Yakuza 4 puts you in the role of series’ main stay, Kazuma Kiryu, along with three others: Shun Akiyama, Taiga Saejima, and Masayoshi Tanimura. The game takes place in Japan’s Kamurocho, a city teaming with power hungry Yakuza. The main narrative revolves around a murder that took place twenty-five years ago and the truth surrounding it. As each character you’ll uncover new pieces to the puzzle, weaving into a bigger narrative. While this idea is interesting, the sections are too drawn out. There are great moments among the melodrama and incomprehensible plot twists thanks to the brilliant Japanese cast, but again, slow paced.
Yakuza can easily be characterized as a RPG brawler. Each character has their own distinct fighting style, with new moves unlocking as you level up. Battles are akin to old school beat’em ups like Double Dragon. Essentially, you beat the snot out of your opponents be it fist, leg, or bicycle. Yes, bicycle. You can use environmental objects to thrash your enemies along with being able to equip disposable weapons and armor and use items as well. Fights are fast, bloody, and a hell of a lot of fun. If I had to pick on anything, it’d be starting new characters at level one in each scenario. That and the camera could have used tweaking.
While not the best graphically, every touch to the design of Yakuza 4 feels authentic. From the bustling city of Kamurocho to the robust cast of characters. Aside from the main narrative, there are plenty of mini games and side quests to tackle: arcades, locker keys, trainers, and more. Unfortunately, completing side quests with each character feels useless once you move on to the next story. In the final act you can retake control of any character to finish these side quests, but by then, again, it feels useless. Complaining about tons of content is petty, I admit, but I wish it had been better implemented.
This is my first entry into the Yakuza series and thanks to the story recap option in the menu, it was a breeze to pick up. The combat and authentic feel of Kamurocho will appease both fans of brawlers and Japanese culture. It’s not without problems, but if you’re itching for a new beat’em up and are patient, then Yakuza 4 is worth a shot.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on October 24, 2012 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.