The Yakuza series is one of my all time favorite ones in video gaming. This is due to the fact that I am a aging geek and admit to wanting some more works that are written toward the gritty crime drama sort of things than punching out aliens. So, of course, I love a series that includes things like a bunch of brawling men dressed as babies and other wackiness. Okay, okay, the Yakuza series is one with a somewhat bizarrely disjointed tone. The central storyline is usually a gritty Godfather-esque tale of love, honor, revenge, and betrayal that feeds into a greater conspiracy while the subplots are often humorous to the point of ridiculousness.
|Japanese lawyers have badges.|
I really like Yagami as a character as he's a nice contrast to Kazuma Kiryu. Collecting money for the Yakuza as a way to make ends meet, he feels like a slightly more morally flexible protagonist even if it's just at the start of the game. He differentiates himself from Kiryu in his moveset as well, being a more Jackie Chan-esque speedy fighter than Kiryu's hard-ass brawler. He's also more personable with options to two-time his various girlfriends as well as use a lot more guile than the Dragon of Dojima ever did.
|Kaito is a lovable lug.|
Yagami also a much broader cast of friends and associates with it actually weaponized in the game system. In order to get certain side-missions as well as achieve 100% completion, Yagami must perform various tasks for all of the citizens of Kamurocho in order to build up trust. This is effectively advertising for his business and gets people to spread the word. I also feel it helps the immersion as Yagami has a reason to odd jobs for the people around town. It's literally his job as they pay him to do things unlike Kiryu, who just does them because he's an emotional pushover.
|A gorgeous re-envisioning of a famous locale.|
The majority of the game consists of a beat-em-up combat system that is similar to the other Yakuza games but with a greater focus on stunt moves. You have two fighting styles with Tiger as well as Crane as well as a dozen or more moves that you can buy. You can also focus on improving general abilities with skill points. I happen to like this as you can develop Yagami's fighting style as you see fit.
|My favorite villain yet.|
Really, though, I have to say that the plot is the best part of the game. The way things move from the relatively simple serial killer plot to an all-consuming government conspiracy that ties into real Japanese issues is organic as well as entertaining. They also incorporate an investigation, interrogation, and legal scenes that seem equal parts L.A. Noire as well as Phoenix Wright. In the end, everyone's motivations make sense and work perfectly within the setting.
Should you buy this? Yes, absolutely. It's a great introduction to the setting and doesn't require any prior familiarity with the series to enjoy it. I think it's a game that everyone will enjoy with the slightest interest in crime drama. The game also comes with a English dub and it's pretty fantastic. I actually tried them both out during the game and think they're of equal quality. Really, my only complaint is you couldn't romance Saori. If she was a Goth as well as dark and serious, I'd have video game married her.