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Walking. Brooding. Staring. They’re all popular activities in Japanese crime series Yakuza, and this - the third - is the talkiest, broodiest, stariest installment yet. Oh, it’s changed a bit - the sudden shift from the present day to the 1640s is a bit jarring at first - but the important things are still present and correct. You still stamp on men’s faces. You still hang out with giggling ladies. And you still talk a lot.
You play Miyamoto Musashi, genuinely history’s greatest swordfighter of all time, in a sequence of events that are roughly as historically accurate as Robin Hood fighting Ming the Merciless. Things kick off after the Battle of Sekigahara - when Musashi disappeared for a few years - as our hero gets himself in a series of scrapes, changes his name and turns to gangsterism to pay the bills. This sets the stage for the typical Yakuza activities, except with a 1640s twist. Rather than hanging out with hookers, you chat with geishas. Instead of gambling on Pachinko, you race tortoises. And instead of swatting men with pushbikes or stop signs, you stab them in the face.
Yakuza’s traditionally been oven-glove clumsy when it comes to fighting, but in previous games you’d overlook that because smacking people with telephones was a novelty. With everybody swinging katanas, you’re suddenly free to compare Yakuza 3 to hundreds of other swordfighting games, and suddenly it’s only the moderately-pretty girl at the Playboy party. It handles like Onimusha’s thick little brother - the moves are basically the same, but everything’s a bit clunkier and slower, with little in the way of parrying or dodging. You earn new moves by talking to old men - or in one memorable case, by watching a monkey - which means you can hack your way through fights quicker. Later you earn a short sword, Musashi’s trademark twin swords and a single massive claymore.
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