Early taste of ‘Yakuza 4’ shines with personality
After the epic time I spend exploring the worlds of “Yakuza 0” and “Yakuza Kiwami” (the top-to-bottom remake of the 2005 “Yakuza), I began to become quite excited for the release of “Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.” But, you ask, how could I possibly enjoy “Yakuza 6” without having played the second through fifth games in the series?
Well, PlayStation Now just came to the rescue. The streaming service for the PlayStation console family added both “Yakuza 4” and “Yakuza 5” to its library recently. (I’m pretty sure the additions are aimed at driving some attention to the release of “Yakuza 6,” but that’s immaterial.) So, I figured now was better than never to get some more experience with the oh-so-strange Japanese series.
To make up for the fact that I still haven’t play the second or third game (“Yakuza Kiwami 2,” a remake of “Yakuza 2,” is set to be released in North America in August — and yes, I’ll be playing it, even if it’s completely out of chronological order by that point), I spent the first hour in “Yakuza 4” watching cutscenes in the game’s Reminisce menu. The ability to watch important moments from the first three games kind of ruined “2” and “3” for me, but it did a great job of catching me up as much as possible in a series that can get confusing even while you’re playing it.
But once freed from the necessity of lore, you take control of the first of four characters: Akiyama Shun, a loan shark who doesn’t charge interest. Strange, right? But, even though I’m only about 10 hours into the game, I haven’t dealt with as much as the plot as you may think.
Yes, lengthy, “Metal Gear”-style cutscenes run rampant here, but as soon as the game allowed, I ventured off the critical path to explore the always interesting Kamurocho, a stunning reproduction of Tokyo’s Kabukicho red-light district. (Some variance occurs, but that’s because it’s a video game.) As I gleefully experienced in “0” and “Kiwami,” while the story so far is worthy of any addictive crime drama or soap opera, the side quests is where the endearing quirkiness shines. Helping others help themselves with the oodles of money Akiyama seems to have it just so strange and enjoyable.
At this point, I’m excited to return to the complex story (and do plenty of asinine side quests, of course) and be introduced to the three other playable characters this game has to offer. Plus, who can say I’m not doing my due diligence for “Yakuza 6”?
This is a First Impressions of “Yakuza 4” on the PlayStation 4 via PlayStation Now. A full review will follow once the game is completed.