Yakuza 3 Remastered Review- How Kids Can Muck Up a Perfectly Good Gangster Game

Posted October 21, 2019 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio

Publisher: SEGA

Release date: August 20, 2019

Available on: PS4

First released in 2010 for the PS3, Yakuza 3 marked a slight departure for the series. Moving the beginning of the action from Kamurocho to Okinawa, and taking a slower pace involving Kazama Kiryu and a group of orphans, as well as a slight modification to the fighting mechanic, makes this entry almost feel completely different tonally. Thankfully it does return to familiar ground, but it takes a bit to get there.

The game has now been released for the PS4 as part of the Yakuza Remastered Collection, which includes the third, fourth, and fifth entry into the series. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the Kiwami treatment given to the first and second games, but it has been upgraded visually and still looks good. The game also controls well, though the fighting feels a little dated. The voice acting is up to the series standard, and the music is terrific as well.

The biggest stumbling block for Yakuza 3 is its story. The overall story involving a land deal for a resort and military base in Okinawa that has ties to the Tojo family, the CIA, and an arms ring called Black Monday is well done and engrossing, and the game is best when it focuses on this main plot. It’s too bad that the subplot of the Morning Glory orphanage, run by Kiryu and Haruka, really drags the pacing of the game down. That’s not to say it’s badly done. It’s not. But dealing with the kids and chasing after them feels more like a chore than a joy, and it would have been nicer if the whole subplot was left to optional side missions instead of being necessary to move the main plot along.

The game spans 12 chapters plus a prologue, and my first run took close to 18 1/2 hours, making this one of the shorter games in the franchise. Of course, as with all Yakuza games, that time is determined by how many side missions and activities you get involved in and or distracted by. There is plenty to do, with the SEGA arcade, the batting cage, golf, darts, billiards, and a hostess club to manage, to keep you occupied. Completing the game opens up the Premium Adventure mode that allows you to explore the world without the story intruding.

It’s a shame that the pacing is so thrown off by the kids subplot. The prologue is fine, but then it takes up to chapter 5 to really get into the game’s main plot, and that is brought to a screeching halt in chapter 10 until you leave Okinawa again. Thankfully the game’s main villains are done well, and when the main plot gets going, it really pulls you in, highlighting this franchise’s ability to create excellent stories and characters. There are old familiar faces that pop up, like Date and Majima, as well as new characters. Kamurocho is as always a joy to explore, despite the crowd AI’s penchant for constantly running into you.

The game is also one of the more weapon heavy of the series, and you’ll have more cause to grab a fallen gun more than in other installments. That does not mean the game becomes a third person shooter. It never approaches that level. But enemies are armed more with guns here, and grabbing one when moving through enemy infested areas can make life easier. As with all weapons, guns don’t last forever, and they don’t come cheap from the arms dealer you encounter in the game. Other weapons, like a staff or wooden nunchaku, can be learned by going a round with a local hermit. Weapons aren’t completely necessary to use if you want to stick to the series traditional brawling, but they do add variety and options to fights that otherwise all seem to play out the same. As always you can also pick up objects in the environment to aid in beating down your foes, especially the plethora of street thugs and low level yakuza that accost you on your travels about the city.

Leveling up is simplified. You acquire experience points through combat and completing missions, which you can apply to four categories: Soul, Tech, Body, and Heat. In this way you can mold Kiryu to fit your own style of play. Filling up the Body gauge can extend your life bar, while Tech can give you new moves. The choice is yours on how you apply the points. While food will replenish health, eating is not as big a part of this game as in other entries, so no need for running to Smile Burger or other eating establishments unless you choose to. That does streamline things a bit. Saving is done through phone booths or at hideouts, and there you can also store excess items in the Item Box. At hideouts you can also access memories (previous cut scenes) and your stats for the game.

In all, while Yakuza 3 is a worthwhile entry, it is marred by some uneven pacing caused by the kids subplot and fighting that feels more rote than varied. The game does look good, boasts strong voice acting, and when the main plot gets going, it’s as engrossing as other titles in the franchise. The ending is nicely done (watch the cut scene following the credits), and feels satisfying, open ended enough to go on, but wrapping up well enough if you choose not to go farther in the franchise. It misses the Kiwami treatment given the first and second games, but it is nice that Ryu Ga Gotaku Studio and SEGA are giving us the entire series on the PS4. The kids do muck up a perfectly good gangster game, but they don’t damage it so badly that it causes you to not see it to its conclusion. It may be the weakest of the series to date, but it’s still a game that ultimately proves worth your time.

8/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus