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Home » Featured, News

It Came From Japan #3 – Yakuza 3

Submitted by on Sunday, 2 August 2009One Comment

YakuzaFor this week’s It Came From Japan we decided to be somewhat topical.

With Yakuza 3 (and 4) popping up in the news lately, we thought it might be beneficial to take a look at the series as a whole and posit just how concrete recent rumblings of the series’ xenophobic tendencies actually are.

Though the Yakuza – Japan’s version of the Mafia and all-round evil empire – are still very much a taboo subject in Japan, this hasn’t stopped the game-crazy Japanese public gravitating towards the gritty games, no doubt eager to embody violent crime figures and live out their tattooed fuelled fantasies.

Legend told of a great warrior from the east …

Sega and Amusement Vision released the first Yakuza (known in Japan as RyÅ« ga Gotoku – literally Like a Dragon) back in 2005 to both critical and commercial success. Telling the story of Kazuma Kiryu, a member of a Yakuza gang and recent jail-bird, Kiryu-san becomes embroiled in an underworld conspiracy surrounding stolen crime money and a missing friend. The game was quickly followed up with a sequel in 2006 once again featuring Kiryu-san though, this time, the gangster gets his hands dirty while tussling with Korean mobsters and rival Yakuza gangs.

For the next Yakuza outing, Sega went back to the Edo period with spin-off RyÅ« ga Gotoku Kenzan! And so began the first instance of a Yakuza game not receiving a western release. This year saw the release of the latest edition, the shockingly entitled Yakuza 3, which received rave reviews, sent Japan into a frenzy (there were even Yakuza 3 themed noodles) and a game we are still wondering if we’ll ever get our grubby hands on.

Your technique is magnificent …

In many respects Yakuza is Japan’s skewed answer to Grand Theft Auto. In reality though, considering both series share many of the same developers, it’s actually more akin to an unofficial successor to Sega’s other much-loved adventure hit: Shenmue

Most noticeably in the third game, players can traverse an open world getting into brawls while partaking in sub-quests such as extortion and racketeering. There are also RPG elements with random battles and the ability to purchase new weapons but, at its heart, the Yakuza games are adult tales of beatings and retribution, stories that resonate with fans of Japanese culture and the inner workings of crime syndicates in general.

You must choose the sword or the ball – I can not make this choice for you …

When the third chapter in the successful series sold over 200,000 copies in Japan on its opening day, it was assumed that a western version of the game gracing PS3s outside of Japan was only a matter of time. But while Japan celebrated the announcement of a fourth Yakuza game, speculation started to mount that the third edition would never leave the Land of the Rising Sun.

Since then Sega have come out and stated that no firm decision has been made on Yakuza’s future as a series outside of Japan. While our eastern gaming cousins love the series, there is some logic as to why it shouldn’t hit western shelves. Primarily, sales of the first two games outside of their homeland have been less than spectacular.

Our prediction is that Sega are still deciding how to market Yakuza 3 to non-Japanese audiences. With the third game taking place in part on the island of Okinawa and particularly “Nippon-centric”, we wouldn’t be surprised if Yakuza 3 never makes it to our shores. On the other hand, one factor that does support releasing the game to the west would be its enormous budget. Costing in the tens of billions of yen, it would make sense for Sega to invest in an English version if anything to recoup some of the game’s staggering cost. We shall have to wait and see what transpires but we’re keeping our fingers crossed Yakuza 3 – and eventually 4 – continue to enchant gamers from Japan and elsewhere.

It Came From Japan is a weekly column discussing past games from Japan that have enjoyed a release in the west on the PS1, PS2, PSN or PSP but have yet to see a PS3 outing. We discuss the title from three separate perspectives: its pedigree and how it performed upon its original release, the game in general with a view towards game-play and plot and, finally, the probability of the game finally making a PS3 appearance outside of Japan. The column covers all genres with games of varying quality and popularity given equal standing.