The role-playing mechanics don't stop there; Kazuma has a range of attributes that can be improved with experience earned from battle and side-quests. By allocating points to the Soul, Tech, Body and Essence disciplines, Kazuma becomes a far more worthy adversary in combat, with improved statistics and all-new moves. By the end of the game, there's a huge list of moves at your disposal, giving numerous options to combat.
It's not all about violence and bloodshed though, and if the stresses of Yakuza life start getting you down, there are a wealth of subplots and mini-games to take your mind off things. Golf is a particularly effective way to let off some steam, offering a surprising level of depth for a mere mini-game. There's also baseball, darts, fishing and even an arcade with working cabinets of retro SEGA titles. Literally hours can be sunk into these seemingly pointless pastimes, but they give the game a rich and full quality to it.
Another way Kazuma likes to unwind is by blogging. Yes, you read that correctly. Armed with his trusty mobile phone, Kazuma can take photos of certain events in the game. Timing the shots well enough will lead Kazuma to an epiphany, which he will proceed to blog about using his phone. This in turn leads to new skills and abilities which can be used in combat. Blogging has some benefits after all, it would seem.
There's never a shortage of things to see and do in Yakuza 3, and everything is tied into the game world so convincingly. This, in fact, is the game's greatest achievement; its living, breathing and totally believable environments. For otakus and fans of Japanese culture, wandering around the gorgeous locations of Yakuza 3 is a real treat. It's all in the details; the vending machines, bicycles, toy machines, arcades, neon lights, the general bustle of city life. The Japanese voice-track adds to the authenticity too, giving rise to believable characters and a realistic hubbub of background noise. I've never been to Japan, but after playing Yakuza 3, I can honestly say that I feel like I have.
Games with a scope as large as Yakuza 3 seem to be burdened with a few inevitable flaws however. Invisible walls rear their ugly head with alarming frequency; how these still find their way into modern game design is beyond comprehension. Navigation is problematic too, with whimsical destination markers that are never there when you need them. All too often you'll find yourself ambling around without the foggiest idea where you are, or where you're heading.
These flaws only really stand out due to the quality of the game as a whole however; Yakuza 3 is still a remarkable achievement. Kamurocho might be a fictional location, but it's quite possibly the most well realised city in video game history. Yakuza 3 combines visual splendour with superb sound design to create an unparalleled atmosphere. Although the dated combat might take a back seat to these environments, Yakuza's first outing on the PlayStation 3 feels suitably next generation. While the first two titles in the series were both overlooked and underrated, Yakuza 3 demands to be taken notice of. This isn't only the best game in the series, but possibly the genre as a whole.
VideoGamer.com Score9 Score out of 10
- Fantastic environments
- Compelling narrative
- Plenty to see and do
- Refined, but dated combat system