching at a dojo and responding to police radio calls. Additionally, gamers can do a lot of exploring — from the rooftops down to seedy sewers and underground malls (which are pretty much the same thing, depending on who you ask!).

Though I like many of the previously-mentioned exploration and mini-game/side mission options, I prefer that my games have better control during their fights and shorter cutaway segments. Yakuza 4 has a lot of great moments going for it, despite being its re-using a lot of elements from preceding entries. The game will no doubt appeal to a lot of people out there.

Sadly for me, I wasn’t one of them.  Next time, perhaps?

Yakuza 4 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.