Yakuza 4 Hands-On Impressions

When Yakuza 3 was released in America earlier this year SEGA was fairly quiet about future installments of the series. While this normally wouldn’t be strange, in this case, it was. Yakuza 4 had already been released in Japan by the time the third game made its way to the US. Because of a number of circumstances such as localization, scheduling, etc. the series takes a while to be brought over, and the publisher, for whatever reason, likes to keep people guessing as to when the next game might be released. Lucky for fans, at E3 2010 SEGA had a playable build of the game, and some information as to what fans can expect from the fourth entry in the Yakuza franchise.

In terms of playable content, only one element of the expansive world of Yakuza was being shown off at E3: combat. As anyone who has ever played the games can tell you, the series isn’t really known for being completely focused on the battle system and the fact that it was the only element on display was a bit odd. It would be similar to showing off a Final Fantasy game and only showing off combat – it’s just not how it’s done. That said, it was still a good deal of fun, and showed off four different playable characters.

Shun, Masayoshi, and Taiga were featured in the first three arenas, fighting against waves of thugs in a number of locations. Shun’s battle took place in the street, a fairly tame environment, while Masayoshi was atop a building. Using the environment was part of the entertaining, and it was hard not to smile while throwing opponents to their deaths. The final scuffle featured the protagonist of the last Yakuza game, Kazuma, in an area filled with items that could be bashed against enemies. Again, as Yakuza’s strong point isn’t the combat, it couldn’t hold a candle to other third-person adventure games at E3. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun, though, and I have a feeling fans of the series will likely enjoy the fluid combat system, as it remains nearly unchanged from the one found in the prequel.

Beyond the demo, there was a little more information available. At the booth, some representatives were on hand to talk about the differences between the games. The main update, they said, is that everything that was taken out of Yakuza 3 when it was brought to America (such as hostess clubs and side missions) should be represented fully in the fourth game. This, when mixed in with some visual enhancements and gameplay tweaks, should lead to Yakuza fans being in for one hell of a sequel in the spring of 2011.