Ryu Ga Gotoku (Japan) Also see Yakuza(United States)
If you needed a single word to describe Sega's latest 20 million dollar blockbuster production headed by staff from Jet Set Radio, Panzer Dragoon Orta, and other hit Sega titles, that word would be "Satisfying". Though not "satisfying" in the way that means a game is just ok but rather "satisfying" as in that feeling you get in your gut that makes you just want to jump up and shout "oh yeah!" That's the kind of satisfaction you get over and over again while playing through Ryu Ga Gotoku.
The Battle Engine:
Over the years Sega has tried time and time again to recreate the classic brawler feel of games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage in the third dimension. Die Hard Arcade, Zombies Revenge, Spikeout, etc. were all good games and further steps towards mixing the old school feeling of brawlers with the depth of a real fighter like Sega's own Virtua Fighter series. While most of those games can be considered successes, it really isn't until Ryu Ga Gotoku that Sega finally pulled it off in full glory.
In Ryu Ga Gotoku, you are Kazuma Kiryu. Kazuma is basically the most badass person in the universe, though it might take gamers (and the story characters) a few hours to fully recognize this fact. This is mainly because at first, while the battle engine is really fun, it also seems a bit simple.
You have 4 punch strings that can be ended with a different hard hit, a standard kick move, a grab, the ability to block, to taunt, and even strafe around an area in front of you (though if you point at a specific enemy, the game will try to lock-on to just that one guy). It's a sizeable move-list, but at first you might wonder where this 'perfection' lies. The answer to that can be found by looking at the non-traditional parts of the battle engine.
First we'll start with the heat gauge. The heat gauge is basically your badass meter. Beat up on enemies and you'll fill it up real quick and then Kazuma will let off a blue flame. This is the signal to stop just beating up your opponents senselessly, and start beating them up with bone-breaking style. When grabbing an enemy while your heat gauge is full, a little indicator will pop up at times telling you to hit triangle. This flashing indicator is in a detailed Japanese character that probably means something important, but when playing you'll just make up your own meaning such as "face meet wall!", "say hi to the bench!", or "pond throw!" It just tends to be more fun that way. Anyhow, if you hit the button when the indicator is up you'll be treated to a special awesome animation of Kazuma destroying his foe in some type of context-sensitive method (full of slow motion, blood, sweat, sparks [if electricity is involved], and bone-crunching sounds). These are utterly fantastic and just make the battles extremely satisfying. Soon you'll be doing a combo on one guy to build up your gauge, then grabbing the guy next to him and walking near a wall so you can dramatically shove his face straight into the said wall. There are a good amount of these environment-dependant finishers, and the absolute best times you will have with the game is when you're fight in some new location and you grab and guy and hit triangle not even thinking about your heat gauge. Then suddenly he grabs the guy and does something completely new, unexpected, and totally badass which gets you jumping in the air screaming "Oh my god! Did you see that!?" to yourself. Good times all around.
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