Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

First impressions #01: Yakuza

Lyndsey Mosley

Lyndsey Mosley, editor

Welcome to the first batch of an expected new feature: First impressions. This is a feature focusing on games that we’re trying for the first time and our immediate knee-jerk reaction. Be prepared for some interesting feedback on old and not-so-old games.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

 

Game: Yakuza (2006)

Developer/Publisher: Sega

System: PlayStation 2

Played by: Lyndsey

I’d heard nothing but good things about the Yakuza series. Countless gaming publication have lauded the series as a good adventure if you want to get into that side of the criminal life, a lot like Grand Theft Auto. With the fourth game approaching release in America, I decided to give it a shot and hunt it down. As I was preparing a drawn hunt for the game, I lucked upon it in a GameStop not far from my apartment for about $10. It’s slightly rare so I bought it when I could and let it marinate on “The Shelf” for a few weeks until I could get some time to devote my full attention to it.

Booting up my ancient PlayStation 2, one of the first things I noticed was the long Sega introduction. It is quite possibly the longest game developer/publisher introduction I have ever seen in a game. It’s probably bad of me to say but I thought to myself, “Sega if you spent as much time on your games as you did this intro, Sonic might not be dying the slow painful death he is right now.” Just a thought. Moving on, I let the game boot up and scrounged around for my 8MB memory card, something I haven’t had to use in a long time with the newfangled systems out such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Once I got the game rolling, I immediately went into the options screen. A rule of thumb for me is to check out the options first thing just in case there’s a difficulty setting. I can’t stand trying a game for the first time and dying a million times because I forgot to set the difficulty. After searching around for a bit, I found no difficulty option and created a new game.

Yakuza is easily a cut-scene heavy adventure. And this is something that annoyed me immediately. The game starts off with a flashback, then jumps to 1995 to show how you got to the point of the flashback. OK, fine, but can I actually play some of the story? It moves toward that with the tutorial fight against mobsters but then it’s back to more cutscene. So the basic structure is lots of story exposition, brief fight, a lot more story exposition, brief fight, story exposition ad nausea. I don’t mind a little bit of cutscenes to move the story along but I want to do more fighting, less watching. Pull me into the game with fantabulous game mechanics; don’t drown me in story.

The story that you do watch unfold is actually pretty good. It’s written well and while the voice acting could use some work, it’s not so bad that you can’t get wrapped up in the saga of Kazuma Kiryu. The fact that most of the soundtrack is in English with obvious syncing issues is interesting. If you care about that kind of thing in games, it will irk you. If you don’t, you won’t even notice it. I’m on the side of not caring. What I did notice was usage of the words f—, f—–, motherf—– and every variation in between. Not that I have a problem with profanity in games. I curse like a drunken sailor on leave so the usage is not an issue, but in a game that supposed to be about Japanese gangsters, it’s in every sentence just about. Or so it seems. The audio loop is crazy in the game, so much so that you’ll hear the same noises repeatedly in the brief time you’re allowed to run about in the district. So I literally was called a f—— 20 times in the tutorial fight. Hilarious.

Kazuma Kiryu's fight mechanics are awkward in Yakuza. Photo courtesy of Gamefaqs.com

The game isn’t exactly pretty either. I had to remind myself that this was a hot property in 2006. It wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that I’ve seen better from about the same year. I mean, you’ve got Tekken 5, which was released the year before and then you have Yakuza’s visuals. Two different genres, I know, but on the same system. It also handles awkwardly and the repetition of the fight mechanics are disappointing, but it’s not really that bad of a game.

Really, the game seems very Crazy Taxi-like in its handling and feel but with more profanity. And so far, I’m enjoying it albeit in a different mindset than something that would be released today. If they’ve fixed this stuff in the sequels, I’m more than open to trying them. I’m a huge fan of Japanese culture and it’s trying to capture that aspect of the seedy underbelly … in a game. I can’t knock Sega for trying.

Verdict: Playable and worth looking for.

05

12 2010