Thanks to SEGA for the review code
Title: Yakuza 3
Release Date: 08/20/2019
Years after the events of Yakuza (Kiwami) 2, Kiryu continues to work up his Orphanage and take care of his orphan friends, when strange eviction notices and a murder begin to take place. Now in Okinawa, Kiryu explores a new mystery and sets out to protect his friends and family, which leads to the place it all began, in Tokyo…
Shifting from the PS2 to the PS3 when this originally launched, Yakuza 3 was what started the sort of consistent presentation that would last up to Kiwami, since every future PS3 Yakuza game from this point onward would build off of this one, and the PS4 remaster here does great work bringing it in line with the PS4 versions of 0 and Kiwami, sharpening up the game a lot, polishing some aspects to be consistent with the other entries, and bumping up the framerate to a glorious 60FPS.
That being said, even for a remaster, you may definitely be caught off guard by some aspects that make this game show its age, especially compared to 5, 0, or Kiwami. The character models for instance are really awkward, with a lot of the NPCs and minor characters looking a lot weirder than they would in future entries, and while main characters like Kiryu, Majima, and others look fine enough, the whole presentation can definitely feel like a whiplash, but that’s not a bad thing, and aspects like the music and several of the CGI cutscenes hold up rather well.
The voice acting, as per usual, is all in Japanese, but the performances here are stellar just like with future games in the series, and I didn’t feel at all that the acting here was lesser compared to the newer games I’ve played from this series. In fact, the english subtitles and translation this time around are way better than the PS3 originals, making this version the definitive translation for Yakuza 3 thanks to accurate subtitles, dialogue, and more attention to localization to bring it in line with the newer games.
Yakuza 3 follows the traditional Yakuza structure, but not until after a rather slow start, taking place in the new area of Okinawa: rather than being in the heart o Tokyo, you start out hanging around the Morning Glory Orphanage, with Kiryu taking care of his orphan friends after the events of 2.
Thus, for the first few chapters of the game, the main action takes place in a nearby city known as Ryukyu, and it’s a pretty small scale location, adding a decent bonus locale to mess with, while also containing its own sidequests, separate from the ones in downtown Tokyo.
That being said, I felt that the exposition dumps that took place in this area and the slow start dragged on way, way too long from what it should have been, and while the pacing is fine enough, the lengthy “prologue feeling” continues until you finally get the opportunity to leave for Tokyo four chapters into the adventure, where you then focus on the main locale of the series, with Ryukyu being a lot more fun to revisit without the main story dragging it down. Thankfully, Tokyo is still as good as always, so the issues I felt dragging down the early portions of the game didn’t really apply once you hit the big city.
Of course, combat is the main focus of Yakuza 3, and while it should be expected to feel more primitive than future combat systems, it actually holds up pretty well. You still have a lot of fun combos and heat actions to perform, and you can still learn new skills and tricks by spending experience points in the menu. Thus, it’s really fun to beat up some criminals and combo them to death, or use environmental items to gain an advantage. It’s pretty typical for the franchise all things considered, so jumping to this system from a newer game won’t feel jarring at all.
What will feel jarring on the other hand, will be the means of getting into combat encounters and how you can learn certain heat actions. In Yakuza 3, random encounters take place if you come close to an NPC that just happens to be a bad guy. You can sometimes tell if they’ll come after you if they stand around doing nothing but staring at you, or if they go and chase you, but more often than not, you’ll pass by a seemingly random NPC only for that to kick off a combat encounter.
In the small, cramped town of Ryukyu, these random encounters can get downright obnoxious, with these encounters popping up way too often for my liking, and just being a really awkward pacebreaker overall. Thankfully, in the big city it tones down a little and feels much more reasonable, but the transition into battle can still be rather slow. The fun combat does make up for this somewhat, but if you get pulled into too many unwanted fights one after the other, it can feel very tiring.
Thankfully, the bosses are not tiring, and still maintain the fun, challenging experience fans have come to known. These fights will require you to make the most of your heat actions and counter accordingly, and they’re just plain fun, offering a fitting challenge whenever they pop up.
Of course, another main draw of Yakuza besides the combat, are the minigames and sidequests, which are definitely the biggest aspect that will feel scaled back coming from a modern game. They’re still here, and there are plenty of optional activities to mess with, even if some you may be used to from modern Yakuza games aren’t. There are no Sega Arcade ports, for instance, yet the arcade is still around, offering UFO catching and this weird new shooter game with a time attack focus.
Rather, the minigames in 3 are mostly of the real-life kind, offering fun activities such as Shogi, Mahjong, Gold, Darts, and even oddball ones such as a hostess club. The sidequests are still around for you to help people out, but they’re a lot less in quantity compared to what you might be used to. Still, they’re fine and offer decent enough rewards. All things considered, Yakuza 3 has a lot of side stuff to do, despite being simpler than what came after it for obvious reasons.
As one portion of the Yakuza Remastered Collection, Yakuza 3 may be the most basic-feeling of the Yakuza games available on PS4, with awkward battle transitions and lighter sidequests, but that still isn’t a bad thing, as the core gameplay is still the same solid action as before, and while the sidequests and bonus content isn’t nearly as bountiful as later games, there’s still a good amount of fun to be had as the midpoint of Kiryu’s story unfolds.
Definitely worth a pickup if you’re going the digital, individual route, and a solid part of the collection’s value: and with it now on other platforms as of this review, it’s pretty easy for anyone to pick up now.
I give Yakuza 3 on PS4 an 7 out of 10.