Kevin Lee II On April 29, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Yakuza 4 is an action-adventure game developed and published by Sega exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Released in March 2010 in Japan, and just a year later, the fourth installment in SEGA’s Japanese mafia story has come to the U.S. If you’ve played any of the previous Yakuza titles then you already have some sort of idea of how this game plays. In Yakuza 4, however, Kiryu is joined by 3 new characters to help develop the rich, atmospheric story. Can an eastern Mafioso masterpiece live up to western standards and competition? We’ll find out.

As with the original game, most of the action takes place in Kamurocho (or also known as Kamuro City). Kamuro City is a fictionalized yet realistic recreation of Shinjuku’s red-light district. The storyline has definitely always been a strong aspect of the Yakuza series and Kazuma Kiryu (main character from Yakuza’s predecessors) does have a cult following. This time around though, Kiryu sits out until to the very end to let the player get better acquainted with the other, new characters. While delving into the particulars of the story would be filled with spoilers wall-to-wall, I’m just going to say that petty clan on clan violence ends up escalating higher and quickly from jealous rage which in turn brings events that had happened in the past together with events of the present in what may be a whole turf-clan war, if someone doesn’t put a stop to it. There are cover-ups, plot twists that you won’t expect and also a lot of complexities that makes Yakuza 4 one of the hardest games to follow yet engrossing plots you’ll ever experience.

The cutscenes in Yakuza 4 are wonderfully executed with very detailed faces, believable facial expressions, and amazing animation. Yakuza 4 has no English voiceovers which creates even more immersion. That may be a turn off for some people, although it was pretty tiring reading over 6 hours of subtitles in the cutscenes alone, plus the other entire dialog from other NPC’s not in cutscenes. The voice over work in Yakuza 4 is definitely of the highest standard in any video game available today. The graphics in Kamuro City outside are beautifully rendered, and very atmospheric, but when you go down underground, the whole area seems to be full of bland, lower-quality textures. The Yakuza series’ usual high-quality score and varied, vibrant sound effects walk the line perfectly between coarse and gritty realism combined with video-game exaggeration. The sound of weapons striking an enemy’s face manages to feel like you are inducing real, physical brutality.

Yakuza 4’s gameplay is essentially a mix of adventure, action and JRPG. You’ll be walking around Kamurocho, completing various storyline objectives and picking up JRPG-style random battles on the way. Think of Pokemon, but fighting wise. Although these are helpful in getting money and items after tearing them apart, it really got old when the same model NPC of a punk claims you “stared” at them the wrong way. After beating them up, you do get experience points to invest in new fighting moves which are fun to pull off, especially with the finishing moves. Each of the protagonists have their own fighting styles: Shun Akiyama is good on his feet and his style involves fancy footwork and a lot of kicks, Taiga Saejima is a Japanese Wrestler type who relies on his size with grapples and heavy punches, Masayoshi Tanimura relies on reversing attacks, and Kaz returns to Yakuza 4, retaining his style from his previous Yakuza games. All of the characters each have exclusive abilities and finishing moves. Objects spread out along the fighting areas can be used to beat your opponents senseless and other weapons include everything from guns, katanas, chairs, etc. In a storyline fight, you’ll often be navigating a building or another large area in combat mode, temporarily making it look like a current-gen version of.

Fighting, however, is not the only enjoyable activity in the game. There’s a hostess dress-up game (seriously?), bowling, pool, ping-pong, a massage parlor, pachinko, fishing, and karaoke plus even a Sega Arcade! There is probably over 50 hours of side quests and mini-games to do. Upon completion of the game, two new difficulty modes are unlocked, as well as an “Adventure” mode which allows you to roam freely around Kamuro City without any of the narrative elements. This allows you to focus instead on finishing off any side quests or other odd jobs you may have missed in the story mode.

Bottom line for Yakuza 4 is if you appreciate a great story with decent gameplay, and hours of random things to do, definitely be sure to check this game out. The series is refreshed by this change of pace and in particularly by having four uniquely different characters that contrast so well and offer greater variety in gameplay. You will be able to enjoy Yakuza 4 with or without experience of the previous games as this one stands alone as a top-notch action game. There is also an entire series catch up included for you to sit back and enjoy if you care about the previous iterations. If you let it, Yakuza 4 can deliver an emotionally deep story with interesting, profound characters and moments of hilarity coupled with heart pounding excitement.


Yakuza has a wide variety of gameplay that includes mini-games and beat ‘em up fighting. It’s pretty good minus the repetitive random battles that occur when you are trying to complete a quest.


Most character models look amazing, especially with facial animations. The character animations are top notch and Kamuro City is beautifully detailed. Some interiors and the underground parts do seem a bit on the low-end scale which really takes away from the game.


Amazing voice acting even though it’s all Japanese, great music and ambient sounds combine together to really bring Yakuza 4 alive.


Overall if you really want an immersive game set in an atmospheric place, add this to your PS3 collection ASAP.

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