Video version can be found here.
Kazuma Kiryu, family man.
SEGA has made me a liar. Although I usually don’t appreciate being made the fool, I’m willing to forgive SEGA this time. For you see, in my Yakuza Zero review a few weeks back, I said that we hadn’t heard anything about the re-release of Yakuza 3 in a long time and I was starting to get worried about it. Only three days after I finished editing the video for that review, however, SEGA shadow dropped Yakuza 3 Remastered on PS4. Not only did SEGA do that but they also gave tentative release dates for both Yakuza 4 & 5 (which are in the not-so-distant future by the way). Thus, I was made a liar within three days of editing that video and I can’t even be mad about it since I’m getting the next installments in one of my favorite series’ of all time.
So, what is Yakuza 3 Remastered? It is a re-release of the third game in the Yakuza series. Making its debut back on the PS3, fans can now enjoy the game for the first time on modern hardware (exclusively on PS4). Yakuza 3 Remastered has not received the Kiwami-style remake treatment like both the first and second games have. The game has only been upscaled to 1080p with a 60-fps framerate. As a consequence, Yakuza 3 Remastered is the worst-looking entry I’ve played so far. It isn’t so bad that it’s unplayable (I got used to the graphics after a while) but it definitely is a step down from the visuals of Zero, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2.
Yakuza 3 starts off with a bang but, in a truly Kiwami 2-like fashion, takes a step back from the action almost immediately. I would share with you what the opening scenes contain but I don’t want to spoil it. The story slows down because, after the opening scenes, it goes back in time to the events immediately following the second game. Our boy Kazuma Kiryu has decided to retire from Yakuza life for good this time and has moved to the island of Okinawa. What’s he doing there, you ask? Well, he’s running an orphanage, of course.
That’s right, former Fourth Chairman of the Tojo Clan Kazuma Kiryu wants some peace and quiet and thus he is now the director of an orphanage on Okinawa. Haruka is there along with eight other children. It was nice seeing Kiryu in a more relaxed atmosphere but I have to admit that this was the slowest part of the game by far. Kiryu must care for, comfort, and be a father figure to the children of the orphanage. There were a few good moments, both heartfelt and funny, when Kiryu was taking care of the kids (there is a great moment when Kiryu dresses up as a wrestler) but I would be lying if I said I enjoyed these sections of the game. I was always itching to get back to what Kiryu does best; beating up thugs. Luckily for me, it didn’t take too long for things to return to normal.
As I said, Kiryu has not only retired from the Tojo Clan but he has also moved far away from Tokyo. He wants nothing to do with the Yakuza. Unlike in Kiwami 2, where he was pulled back into Yakuza life by a dying friend’s wish, Kiryu only gets involved in Yakuza affairs again when a local clan tries to take his orphanage’s property on Okinawa. The local Yakuza want the land to build both a resort and a military base, of all things. Kiryu, enraged when he finds out that the efforts to take his land are connected to the Tojo Clan back in Tokyo, once again steps into Japan’s seedy criminal underworld.
The story was shorter this time around but that doesn’t make it inferior to the other games in the series. It does feature fewer characters than normal and is more streamlined in its approach but that didn’t stop it from having all of the drama that a Yakuza tale is known for. Not only that but it features a new town area called Ryukyu on Okinawa in addition to Kamurocho back in Tokyo. Even though it was shorter, the story did have several memorable moments. One highlight in the story for me personally was everything that happens in the Red Brick Hotel. That whole sequence had me in stitches. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you play it. Just like every other game in the series, the story is a major selling point.
Yakuza 3, just like Kiwami 2, has only one combat style. I didn’t mind that fact this time around though (I’m fickle, what can I say?). I will say that fighting thugs that spawn in town did become monotonous after a while. In addition, the boss fights were also difficult unless you used weapons. Other than that, I had a fun time with the combat.
New moves can be acquired using several different methods (I’ll discuss the other ways later) but the main way is by spending experience bars. Experience can be gained through combat, eating at restaurants, completing sub stories, etc. Experience can also be spent to increase Kiryu’s health and Heat bars. Speaking of which, Heat Actions are back and they are as fun as they’ve always been.
One thing I didn’t like about the combat and the game in general is all the QTEs. Yakuza 3 is absolutely chock-full of them (there also was an overemphasis on chase sequences as well). I think they were popular when the game came out back in 2009 but my God are they everywhere in this game. I could have done without them but thankfully they don’t detract too much from the game. Fair warning though, you will have to do them often in combat and in a few side activities too.
Speaking of side activities, there are plenty of them in Yakuza 3. I won’t go too much into detail about all of them since I’ve discussed most of them in past reviews of the series but I will mention a few here. There are many sub stories that can be found in both Ryukyu and Kamurocho. The one sub story I want to mention, however, is Murder at Café Alps. This one is significant in my mind since it involves detective work. For this reason, it seems like it was the inspiration for the spinoff game Judgment (which recently came out by the way). Murder at Café Alps was an interesting sub story and I’m glad that SEGA took that idea and turned it into a full game.
A second side activity I want to mention here are the Hitman missions. No, you don’t go around killing people. Kiryu is recruited by the Honest Living Association which specializes in helping ex-Yakuza members find honest work. The HLA wants Kiryu to stop a group of people called the Reapers who are killing former Yakuza. Kiryu must find these Reapers, beat them up, and then recruit them into the HLA. I mention this side activity here because it kind of has a story woven into it. It isn’t as substantial as the stories you can find in Cabaret Grand Prix or Clan Creator from Kiwami 2 but there is a story nonetheless.
My favorite side activity in Yakuza 3 by far was Kiryu’s blog. Kiryu meets a guy named Mack during his adventure who will email (yes, that’s right, I said email) him about interesting things he’s seen around town. Kiryu must go to those locations, pull out his phone, and take pictures of what he sees. This activity does unfortunately feature QTEs but it’s all worth it because of what happens during these sequences. Each and every one of them was hilarious and I always immediately went to find them whenever Mack emailed me. Not only are they fun to watch but these events are practical too because Kiryu will learn a new Heat action or finishing move from them. I loved this mechanic and I hope it sticks around for later games (don’t spoil it for me if they don’t).
Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Yakuza 3 (I finished the main story within six days of its release), there were three minor issues that gave me a headache. For starters, there are too few save points spread around both Ryukyu and Kamurocho. You can save at phone booths but there are fewer of them in 3 than in any other game in the series. Secondly, my inventory was full way too many times throughout my time with the game. It seemed like people were constantly giving Kiryu items. The thugs Kiryu defeats while running around town always gave me stuff which led to me frequently having to put something in the item box storage. As I said, this was a small issue but it happened so frequently that it became annoying. And finally, accessing the map was annoying. In previous entries, all you had to do was press one button to bring up the map but in 3 you have to open the menu, scroll down, and then select the map. By the end of the game, I had really begun to miss the simple one button press it has taken to look at the map in the other titles.
Before I go, I do want to discuss the reasons why I love the Yakuza games. I’m four games into the series and, although the format is very similar in each of them, I’m still very much enjoying my time with the series. Now more than ever, I wondered why that is while I was playing Yakuza 3. I think it has to do with three things; the writing and characters, the absolutely bonkers atmosphere of each title, and the huge amount of side content available in each game.
The writing is the biggest reason why I enjoy these games. This is connected to why I love the characters because each one is so well-written. And I’m not just talking about the main characters, either. Every single character I’ve met, whether in the main story or in a sub story or even just out on the street, is unique and interesting. It keeps me coming back to this franchise again and again. I love all these characters and I can’t wait to see how they change and grow throughout the series.
The second reason why I love the Yakuza series is because everything is just bonkers. One moment you will be fighting a boss in order to save someone and then the next you’re taking pictures of a lady flipping over a taxi cab on a scooter. You just never know what is going to happen in these games and I love them for it. The tonal shifts aren’t jarring at all which makes these games stand out from games that are either too serious or too goofy. The Yakuza series has the perfect mix of both serious and funny which makes them all the more appealing.
The last reason I like the series so much is because of the insane amount of side content present in each game. There is so much side content that, once you complete the main story, there’s a mode called Premium Adventure in which you can run around the city and just do side activities. I don’t think I’ve every mentioned this mode in any of my reviews for the series before so it was high time I fixed that. After completing Yakuza 3’s story, I decided to run around in Premium Adventure mode for a while. I had so much fun completing sub stories that I had missed during the main game. I even found more side content to do while running around in Premium Adventure!
I found out that you can chase Mack (whom I mentioned above) to increase your running stamina and there’s a fortune teller lady who offers additional game modes to play. The mode I tried out was called Survival Tag. In it, you must avoid three characters who are chasing you while following instructions to find specific things all around town. As a side note, Kiryu’s running animation is really funny in this mode. I don’t think this mode was in previous titles but I may be wrong about that. My point is that the Yakuza games are gifts that keep on giving. There is always something else to do, to find, or to marvel at. In fact, whenever I have a bad day, I sometimes boot up one of the games to run around town and find things I may have missed. It never gets old and that is why I love these games. Anyways, back to the review.
Yes, I can say with confidence that Yakuza 3 Remastered is just as good as the other entries in the series. It isn’t the best-looking game in the series, its story is slow in parts (the orphanage), the combat does get stale after a while, and there are a few minor design inconveniences but that doesn’t stop it from being great. Its story, characters, and side content more than make up for its faults. Yakuza 3 Remastered is a superb entry in a fantastic series and I couldn’t have been happier that SEGA made me a liar by releasing it out of the blue.
Final Score: 8/10
- Great story as always
- Excellent characters
- Kiryu’s blog
- Story is slow in parts (the orphanage)
- Minor design inconveniences (save points, inventory, map)
- Overabundance of QTEs
Thanks for reading!