SEGA brought out the big guns when they developed this title. The voice work is done by top Hollywood talent: Michael Madsen, Mark Hamil and Eliza Dushku all lend their voices for this cinematic thriller.
The storyline features a load of missing cash (10 billion yen total), warring rival crime families, a missing young girl, and tons of hand-to-hand combat. You play as Kazuma Kiryu, a former Yakuza member, who is fresh out of prison from a 10-year stint for murder.
For the most part, you travel around in the streets of Tokyo going to different missions and finding many sub-missions along the way. You can freely explore various nightclubs and shops where you can purchase food items that can replenish your health.
On occasion, you'll encounter some fights along the way by Yakuza gang members or other city residents. Defeating them can earn you some Yen and experience, which you can add on your meter. Besides, fighting them will also teach those punks a lesson.
"Yakuza" mainly features old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat instead of modern guns or other lethal weaponry. During the hand-to-hand combat sequences, as you land a consecutive amount of hits on your enemy, your heat meter fills up and you'll get into heat mode.
This will allow you to pull off new attacks such as smashing your enemy into the wall, or fierce uppercut punches. You're also allowed to pull off attack combos to take out multiple enemies simultaneously during street brawls. In addition to using fists to deliver some good old school butt-kicking, you can also pick up objects such as golf clubs, steel pipes, beer crates and even advertising displays.
One particular aspect of "Yakuza" that I find annoying is the excessive load times. When moving from block to block, entering stores or beginning a new mission, you get the dark "Now Loading" screen. It breaks up the action and is very frustrating.
In "Yakuza," you can converse with random citizens of Tokyo. Some will offer you advice on fighting maneuvers while others will give you useless information. There are a lot of muggings, so elderly women tend to ask you for your help. There is no audio sound to the conversation, so you're forced to read the text at the bottom of the screen, which gets tiresome.
The graphics in "Yakuza" are crisp and smooth. The nightlife of Tokyo is well depicted throughout the game. The game controls are extremely easy as, besides moving your character around town, the other buttons on your controller don't do much. A small tutorial at the beginning of the game teaches you the hand-to-hand combat controls, which are very helpful.
In the end, "Yakuza" does offer some enjoyable game play with a decent storyline. The hand-to-hand combat and street encounters will keep you busy for a while. Furthermore, mini-games throughout the city of Tokyo, such as the batting cage, also provide great entertainment. SEGA has a winner on its hands. I found "Yakuza" enjoyable and so will you.
Yakuza is rated "M" for Mature (content suitable for ages 17 or older) and is available for the PlayStation 2 game console.