Yakuza series

Started by Garwoofoo
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Garwoofoo

(I posted this in PWB earlier but decided it's worthy of its own thread).

I've been vaguely aware of this series for years and quite honestly I'm kicking myself for not trying it earlier because Yakuza Zero is absolutely perfect.

It's often compared to Shenmue and I can see why: both games feature a deadpan protagonist going on an earnest quest in a series of meticulously recreated Japanese locations in the 1980s, training up their combat skills and occasionally engaging in bouts of fisticuffs with nefarious goons. There are plenty of minigames to act as distractions and lots of passers-by to help out. Yakuza lacks Shenmue's exceptional detail - you won't be following people around on their daily routines, and you can't pick up and examine every item in every convenience store - but it makes up for it by ramping everything up to 11: the main plot is super-serious, the side-quests are exceptionally silly, and the amount of distractions and extracurricular activities is simply exceptional. It has very long cut-scenes but they're also generally extremely good, there's no English dub whatsoever although the Japanese voice acting seems great, the combat system is fun and it's just generally immense fun at every turn. As well as Shenmue, it reminds me in parts of Assassin's Creed (the real-world locations have real character, and some of the side activities such as sending out agents to retrieve weapons and items for you seem very familiar) and even the Telltale games, in terms of the way the story is told. I'm a few chapters in and surprisingly invested in the plot - it's the first game I've played in ages that seems to actually tell its story really well.

And it's so, so funny. While the main plot plays it completely straight, virtually everything else is played for comic effect. Whether you're trying to wing it as a TV producer, defend a Michael Jackson impersonator from hordes of approaching zombies or hiring a chicken to manage your real estate empire, there's really no option but just to go along with the madness. It's genuinely, laugh out loud funny throughout - and yet the writing is so good that there are real moments of emotion amongst all the craziness.

It may not be for everyone. It's unrepentently Japanese, and technically a bit shonky (I think this was originally a cross-gen PS3 game, so it's dated a lot in terms of presentation). But it's enormous, hilarious and enthralling at every turn. The fact there are seven of these games to play (all either on, or shortly to come to the PS4) makes me slightly dizzy.

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martTM

Stupid question: have you played Sleeping Dogs? Because that's awesome. Definitely in the same vein, if not quite so mad.

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Mr Party Hat

I'm not sure that comparison is fair on Sleeping Dogs – that's a poor man's version of GTA. Yakuza is a poor man's version of reading a 40,000 page essay on the less surprising moments of a 30-year paint-drying marathon.

(It didn't grab me.)

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Garwoofoo

I haven't played Sleeping Dogs, but I bet it hasn't got an NPC called The Walking Erection, so by definition Yakuza is better.

How much did you play, MPH? The first chapter is pretty plot-heavy but it rapidly opens up after that. Paint-drying is the last thing I'd associate with it, it's absolutely stuffed full of things to do.

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Mr Party Hat

I fought my way up a Streets of Rage tower block and got to a boss covered in tattoos, who then just kicked the shit out of me about four times. I couldn't drop the difficulty to easy, despite the internet and game manual saying you can do just that at any point.

As far as I could tell there's no parry ability, so whenever you get hit once you enter what is essentially a locked animation of you being hit six or seven times, before falling on the floor, and then being kicked whilst on the floor. It was just a really dull, slow fighting system, on top of a really dull, slow game. At one point I had to hold L2 so two characters could have a five-minute conversation. That actually happened. Videogames, generally (and in this case specifically), just don't have the writing chops to pull stuff like that off.

Completely willing to accept that it gets better. But I won't be there to find out.

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Garwoofoo

Yeah, that's the end of chapter one and the only really difficult fight I've had so far. By that stage you should have unlocked the Rush fighting style though which gives you a pretty useful dodge move so that would probably have helped. Also L2 is a block. Once you've failed four or five times it explicitly asks you if you want to drop the difficulty level, so it sounds like you rage-quit just a tad too early.

Shame as the game really opens up just after then, but by that stage I was pretty engrossed in the story too so if that was really doing nothing for you then probably just not your thing I guess.

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Mr Party Hat

One thing I will say in its favour is that it nails the feel of Japanese side streets. I visited Japan recently and I have a whole lot of fond memories floating around – the reason I bought Yakuza tbh – and the game has a pretty great representation of streets I walked down in Shinjuku.

But even that it never really gets right. The camera is stubborn, never letting you pan up and around to have a proper ogle at the neon, and whenever you stray away from the tiny modeled streets you're confronted with a rubbish, blurry skybox marking the end of the rendered area.

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Mr Party Hat

Once you've failed four or five times it explicitly asks you if you want to drop the difficulty level, so it sounds like you rage-quit just a tad too early.

I actually might go back and see if I can activate that. :smile:

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Garwoofoo

But even that it never really gets right. The camera is stubborn, never letting you pan up and around to have a proper ogle at the neon, and whenever you stray away from the tiny modeled streets you're confronted with a rubbish, blurry skybox marking the end of the rendered area.

Ah, it's a PS3 game at heart and needs to be approached with that in mind. You can go into first-person mode by clicking R3 if you want to have a good gawp around. There's the old last-gen disconnect between the pre-rendered cut-scenes (very nice) and the in-engine cut-scenes (a bit shonky). Also I find having to go to telephone boxes to manually save feels really archaic nowadays. The latest game, Yakuza 6, is the only one to have been built from the ground up with the PS4 in mind.

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Alastor

Not Zero but Yakuza Kiwami had the worst boss fights I've seen in a game, as MPH said they stunlock you repeatedly, usually in retaliation for you hitting them because they dont stun and/or fall out of your combos a lot. And I can't belive I'm saying this but it got super old fighting on the streets doing rush or brawler until you have heat to crush someone with a motorbike again.

I thought the sidequests for the most part were bobbins, either an exscuse to fight which as I've said is either unfun or boring or you do a really mundane masked by 'oh so zany' circumstance and dialog.

I tried to like it, I LOVE Shenmue but this kinda lost me with how let down I was by the combat and sidequests.

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aniki

Sleeping Dogs – that's a poor man's version of GTA.

I would take Sleeping Dogs over any GTA game.

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martTM

Sleeping Dogs – that's a poor man's version of GTA.

I would take Sleeping Dogs over any GTA game.

YES.

I'm going to wait until goes down to £3 again… got a hankering for the PS4 version.

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martTM

Not sure, I'll check. I think you're thinking of Games With Gold though, it was definitely on there.

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Garwoofoo

Haven't tried it, but it's probably not great on the Vita as it's pretty heavy on the shoulder buttons in combat. Should be fine via a PC or laptop though.

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Garwoofoo

So I completed Yakuza Zero and it's hands down the best game I've played in a very long time.

It's a game of two halves really, and both halves are amazing. The main story is superb, with some of the best writing and characterisation I've ever seen in a game. Every cut scene is a treat, and while the graphics engine isn't exactly cutting edge, they've focused attention on the areas that really matter: the facial expressions, the animations and the general framing of the action. The two main characters genuinely change and grow over the course of the story, with Majima in particular ending in a very different place to where he started. The action's genuinely thrilling, the twists are perfectly executed and a couple of the more emotional scenes are more affecting than I ever thought a game could be, because you genuinely get to care about the cast. It's left me feeling like I've watched a really excellent TV show or a great movie, not like I've played a game at all.

Then there's the other half of the game, which is - well, everything else. The side stories are unpredictable and often deeply silly, but while they seem like silly fluff they do help to build the world and they also grow the personality of the main characters by watching them interact with the denizens of Kamurocho and Sotenbori. You learn that Kiryu is serious, principled to a fault but also naive; and that Majima is a darker, more unpredictable but also somehow kinder character. There are the minigames, ranging from fun distractions to all-encompassing distractions: I enjoyed Kiryu's Real Estate company, wandering around town buying properties and taking on local kingpins, but I became obsessed with Majima's Cabaret Czar challenge, recruting random munters classy ladies to work in my sleazy knocking shop upmarket cabaret joint and training them up to cope with every variety of grotty Japanese punter. Small things spiral out into huge diversions - there's a scene about halfway through where one of the characters has to fight in a tournament to prove his worth, and only on revisiting the same location hours later did I realise it's the basis for a massive tournament game (that could easily be missed entirely) featuring a range of unique enemies and challenges. Or you can just play darts for hours. I played darts for hours.

And the combat system is good. It starts off a bit basic (the fight at the end of chapter one, before you've really powered up much at all, is one of the hardest battles in the whole game) but once you unlock a few styles and get used to switching between them, it becomes enormous fun. Slamming an enemy into a wall, then switching to Beast mode to pick up a motorbike and slaughtering a whole horde of goons, never gets old.

I absolutely loved this game from start to finish. I could talk about it for hours. I've still got loads of stuff to do (after 60 hours, my completion stands at less than 35%) and although I'm never going to see it all, I'm heading back to the cabaret clubs at the first opportunity. Seriously, you all need to play this game.

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Garwoofoo

I came across this incredible interview where they get three real yakuza to review a Yakuza game. Well worth a read.

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Mr Party Hat

That was actually quite funny in places.

"S: I don't know any ex-yakuza running orphanages.
K: There was one a few years ago. A good guy.
M: You sure it wasn't just a tax shelter?
K: Sure it was a tax shelter but he ran it like a legitimate thing. You know."

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martTM

I grabbed this at your recommendation in the sale. I think it might have to be my next dedication.*

*right after Hollow Knight and, for some reason, LocoRoco Remastered which I got back into last night while playing it simultaneously with my friend over chat.

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feltmonkey

This game is hilarious. The side quests are intentionally funny, and the main quest is possibly even more so, albeit unintentionally. There's a scene where the protagonist is prostrate on the floor in the rain and mud, with sad music playing as he exclaims, "I wanted a fast car like yours!"

I accidentally stole an 8-year-old's girlfriend in a quest involving scalextric racing the other night.

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Garwoofoo

Almost every side quest is comedy gold. I think my personal favourite is the one where you’ve somehow committed yourself to buying porn from a vending machine for a 9-year-old, and have to sneak down the alleyway to buy it without anyone you know seeing what you’re up to. It’s very relatable.

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Garwoofoo

Yes, that was hilarious. The whole telephone dating thing creases me up too, I blew my chances with one lady by accidentally asking if she was a man then telling her she was gassy.

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aniki

I got partway through the tutorial on this - I think I made it to the very first save point? - before I dropped it for no real reason, but this thread is making me think I should get back to it. I really enjoyed the first game on PS2 until a game-breaking bug stopped me reaching the final boss, and I've got both Zero and Kiwami sitting on my hard drive.

If nothing else, it seems like an endless supply of inspiration for dumb D&D sidequests.

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Mr Party Hat

Okay I've made it past that stupid bloody man with his dragon tattoos. I bought 20 health potions and just entered a 20-minute war of attrition. I used 17 of the potions but I did it.

And then, thank the lord, the difficulty menu reappeared in the options. Now to the karaoke.

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aniki

God, guys, I am not having a good time with this.

Just finished chapter one after what felt like thirty million attempts at the million-enemy battle sequence and the world's toughest old fat dude. I think I hate the combat, which is pretty fucking staggering considering this is what, seven games into a series renowned for its fighting?

When can I put a chicken in charge of a nightclub?

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Garwoofoo

Right. You’ve done the only hard bit in the game. It’s an insane difficulty spike so early on. Now the fun stuff starts.

If you really hate the combat, stick the game on easy. You’ll miss nothing.

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Garwoofoo

The combat is fine. It improves as you level up and get to use all three of the styles available to each character. But I will concede that the boss fight at the end of chapter one is bullshit.

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aniki

Fine is about as high as I'd go with praise for the fighting. It's floaty and imprecise, there's not much clear telegraphing for when you need to dodge (which takes too long and seems to move the wrong direction half the time anyway), enemies can interrupt my attacks but I'm totally stunned when hit, I can't get back up from the floor faster than they can kick me… it's just unpleasant from start to finish.

Considering how cinematic the rest of the game is, this cheap, sub-arcade combat system is kind of embarrassing.

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Mr Party Hat

Yeah the fighting doesn't really have anything going for it. It's not this super-complex system you can learn and master like Bayonetta, and it's not dumb empowering fun like God of War. It's just fiddly.

But I've got the game on easy now, and hammering square in rush mode is acceptable. I have to admit I had a lot of fun last night, it really is pretty bonkers. And it really does nail those Shinjuku side streets, coming from a recent tourist. I was wandering around yesterday and ended up in the Golden Gai, which was pretty cool. And then I had to coach a sensitive rock band on how to act tougher. Which was pretty Yakuza.

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aniki

I feel like I'm pretty close to the game opening up, so I'm going to stick with it, but I definitely need to drop the difficulty before I get into any more big fights.

It's just weird that the combat is so panicky and disempowering, when literally everything around it - the music, the intro animations, the way the entire game portrays Kiryu - sets you up as an unstoppable punching machine. Then six guys corner me next to a vending machine and it takes ten minutes of wild thrashing to get out, before I throw a lightning combo of punches into the air two feet to the left of the guy I'm trying to hit.

Not that the controls generally are all that precise. I'm lumbering around the hotel district, smashing headlong into salaryman drinking parties with all the finesse of a rudderless barge.

The awkwardness almost feels like a deliberate choice, but I don't know what it would be trying to accomplish if it was.

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feltmonkey

I wouldn't say the combat doesn't have anything going for it, or that it feels disempowering. You can pick up a motorbike right at the start of a fight and begin twatting everyone with it. It's got that going for it. The average length of a fight is about five to ten seconds. I only wish there was a cutscene of the owner of the motorbike returning to where he parked and finding his bike battered into parts on top of a Yakuza goon.

The combat is not the focus of the game though. It's not the fun part by any stretch of the imagination.

Look, if you can't get behind a game where through a chance meeting you end up coaching a punk band made up of nice middle class kids how to act tough in an interview, then I don't know what to tell you.

well, you could watch this -

Spoiler - click to show

Edit - oh, are spoiler tages broken? Well there's no spoilers in the video description, but I'll remove it if anyone is annoyed by its presence.

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Mr Party Hat

The combat is not the focus of the game though. It's not the fun part by any stretch of the imagination.

I'm seven hours in now, and I'm on board. Mainly because I failed a karaoke minigame last night that was so funny, my laughter made me hit all the wrong buttons.

The combat is still bobbins, but I've settled into: hammer square in Rush mode for street thugs, stock up on healing items for bosses and just slowly grind them down while thinking about something else. And for every crap, ten-minute boss fight, you're then rewarded with two hours of Kiryu going undercover as an uncomfortable film luvvie and having to call everyone daaaarling.

On the strength of that, I actually checked last night whether I could buy all the other games digitally. Quite the u-turn.

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Alastor

I see how it is.

EDIT: It's not a Yakuza game as such, but I played the demo of the upcoming Fist of the North Star (Lost Paradise or something) game on PS4 which is basically a Yakuza game made by the Yakuza people as I understand it, with the Yakuza framework, to the point that some of it feels very un-FOTNS to me (why are there bandits in the town just waiting around?). And boy, you will be surprised how much fun Yakuza combat can be when you punch people in their pressure points and watch their head inflate and explode while screaming 'Crucifying strike! You have 3 seconds left to live!". (Basically the Heat finishers except unlike them I probably won't get bored of these ones…)

I didn't do much else on the demo but running around the shithole of the town was obviously reminiscent of running around the town of Yakuza, down to the random battles, and there seem to be the sidequests again but less 'ha ha, this is so silly' I imagine and more sticking your thumb into someone's head to make their blood pressure inflate their head and pop like a balloon…which is all I want from a Fist of the North Star game honestly.

It's a very boring demo so if you try it, skip everything until you get to fight something. I dunno, it seems fun but I like FOTNS, there's a kinda shitty seeming racing thing going on too sadly, and I dunno about the rest of it either.

You are already dead! >:)

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aniki

Edit - oh, are spoiler tages broken? Well there's no spoilers in the video description, but I'll remove it if anyone is annoyed by its presence.

Yeah, embedded videos are incompatible with the spoiler tag implementation - you can't put a block-level HTML DOM element inside an inline element, so the browser renders them sequentially instead; but if you try to force it then clicking to play the video also re-hides the spoiler, which is pretty terrible UX.

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glebm

Yeah, embedded videos are incompatible with the spoiler tag implementation - you can't put a block-level HTML DOM element inside an inline element, so the browser renders them sequentially instead; but if you try to force it then clicking to play the video also re-hides the spoiler, which is pretty terrible UX.

On the latest version of Thredded, spoiler tags do work with videos!

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aniki

I know this series gets a lot of comparisons to Shenmue, but the more of Yakuza Zero I play, the more it reminds me of Dead Rising.

On the latest version of Thredded, spoiler tags do work with videos!

I really need to get around to upgrading…

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aniki

I had to do a stealth mission to buy a porn magazine from a vending machine, then later got pressured to join a pyramid scheme selling magic water.

I love what a naive, gullible idiot Kazuma is.

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aniki

I could honestly play Majima's cabaret management mini-game forever.

It's a quarter to one in the morning and I've had to turn the PS4 off before I had my fifteenth "one more go". I've learned all the hand signals from the girls, but I still haven't figured out how to tell when a customer will be willing to extend their session, or which option to choose when they get into a fight.

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Garwoofoo

It is absolutely brilliant, maybe the best bit of the whole game. Don’t forget to use your CP points at the shrine to hire as many girls as you can for your roster - and there are more around town you can bribe to join as well.

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aniki

Yeah, I've got quite the roster from the shrine, but I've only found one girl around town yet (she wanted me to buy her a bracelet as a signing bonus). Just got my second platinum hostess, and have spent far longer than I should admit playing dress-up to max out their stats.

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aniki

I've got all the hostesses except the Platinums from beating the other clubs - just won the battle against Jupiter, which got me a billion yen as a reward, which seems insane. Next up is to go 'round and spend all that to partner with other businesses; I've partnered with everything in the Mars area, but only have a couple in Jupiter and Mars so far and one in Moon.

I'm almost resenting the fact that I'll have to get back to the story at some point. Is there a post-game run-around mode where I can just keep playing this forever?

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Garwoofoo

Yes! After you finish you can go into "Premium Adventure" mode where you can do everything apart from the main story. It also lets you change costumes, switch between the two characters and advance time, so it's specifically designed for mopping up everything on your completion list.

There's also NG+, and the option to play on Legend difficulty (there's a trophy associated with that). Plus all those combat trials you've probably seen on the main menu screen. So basically there's no reason to play anything else ever again.

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Garwoofoo

Some of the minigames will probably break you. The batting game in particular seems almost impossible, and if you can work out Mahjong, Shogi or the more obscure hobo gambling games then you're a better man than me. 100% completion on this is an almost insane task to undertake.

Kazuma's real estate game isn't as good as the cabaret game, but it has its moments and it's a much better source of income. You'll be rolling in yen by the time you've grabbed a couple of areas in that.


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