There was question about how long the Yakuza series could last outside Japan. In spite of positive reviews, a combination of low sales and a pair of PS2-exclusive releases have kept the game a cult hit. However, those diehard fans pushed, and Sega is responding with a sequel on the Playstation 3.
While at face value, the game may seem like Grand Theft Auto-style adventure, the game has more in common with Shenmue or River City Ransom. This is not by any means a shooter. Instead of actively driving and performing crimes, the gameplay is divided between two distinct play-types. Combat is built around a fairly deep system rooted in fisticuffs and features counters, dynamic combos and Dead Rising-style “anything is a weapon” moments. When you're not beating down baddies, you're free to explore an incredibly detailed world.
One of Yakuza 3’s biggest draws is its environment. While the locales are fictional, nearly the entire world is modeled after real-life landmarks. On top of this, Sega has blown open in-game advertising, which makes for a uniquely authentic experience. It should also be noted that this game also sports some of the best facial modeling and animation available in video games today, which gives characters a believable, lifelike presence.
Adding to the game's immersion is some quality sound design. Alongside typical up-tempo music, the game has really nice, appropriate ambient noise that plays while exploring the city. The game had several high-profile Japanese actors lending their talents to the game’s voices. The result of all this is a game that's distinctively Japanese…but in a good way.
Thanks to its HD makeover, Yakuza 3 has a better chance to sell than the past two games. It is unknown at this time whether the game will keep the Japanese voice actors, or if there's a recap available for newcomers to the series. Whatever the case, keep an eye out for this game if you're looking for another unique PS3 exclusive. Be sure to keep an eye out for a full review when the game hits March 9.