Yukuza 4 is an excellent game from an excellent franchise. For those of you that don’t know, the Yakuza franchise picked up where the legendary Shenmue left off. Instead of a pussy shy schoolboy (Nozomi wants it, Ryo!), the series revolves around Kiryu Kazuma (a.k.a the Dragon of Dojiima). Kazuma is a total badass of the highest order, who’s always happy to squeeze in a quick round of breaking faces between a few holes of golf and an erotic massage. But this particular protagonist has a heart of gold. He fosters a young girl, runs an orphanage, helps to find lost cats and will even help strangers buy ornaments for their homes. What a diamond geezer… But for the love of sweet baby Jesus just don’t make him angry!
In Yakuza 4, the familiar free roaming RPG mechanics and real world locations return, as does the brutal / hilarious combat (smash peoples heads on the curb / brain them with a bicycle tire / take a full-on home run swing at their heads with a baseball bat). In fact… Not much at all has changed since the prior Yakuza 3. It is a bit disappointing to only have the old Kamarochou (the area is called Kabukichou in real life) as your only explorable location because Yakuza 3 also had a tasty, tropical Okinawan sprawl to cause mayhem in. That said, Yakuza 4 IS a better game than it’s predecessor. This is not so much due to the now re-instated hostess clubs (which were annoyingly edited out of the western translation of part 3), but due to the fantastic plot, which for the first time in the franchise’s history, weaves together the stories of four different playable characters (each with a unique fighting style).
Instead of just badass Kiryu Kazuma, part four also follows the prison escaping Saijiima, with his burly pro-wrestling style, bent copper Tannimura (as in corrupt, not gay) with his counter-attack heavy combos and the strangely generous money lender Akiyama with his machine-gun kick stylings. It’s a real pleasure to see the plot’s mysteries slowly unravel and the character’s disparate thread’s inevitably come together. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but jeez, I’ll just say: BEST END BOSS FIGHT EVER! With a great story, hilarious mini-games and deep fighting mechanics, Yakuza 4 is at turns funny, touching and totally bonkers. But it is always very, very entertaining. Now, for the love of god Sega… TRANSLATE YAKUZA 5 and KENZAN into English or the Chuchu will come to your house and shit in your mop bucket!