Criminal organizations have always fascinated the general public. Whether it's the strict and deadly brutality or the enigmatic shroud of underworld secrecy, they have an allure that make us all inquisitive and the Japanese yakuza is no exception. The Far East crime syndicate is heavily influenced by feudal Japanese traditions and philosophies, which makes for one heck of a videogame.
PROTIP: The password for the special back room of the porn store is "Tied Up Housewives - Lust for Ropes".
In Yakuza, you'll assume the life of young upcoming underworld Tojo clan superstar Kiryu Kazuma who's about to be granted permission to start his own crime family from his boss. After an unfortunate string of events, you find yourself taking the fall for murdering your boss and you're sentenced to a 10-year stretch in the clink.
After being released you set out on a journey to discover what happened to your girlfriend and former crime associates, but instead of a joyful reunion among comrades and loved ones you find your old crime family falling apart, your girlfriend has disappeared off the face of the Earth, and the entire Tojo Yakuza clan wants you in a body bag. So starts your wonderful journey of shankings, shootings, and beat downs in the land of the rising sun.
10 Years Equals A Whole Lot of Pent up Aggression
Yakuza's gameplay has been the victim of unfair, and totally inaccurate, comparisons to the Grand Theft Auto series. These fraudulent statements are totally bogus. Yakuza has absolutely nothing in common with GTA. In Yakuza, you'll never carjack or hurt innocent bystanders. Unlike Western criminals, the traditional Yakuza figure has a code of honor. A true Yakuza is honorable, conducts his business without drawing flashy attention, never inconveniences his general community, and predominantly pictures himself as a gatekeeper of traditional pre-World War II Japanese values.
PROTIP: A good way to earn Haruka's trust is to win her a stuffed animal.
One of the best things about playing Kiryu Kazuma in Yakuza is that the character is badass. He never backs down, he never apologizes, and he rises to challenge anyone who gets in his face, even if its 20 guys with swords. Kiryu embodies the samurai spirit, and that's something totally alien to the mass carnage and morale dilapidation of the GTA series.
Save the Puppy!
Yakuza's gameplay is split into two Modes. The overarching Adventure Mode allows you to run around the city, explore, purchase items, and gather information from ordinary citizens. You can expect a plethora of sub scenario side missions, including catching con-artists, reuniting families, saving stray puppies, and visiting mini-game venues --just like Shenmue.
However, during Adventure Mode you'll be open to pseudo-instance battles with adversarial Yakuza and street thugs. Once spotted on the street these guys will give chase and try to confront you. If they reach close proximity to Kiryu, you'll enter Battle Mode and have to duke it out with them.
PROTIP: Certain weapons have secondary functions. The beer bottle can be used as a blunt object, or thrown.