Yakuza: Dead Souls — Issue 39

Yakuza and zom­bies mix well

In my vast inven­tory of inter­ests, mafia movies are one that would make me curl up on a week­end after­noon with pop­corn, drinks and other treats in hand. While I know that some famous mafia movies and tele­vi­sion series are being devel­oped into video games, Sega’s Yakuza series is already a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of action, adven­ture, and the mafia. I was thrilled to com­bine my love for the series with zom­bie ele­ments in Yakuza: Dead Souls.

Set a year after the events in Yakuza 4, an unknown dis­ease out­break in the dis­trict of Kamurochō has affected its res­i­dents, turn­ing them into zom­bies through bites. As a result, the Japan­ese Ground Self-Defense Force has been called in to assist with the slow and expand­ing quar­an­tine. Dur­ing this chaotic time, cer­tain ene­mies of the Tojo clan have arisen to take advan­tage of Kamurochō’s suf­fer­ing. The fate of Kamurochō and Japan rests in the hands of four men: Shun Akiyama, a loan shark try­ing to save his sick recep­tion­ist; Goro Majima, a feared yakuza and con­struc­tion com­pany owner who is fight­ing his own infec­tion; Ryuji Goda, a dis­graced yakuza and takoy­aki chef whose clan has a tie to the out­break; and, series pro­tag­o­nist Kiryu Kazuma, who runs a children’s orphan­age and returns to Kamurochō when his adop­tive daugh­ter is kidnapped.

Dead Souls is an open-world game that com­bines action, adven­ture, and sur­vival hor­ror ele­ments. The plot is one akin to samu­rai movies where there are four chap­ters with four parts for each char­ac­ter with the final chap­ter reserved for Kiryu. Con­trols for move­ment and the game cam­era are sim­ple with the ana­log sticks. You will also be given “memos,” a list with spe­cial sec­tions to teach you basics such as using weapons, eva­sion, and close quar­ter com­bat, which help when fac­ing off against the legion of zom­bies. I appre­ci­ated the abil­ity to level up each character’s attrib­utes through use of soul points that upgrades abil­i­ties to carry more items, improve knowl­edge of zom­bies, weapons mod­i­fi­ca­tions and pro­tec­tive gear, and mas­ter advanced close quar­ter com­bat techniques.

As the game pro­gresses, your cur­rent char­ac­ter will be assisted by three NPCs: Reiko Hasekawa, a researcher who offers infor­ma­tion and rewards for com­pleted tasks; Gary “Buster” Holmes, a firearms expert who helps the pro­tag­o­nists and their tem­po­rary com­pan­ions with gun train­ing; and, Renji Kamiyama, weapons seller and mod­i­fier of weapons and pro­tec­tive gear who can also be used as a pawn­bro­ker to buy rare items.

I also appre­ci­ate the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of var­i­ous zom­bie ene­mies; that orga­ni­za­tion method can help you plan the appro­pri­ate strat­egy or sim­ply avoid con­tact with them. While you’re run­ning around Kamurochō, pay atten­tion to the music. It’s one of Sega’s best sound­tracks in the mod­ern era and puts the Yakuza series among Sega’s go-to ros­ter of great soundtracks.

The graph­ics are OK for the time when it released. It’s good for an open world game, though there’s room for improve­ment. Though, com­pared to other games at the time, Yakuza: Dead Souls doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily out­shine the com­pe­ti­tion; it just merely com­petes. The only real prob­lem I have with Dead Souls is the inclu­sion of sce­nar­ios where you must chase down peo­ple while fend­ing off zom­bies. I know a yakuza got to make his money, but Sega was putting these char­ac­ters in dan­ger­ous con­di­tions with­out any pro­tec­tive gear, which is slightly unrealistic.

Dead Souls is great to play on a day off or slow week­end, though I would offer two pieces of advice: Do not play late at night, and do not play while COVID-19 is still around. It’s a nice attempt to mix mul­ti­ple gen­res. I can say this with no doubt: Sega’s got a smash hit ready to secure all bags and show its com­pe­ti­tion why it does not pay to under­es­ti­mate the Yakuza.

Fun Facts:

* Yakuza is the term given to transna­tional crime orga­ni­za­tions based in Japan. They are also known as” boryoku­dan,” which the Japan­ese police advise for pub­lic media to use when cov­er­ing yakuza-related sto­ries. The yakuza also call them­selves “ninkyo dan­tai,” or chival­rous groups.

* Accord­ing to Japan’s National Police Agency as of 2020, there are at least 25,900 active yakuza mem­bers, despite rigid leg­is­la­tion aimed to com­bat yakuza involve­ment with the Japan­ese pub­lic. These mem­bers are accounted among the three major yakuza fam­i­lies: Yamaguchi-gumi, Somiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai.

* Yakuza groups have been known to oper­ate in major U.S. cities and use Hawaii as a hub to con­duct var­i­ous legal and ille­gal enterprises.

Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax — 3Q2020 issue

Anime fighter cre­ates clash of titans

If you’re a fight­ing game enthu­si­ast like myself, you’re happy to see the com­mu­nity enjoy­ing main­stream suc­cess now in the esports land­scape. For many years, it was rel­e­gated to a fringe activ­ity, some­thing only nerds with noth­ing else bet­ter to do and a lack of hygiene were known for enter­tain­ing. Now, it’s all over the place and there’s money to be earned. But this is now a professional-grade enter­prise and anime games are tak­ing cen­ter stage. One of the best? Dengeki Bunko: Fight­ing Climax.

The game series that I lov­ingly refer to as that “all-star anime fight­ing game” is a blast to play. You choose from 19 playable and 30 assist char­ac­ters from var­i­ous anime series who team up in duos to fight each other. Even if you’re mildly into anime, there are some well-known stars of the medium and some obscure names that will make you do a lit­tle research. For instance, your favorite edi­tor is an anime junkie and has seen or heard of most of the series with some stand­out selec­tions that she’s per­son­ally watched: Oreimo, Boo­giepop Phan­tom, The Devil is a Part-Timer and Toradora. There are oth­ers like Sword Art Online that are main­stream enough to draw in even the newest anime watcher.

So, how does it play? Much like you’d expect an anime game to play: Super floaty physics and off-the-wall attacks that feel like they do a ton of dam­age but prob­a­bly don’t in terms of fight­ing games. The game feels good once you start play­ing, and like most games of the genre, there are lev­els to the play sys­tem. You can come in on the ground floor of fight­ing game knowl­edge and be able to play and then there’s com­pet­i­tive fight­ing game-level of play that requires inti­mate knowl­edge of the game’s sys­tems. That range serves the game well as a draw for mul­ti­ple groups and it’s a tes­ta­ment to Sega’s devel­op­ment prowess.

The voice act­ing, a major part of a project like this, must be top notch and it is. Because Sega gar­nered most of the ani­ma­tions’ voice actors, there’s a high level of con­sis­tency and gloss over the game’s audio. The back­grounds are also faith­ful to the dif­fer­ent anime series, so expect to be wowed with the pro­duc­tion values.

Over­all, if you’re into anime enough to go to con­ven­tions reg­u­larly or just hav­ing a pass­ing inter­est, Dengeki Bunko: Fight­ing Cli­max is a good buy. Yes, it’s got that “super anime” feel to it, but there’s a solid engine and mechan­ics wrapped up in an extremely gor­geous pack­age that deserves to be played here. This fancy fan-service fighter is enough to make an otaku like myself sit up and take notice.

ChuChu Rocket! — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamefaqs.com

An epic cat and mouse game

Cats in rock­ets try­ing to kill mice. As well as being weird, the age-old con­cept of a cat–and-mouse game is sur­pris­ingly addic­tive. In the form of the Dreamcast’s ChuChu Rocket, the con­cept man­ages to jump the bar­rier of weird and branch into the realm of entertaining.

The game of cat-and-mouse is sim­ple: Lead mice to safety in your rocket with well-placed arrows while avoid­ing cats that other play­ers will send to hunt the mice. The more mice you have left alive at the end, the bet­ter. It’s not hard to get started once you have that basic under­stand­ing of the game, and it quickly becomes an addict­ing exer­cise of fran­tic fun to keep mice alive.

The fun thing about ChuChu Rocket is the sheer ran­dom­ness of every­thing hap­pen­ing on the play­ing field. There are so many fac­tors that can affect your mice total at the end of a round that it’s impos­si­ble to win by tal­ent at mov­ing rodents alone. One must con­sider the fact that only three arrows can be placed by a char­ac­ter at any given time. With level lay­out also taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, the idea that you can be in the lead for five sec­onds and that be enough to win is a real pos­si­bil­ity. Throw in the power-up aspect and con­stantly chang­ing con­di­tions of the match area and there is a real recipe here for dis­as­ter dis­guised as fun.

It’s a good thing that the game is so fun to play because the graph­ics and the music sure aren’t going to draw you in by them­selves. The game looks like a 1999 game, which isn’t to say it’s hor­ri­ble, but it isn’t pretty, either. The graph­ics date them­selves might­ily, but that’s not really any­thing to be ashamed of, since ChuChu Rocket doesn’t exactly need to get by on the qual­ity of the scenery. The music is noth­ing to write home about, and frankly, I played with it turned off for the major­ity of the time that I’ve owned the game. It really adds noth­ing to the over­all expe­ri­ence and after a short time, it becomes rather irri­tat­ing. But, like the graph­ics, it isn’t really what you came here for.

What you’re going to take away from ChuChu Rocket depends on what you’re look­ing for. In this day and age, 15 years after its orig­i­nal release, you can take a solid party game from this that’s a highly quirky title wor­thy of many replays or you can see a weird 15-year-old game about cats chas­ing mice with ques­tion­able game con­di­tions attached. Rat infes­ta­tion issues aside, ChuChu Rocket is a great rat race into nostalgia.