Monday, March 7, 2016

Yakuza 5 (PS3) Review

My first few hours spend with Yakuza 5 were all spent installing the game on my PS3.  Seriously.  The game clocks in at over 22 Gigs, which sadly means you need twice that to install.  I put in my review code and after 4+ hours of downloading and another to install, I was finally ready to start the game.  However, that time is not nearly as much as you will spend playing the game, even if you don't do much of the extra stuff.

First off, the game looks really good, and I can't wait to see the PS4 Yakuza game coming later this year.  The character models and environments are really detailed.  This is important because the focus of the game is on the characters.  As mentioned in my early impressions post, Yakuza 5 is not quite the genre I thought it was.  It is much more focused on story and character interactions, weaving the protagonists throughout their role in the world.  The story takes itself seriously and there is a lot of dialogue and cut scenes, with many of them voiced.  There are times where you can wander around and have free will, and there are times when you have to do very specific things.  If the story and characters weren't as interesting as they are, that kind of thing could backfire.

In many ways, Yakuza 5 is actually like an action-RPG.  You walk around to different places, which can take awhile if you are going at the speed of people.  Running is possible, but it easily attracts attention from unsavory people that will then start a fight with you.  It's really similar to random encounters, hence my comparison to RPGs.  You can grab side quests, too.  Fights, though, are definitely not like RPGs, and much more like a 3D brawler.

To me, combat is the star of the game.  It is fun and brutal.  As you punch, kick and throw your opponents, you build up a Heat gauge that allows you to do special moves.  These moves do a lot of damage, but more importantly, look so savage.  Some have you grate an opponent's face on the ground or powerbomb him onto his neck.  There are even situational ones depending on where you are during battle.  For example, Kiryu can throw an opponent into the river.  I laugh every time I see that one.  Since you will end up doing a lot of fights in the game, I'm glad the combat is fluid and fun.  It's like watching a wrestling match with great spots.  Plus, the final hit on the final guy has the dramatic camera angle and slow motion, adding some extra flair to battles.

You can equip weapons that you have, or even pick up several things in the environment to use.  Picking up a bicycle and beating someone's butt is effective and funny.  Weapons have a durability, and weapons picked up off the ground will disappear when the durability runs out.  If you have a weapon equipped, it will not disappear, so you can pay to have it repaired at a shop.  Each weapon type (there are more than I would have thought) has its own experience and level.  The levels will increase damage, up the durability or other functions.  It's worth using them when you can, especially against the large groups or powerful bosses that you sometimes face.  Fights weren't too hard, which I liked, but admittedly I had the game on easy.  Even so, you can't just mash against stronger opponents, so knowing what you are doing is crucial to success.

Besides fighting and the involved and intertwining stories, there are a lot of extra things to do.  First off, Kiryu is assuming life as a taxi driver, so you get to do that if you want.  There's also races he can do, which are surprisingly fun and not too hard.  There's a ramen cooking mini-game, dates with hostess club girls, rhythm-based mini-games for singing and dancing, even Virtua Fighter 2 and some songs in Taiko Drum Master.  You can also pick up trash or keys while walking around for some extra items.  It's pretty crazy the stuff you can do with the different characters.  It's almost too much and too random, but since most of it isn't necessary or blends in with the story, it's just right.

There are five different characters you play throughout the story at various times.  The story flows pretty well, although I admit it would have been fun to be able to jump between the stories instead of having to do them in a set order.  While I was able to follow most of the story, there are definitely a few parts I had trouble keeping straight.  Even if you haven't played any other entry, the story is pretty enjoyable, but I'm sure you get more out of it if you have played more Yakuza games.  Each full chapter can last 15+ hours if you do a lot of the side quests and other extras.  The cut scenes can be re-watched from the main menu if you ever want to see something again without the giant time commitment.

Yakuza 5 is really fun.  I had not played any other entry in the series, but I want to now.  The story and characters are well fleshed out, interesting and enjoyable.  Combat is a lot of fun.  It is easy to do and has a lot of variety of finishing moves and weapons.  The areas you travel in are filled with extra things to do.  Gamers who enjoy action rpgs and/or good story and characters should at least try the game, as it is well worth playing.  In fact, I could see a lot of people enjoying the game, even though it seems very steeped in Japanese and Yakuza culture.

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