Akiyama is a laid back money lender that lends at no interest as long as you can pass certain tests. Saejima is a member of the Saisai clan who was put in jail for his hit on the Ueno family. Tanimura is a corrupt cop and gambler that uses the fruits of his labor to assist in helping abused foreigners. Kazuma Kiryu, the Dragon of Dojima, ex-head of the Tojo clan, is running an orphanage in Okinawa. All of them get caught up with a woman named Lily as a conspiracy spreads through Kamurocho and beyond, so they investigate what really happened twenty years ago and how all of it lead to the current string of events, with the fate of the Tojo clan resting in the balance.
Yakuza is a very difficult game to describe because there’s just so much to it. At its core its an open world story driven game with a focus on combat, but that description is incredibly lacking, because there’s just so much more, and the sheer breadth of great content available is Yakuza’s greatest strength. Now there’s a main story that driving the game forward, and it has a pretty interesting story. But the story beyond that creates the base that allows the main story to shine. There is so much to the world that it seems more alive than any other, it has multiple shades and tones, serious and light, tragic and comedic, all blending together to create an atmosphere that’s incredible. The main story seemed reasonably lengthy, and is broken up into a couple chapters per character and then a final chapter where you can play as anyone. There are also a number of side quests, around 15 for each character, which is where a lot of the character and setting development occur. Beyond that there a number of other mechanics that help develop the world.
The game play in this has three primary components: exploration, combat, and chases. The exploration is pretty self explanatory, you get to explore Kamurocho as you go in search of objectives and find various other things to do along the way. Everyone’s exploration phase is slightly different, with Akiyama being attacked by random thugs along the way, Saejima having to avoid the police, Tanimura getting tips from a police scanner on crimes he can help deal with, and Kiryu with organized gangs coming after him, all of which add variety. Combat is also reasonably diverse for each character, and while not heavily complex for anyone, everyone has some interesting tricks to them that keeps combat fresh. Combat involves dodging enemies and attacking them, which charges up a heat bar that allows you to use a myriad of special moves depending on the circumstances, and there’s also the option of using a number of weapons, including both those made for that purpose like sword or guns, or those improvised such as traffic cones picked up off the street. It has a lot of variety to it, though that still doesn’t add a lot of depth, but it still keeps combat interesting all the way through. There are also chase scenes, which aren’t nearly as common as exploration or combat, but essentially involve chasing someone and hitting them until you can tackle them. The three of these make up the majority of the main game and side quests.
But in terms of mechanics, that’s just the tip of the iceberg due. There are a lot of mini-games. There’s common ones, like golfing or fishing. But there are also pretty unique ones, primarily the ones related to hostesses. There’s a hostess maker mini-game, where you have to train them, and also the chance to date hostesses themselves with dating sim like mechanics, that may involve various other mini-games such as darts, bowling, or table tennis at the hot springs, which involves a pretty interesting mechanic. And I’ve still only begun to describe everything. There’s a western casino as well as eastern gambling, pachinko, mahjong, shogi, and various arcade games. You can participate in tournaments in a coliseum, and train apprentices to do so as well. You can help dig out memorabilia from WWII. You can get an interesting set of massages. You can try to make friends with various people across the city. Or you can just go around the city collecting trash. There is a lot to do, and it all of it blends in together incredibly well into a fantastic package.
The graphics, art style, and animation were decent but not exceptional. The soundtrack was pretty good, though some songs got incredibly grating.
This was my first Yakuza game, and I beleive it was a pretty good place to jump into it. This was made significantly easier due to there being video summaries of the previous games included.
A unique game that dives into a romanticized world of the Yakuza with an incredible amount of great content.