Street fighting is the easiest way to convince someone to let you have your way, and Yakuza certainly gives you some crushingly appropriate methods. You can pick up street signs, baseball bats and even bicycles to pummel fools into the pavement. If they're still giving you guff, grab their head and smash them into the wall. Then finish the job with one of 300 items and weapons you'll discover in your journey.
Don't think it's all swinging fists, though - Yakuza spends a lot of time simply walking around, listening to people talk and taking in cutscenes that flesh out the story (seems you're caught up in a case involving a missing woman and, oh, a hundred million dollars). In fact, Sega promises it's the story that will propel you through the game, as opposed to the prospect of clubbing dudes over the head with a sheet of plywood.
And a competent story will be necessary - while the detail is undeniable, much of the scraps seemed to unfold via the punch-punch-kick routine. You'll be able to upgrade combos, vitality and other areas of your bad self, but a beat-em-up is still a beat-em-up.
In keeping with the virtual world, however, your downtime can be spent doing 70 side missions or 10 minigames, none of which involve many tasteful elements. Get drunk, start a fight, hit the batting cages or head off for a "massage" at the local girly girl club. It's all about the atmosphere.
Kiryu's personal quest starts this fall, but the game's already lighting things up in Japan - seems like the authenticity test has been passed, eh?