Review – Yakuza 3 (PS4)
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve considered buying a PS3 in order to properly experience Yakuza 3, 4, and 5. I had played every other game in the franchise at that point, including Judgment, and I wanted more. Sega quickly answered my prayers when they announced these three games would eventually be remastered and re-released for the PS4. All main seven games in the franchise (plus Judgment) are now available on one console! Now that all games are finally available on the PS4, Yakuza 3 was the next in line for me to tackle.
I need to clarify one thing before we continue: Yakuza 3 for PS4 is not like Kiwami or Kiwami 2. This is not a remake. In fact, I’d barely considered this a remaster. It did receive some slight visual and performance upgrades, as well as a completely rewritten script, but for all intents and purposes, this is a game from 2009, a game from a previous console generation, being played in 2020.
I really like the fact we’re not tied to the Dragon Engine from Yakuza 6 anymore, meaning that we’re once again being treated to a buttery smooth 60fps, improved loading times, and a much faster combat system. Then again we’re also dealing with the same camera issues from before, more basic fighting mechanics, as well as less impressive character models, textures, animations, and overall visual effects. I completely understand why the game has received less visual and gameplay improvements, as Sega wanted to deliver all Yakuza games in one system before the generation was over, but these issues had to be mentioned regardless.
Does this mean Yakuza 3 is a bad game? Hell no!
This is still Yakuza, so you know what to expect. The story is top-notch, the set pieces are bonkers, the voice acting is so good that you don’t even need to speak Japanese to realize everyone is delivering a phenomenal performance (even though there are less voiced scenes in here than in other games), and the amount of minigames is mind-boggling. This time around, we have darts, golfing, mahjong, shogi, UFO catcher, fishing, poker, blackjack, baccarat, the series’ staple karaoke, and many others. There’s also an exclusive shoot ’em up minigame called Boxcellios that can be played at Sega parlors. There are more sidequests in here than most game franchises combined, so you’ll never run out of things to do.
Even though this is technically a game from the PS3, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t able to provide us with some eye candy every now and then. Besides Kamurocho, which looks just like any other iteration of the town pre-Yakuza 6, you can also explore a town in Okinawa, a tropical region of Japan. The tropical landscapes in here are gorgeous, with some impressive lighting effects for a 2009 game. It’s actually relieving to see some trees and the ocean on a Yakuza game for a change.
The story starts off at a slower and less serious pace at first, but I actually ended up liking that. After playing so many Yakuza games in which everything goes berserk right from the get-go, being able to enjoy Kiryu’s new life running an orphanage by the beach, being a lovable and dorky dad to a bunch of orphans, was surprisingly touching and entertaining. It made our favorite non-mafioso more human and relatable than ever before. Things will eventually become crazy and plot twists will jump out of the woodwork when you least expect, so don’t worry, the action will eventually revert back to good old Kamurocho and you’ll be obliterating thugs’ jaws by breaking bicycles on their faces in no time.
Yakuza 3 suffers from the unfair fact that it’s the oldest title in the series that hasn’t received a fully fledged remake to fix its fair share of issues. This might be a game running at 1080p and 60 frames a second, but it’s still a PS3 originally released ten years ago. It has aged a bit. With that being said, it’s still Yakuza. It still features the franchise’s world class storytelling, this time around making Kiryu as human and likable like never before, and there are tons of sidequests and minigames to keep you busy for dozens of hours. I couldn’t be happier with the fact I don’t need to buy a used PS3 in order to experience this game anymore.
Playing Yakuza with a high and stable 60fps once again is more than welcome, and the Okinawan landscapes are gorgeous, but this is still a PS3 game. A good looking PS3 game, but the point stands.
The combat mechanics are nowhere near as entertaining as the ones in Yakuza 0 or Yakuza Kiwami, but the fast-paced action and stable framerate are great pros. Once again, the camera is a bit wonky.
There is less voice acting in here than in previous games, making some scenes less impactful than they should be, but when the voice acting kicks in, it’s downright fantastic like it has always been.
Fun Factor: 8.0
It hasn’t aged as gracefully as other Yakuza games, but even though it’s got its fair share of issues, it’s still Yakuza. It still features a fantastic story and an ungodly amount of minigames to spend dozens of hours on.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Yakuza 3 is available now on PS3 and PS4.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Yakuza 3 was provided by the publisher.