Fights also have some Final Fantasy in them. Alright, so you don’t summon spirits to incinerate cute monsters so much as you stab the shit out of surly street punks with a katana. Both games do feature random battles, though, in what we can only describe as the most aggressive city ever, where citizens from all walks of life want to beat your bonce in.
Above: Apparently, anyone who harmlessly walks down a street in Tokyo is begging for a beat down
When every Tom, Dick and homicidal Harry challenges you to a fight around every corner, it’s only natural repetition kicks in pretty damn quick. Sadly, this is also true of the main story missions, which pretty much subscribe to one of the following three tricks.
1). Find informant. Talk to informant. Punch informant in face.
2). Chase informant through streets. Talk to informant. Punch informant in face.
3). Give the finger to formalities and just punch informant in face.
Above: Don’t resist it, everything you do in Yakuza 3 is ending up with one of these
Alright, so it’s not quite as simple as that. Most of the game’s epic-sized story chapters pick up the pace when they pit you against a mental and usually murderous boss man. Granted, it’s just more fisticuffs. But there’s no doubt duking it out with a dude with three foot Vega-style claws or a mob boss who licks knives before he throws them at you is a step up from scraps against the brassed-off businessmen you meet on the streets.
Above: Mmmm, cold steel. Just like mom used to make
Of course, like GTA and as we’ve already mentioned, you don’t have to touch any of this. There’s a good chance you’ll leave the main missions for hours at a time, simply to mess around with the 16 different minigames and hundreds of side quests, most of which rock hard. So much so, that Yakuza’s take on golf, bowling and the 2D minigames in the city’s arcades are almost good enough to be sold as budget titles on their own.
The huge number of side missions you can take are also a great distraction. Most have you do totally mental things, like when Kaz saves a debt-ridden man from suicide with sound life insurance advice or when he rescues a woman’s dog from kidnappers. Always inventive and with a wry, subversive sense of fun; it’s easy to get lost when you help Kamurocho’s residents. Well, the ones who don’t try to shiv you in the spine on sight, anyway.
Above: Golf - one of the many pleasurable activities Kaz can partake in when he gets tired of having his head smashed in
Praise should also go to almighty Jeebus for Yakuza’s ace story, which weaves a bloody brilliant yarn. Well scripted, adult, and with stylish cutscenes that come across as half Martin Scorsese/half John Woo, they’re a pleasure to watch. They both drive events on with real thrust and give you something to look forward to. Dicking about may distract you for a while, but the quality of Kaz’s story eventually drags you back.