If nothing else, Sega’s Japanese crime ‘em up is monstrously ambitious. Part adventure game, part old school scrapper, it’s the breadth of Yakuza 3’s robust minigames that makes it really stand out. Can’t be assed with the main story mode? No problem. Why not play golf, go fishing, take part in UFC-style cage competitions, bowl or go all Dog the Bounty Hunter and capture crooks? Hell, you can even sing karaoke in a Tokyo bar while off your face on 125 year-old whiskey.
Above: Screw a life of crime, there'stunes to bemurdered
And you know what? None of it comes close to the simple pleasures of twatting a man in the face with a rusty bin lid. Make no mistake, this might be one of the best game worlds to dick around in ever. But at its heart, it’s all about the scrapping. And said scrapping is worth the asking price alone.
Before we get into the karate kicks and flying fists of the review, you’ll want to know what Yakuza 3 is actually like to play. Well, it’s basically a cross between GTA’s on-foot bits (there aren’t any vehicles in the game), Def Jam: Fight for NY's battles, with the really talky quests from ancient fellow Sega game Shenmue thrown in.
Above: Like GTA, but with 72% more elbows in the face
Right, now we’ve cleared that up, we can tell you exactly why Kazuma Kiryu, star of the first two games, spends most of his time laying a samurai smackdown on Japanese commuters. Contrary to the sort of imagery that might throw up, he’s not actually a bad guy. The retired yakuza evens runs an orphanage in Okinawa (we shit you not). It’s here you spend most of your first four or five hours, as Kaz helps the sprogs with their homework, tries to set them up on dates and deals with school bullies
Above: Sunshine Orphanage – ‘We make losing your folks fun!’
But this isn’t How to Raise Parentless Pipsqueaks 3. And eventually Kaz is suckered into a massive conspiracy in Tokyo with crime families, shady politicians and an army of dudes with major Men in Black envy. Which, naturally enough, leads back to loads of thrown punches, kicks and kid-kiboshing moves to the crotch.
And boy, if these fights aren’t awesome fun. Thoroughly old school and off their rocker crazy, scraps usually involve you beating everyone in sight into comas with bikes, billboard signs and whatever other impromptu weapons you can find in the fictional red-light district of Kamurocho.
Above: Kicking thugs upside thehead is the only way to solve your problems
Battles are beautifully meaty. Every haymaker to the kidneys and roundhouse kick to some poor bastard’s backside Kaz breaks out carries real impact. The system is pretty in-depth, too. You can dodge, parry, throw and even use x-rated context-sensitive finishers that usually involve introducing men's spines to pristine Japanese concrete.
It ain’t quite Virtua Fighter. But it’s definitely the equal of Def Jam: Fight for NY, and way better than the scraps you see in its spiritual predecessor Shenmue.