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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 3
PUBLISHER:
Sega
DEVELOPER:
Sega
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
March 09, 2010
ESRB RATING:
Mature


IN THE SERIES
Yakuza 0

Yakuza Kiwami

Yakuza 4

Yakuza 2

Yakuza

 Written by Adam Woolcott  on February 24, 2010

Hands-On Preview: There's blood on the dance floor


After a year of pleading with Sega USA, Yakuza 3 is finally hitting American store shelves on March 9th, 2010. Sure, it's coming out a couple weeks after Japan gets Yakuza 4, and on the same day as Final Fantasy XIII. The important thing is that the begging and complaining worked ? a minor miracle given how poorly Yakuza 2 fared over here despite its passionate (if small) audience. Thankfully, the move to PlayStation 3 allows for a handy tool in game marketing ? downloadable demos. A translated take on 2009's Japanese demo allows series veterans and new players ? perhaps with their curiosity piqued seeing the game in the news, detailing the back-and-forth struggle for a US release ? to get a taste of the game. Yakuza 3 is never going to be a major hit, but giving PS3 users a chance to play it for themselves is a good thing, even though the demo itself is more tailored to already familiar fans who know the story, characters, and mechanics. Regardless, it's a good opportunity for others to see what the hype was about and why so many passionately campaigned for its release outside Japan.



In the demo, you play as familiar protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, a former Yakuza and all around Grade A ass-kicker. Instead of starting at the beginning of the game in Okinawa, the demo drops you into what we know as Kabuki-Cho within Tokyo, known as Kamurocho in the game. The demo explains why Kazuma has returned from his retirement, but first it places you into a full-fledged brawl at Stardust, a ?host bar? where single women go to get pampered by what we might call male escorts. Anyway, Kazuma arrives to see local Yakuza trying to ?buy out? the owner, which results in said brawl on the dance floor that demonstrates the combat engine. Fans of the series will definitely recognize it, seeing that all the commands still work, though some aspects have been enhanced. Most notably, the HEAT sequences are enhanced with occasional Quick Time Event button presses that aren't necessary, but will make the attack more brutal. Though the fight definitely shows a great deal of Yakuza 3's tricks, it's a curious selection for a demo ? the battle features a tough boss that even some series veterans might have trouble with, and more importantly, the demo doesn't have any kind of tutorial to explain how to play. It just drops you into the action. Admittedly, there's not a lot of difference between the three Yakuza games in terms of combat ? it's more polished but generally remains the same. The only new thing is the manual camera to pan around to find off-screen enemies, which is a very good thing.

After a bit of backstory ? things that only fans of the series will be capable of understanding ? Kazuma gets to wander a limited area of town. Because the Stardust brawl has the attention of law enforcement and they're on the lookout for shady characters. Considering Kazuma did a 10 year prison stretch for a murder he didn't actually commit before the events of the original Yakuza... it's understandable that the law might think him a bit suspicious. Moving on, the ability to move through town opens up the more ?unique? aspects of the game, that being the open-world wandering and exploration. A great deal of the cool stuff is locked out - most restaurants are closed, the... ahem... adult entertainment is inaccessible, and a few stores are "locked until the full game is out."

However the demo does introduce mechanics and features that are new to Yakuza. Right off the bat, you're introduced to a brand new gameplay function, known as ?Revelation.? When walking through town, Kazuma might see some weird things going on, and with his cell phone he can capture the events and learn brand new moves. The game wastes little time in demonstrating this; Kazuma immediately sees a strange situation. By pressing R3 and pressing X when prompted, he can witness a young school-girl giving her perverted harasser the business with a nice grapple move. While this happens, Kazuma furiously uses his cell phone to record the footage with QTE button presses. If you miss or hit the wrong button, the event is a failure... but going around the corner and coming back will respawn it. After completing this task he writes about it in his blog, but that's kind of embarrassing. A manly man like him shouldn't be blogging, he should be using computers to smash faces.

And smash faces he can. The core of wandering town are random encounters with gangsters, thieves, hoods, and other such riffraff, all looking to extort something out of our hero. Beating up these pests nets experience points that can be used to increase Kazuma's skills, increase his health, and the like. The demo features about a half-dozen of these encounters, demonstrating the battle mechanics a lot better than the boss fight did. Mostly this revolves around the crazy new HEAT moves that are more like wrestling tricks, like grabbing dudes by the legs, spinning them around, and tossing 'em into walls. You know, the usual stuff. To break up the action in the demo, Kazuma can hit the Sega arcade (kids, an arcade is a place where tall machines with a small monitor steal your money) to play the UFO crane game, or a new shooter specifically built for Yakuza 3. If you're feeling a little more... adventurous, just pay a visit to the Karaoke bar, invite one of the lovely ladies of the nearby hostess bar (the reverse of a host bar... just seeing if you're paying attention), and sing the night away. It's a bit strange to see Kazuma break out in song yes, but the Yakuza games always contain a high amount of weird. Yakuza 2 had a gang that enjoyed wearing diapers and being babied by a "nanny." So strange is almost normal. You don't actually have to sing ? it's a rhythm-based button pressing mini-game, not Rock Band.

Final Thoughts
The Yakuza 3 demo is kind of weird ? it expects you to have some knowledge of the franchise and doesn't really spend time explaining basic concepts, so newbies might be lost at first. Still, after some adjustment, it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up the simple - yet still deep - controls and kick ass. The franchise is not for everyone; it's very Japanese and Yakuza 3 doesn't really bother to explain these very Japanese things. It expects a basic understanding of what they are, why they're in the game, and why you should care about them. The western press has tried to make Yakuza 3 the ?Japanese answer to Grand Theft Auto?, a comparison that doesn't really work. Yes, it's an open-world game, but with no cars, a smaller map, no gunplay, and much more emphasis on a continuing story that you should be following and understanding. It's more of an RPG than anything, with the ability to level up, frequent random encounters, and a ton of side-quests to break up the always-entertaining plot. Though Yakuza 3 comes out at an awkward time ? specifically one of the busiest months in years ? for the fans who begged and pleaded for a release outside Japan, I don't think it really matters.


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