is positively overflowing with gameplay mechanics, but only a few show up with consistency. Naturally, the game leans on its brawling system for most of the action, and it works well for the most part. It makes use of a very simple two-button combination scheme that allows for light and heavy attacks, and it also throws in a handful of steadily-deteriorating weapons -- conventional and otherwise. This system is virtually identical to the one in the Yakuza
games of years past, and that might be a source of frustration to some; after all, it's absurdly simple. On the other side, it hearkens back to 16-bit classics like Final Fight
and Streets of Rage
. You usually won't exceed five hits or so in any given combo. However, the Heat meter adds a bit of depth to the otherwise minimalistic fighting system. Landing hits and taunting your enemies builds Heat, and filling the meter allows you to perform a context-sensitive special move. For instance, grappling an enemy near a bike rack when your Heat meter is full gives you the opportunity to break his back across the rack, and possessing a knife while maxed out on Heat will allow you to disembowel an enemy. You can learn more abilities through a simple leveling system -- or more interestingly, through the Revelations system. This feature was in Yakuza 3
, and it's still completely nutty. As you walk around Kamurocho, you will occasionally see something truly bizarre. Taking a series of cell phone pictures of each Revelation event gives you new abilities. For example, as Akiyama, I took a picture of a young female cop kicking a pervy criminal in the family jewels, and eureka! I unlocked that very ability. Lots of little mechanics like this feed into the core brawling system, and it's made richer as a result.
The other parts of Yakuza 4 don't measure up as well, but when they're viewed as a collective whole, there's not too much to complain about. There are a few obligatory action chase sequences in the storyline, which usually amount to no more than "Run forward, follow the line, fight off your pursuers." Of course, this is subverted with the Tanimura storyline, where the roles are reversed. These, like many others, are quick throwaway sequences that could have been dropped entirely from the game.
A central feature to Yakuza 4 wasn't present in Yakuza 3, and I understand why. I'm referring to the hostess club mini-game. This pseudo dating sim/dress up game has you managing a hostess club -- a place where you can hang out (no more, no less) with an attractive member of the female sex. I enjoy the company of a beautiful woman as much as the next red-blooded male does, but I found this mini-game to be creepy and vain. In micromanaging all of my hostesses, I felt more than a bit uncomfortable, though I'm sure I can blame all of that (again) on culture shock. Other, more fanservice-inclined fans may find this addition crucial to how much they enjoy Yakuza 4, but others will be put off.
Fans of free-roaming third-person action games, your fix has arrived. Yakuza 4 might not be the best-looking or best-playing PlayStation 3 game out there, but it's good silly fun -- and a lot of it, at that.