REVIEW: Yakuza: Dead Souls (PlayStation 3)

deadsouls-yakuzaA few friends have been telling me for almost a year now to try out Yakuza: Dead Souls, saying it’s something I’d really enjoy. I tend to twist my face at games I’ve never heard much about or when I’ve never played any of the other games in the series but I’m glad I picked this game up. It only cost me a fiver in HMV anyway, so it’s already off to a good start.

The story wasn’t particularly hard to follow, I was just unsure whether or not I was jumping backwards in the time line at points or not as it felt like I was meeting characters later on in the game in situations that I had played as them previously. Nothing too major, but it threw me off a little bit.

All I really knew about the Yakuza games is that the team developing them have some kind of connection with the Shenmue team for the Sega Dreamcast. It does have a Shenmue-like feel to some of the gameplay but maybe it’s down to it also being set in Japan.

Back to explaining the story…
It begins with a phonecall to one of the playable characters, Kazuma Kiryu, from the main protagonist, Tetsuo Nikaido, informing him that he has kidnapped one of the girls from the orphanage that Kiryu runs. I guess Nikaido has some beef with Kiryu from one of the previous games but things start to get out of hand. The girl answers the phone and tells him that Kamurocho (the city where the game is set) is dying. Literally.
Nikaido is in possession of a lethal virus and is using it as a bio weapon. He and his right hand man (but clearly looks and sounds like a woman for some reason), known as DD, first inject the virus into a man named Hiroshi Hiyashi making him the first Zombie. And well, we all know how zombies spread the virus.

The gameplay has a sandbox style to it with some character development added to it. You gain experience from finishing goals, whether they be side quests, beating a certain amount of enemies or finishing the chapters of the main story. Enough experience will raise your level and give you Soul Points to spend on new abilities. Once you first reach the safe part of the city, you can begin buying and upgrading your weapons which always helps.
When you have to switch characters in the story, you continue on with your level, experience and skills. It’s nice that they did this but basically means you can’t switch back to that character again and have to press on with the story. You can, however, play as any of the four characters in a free roaming mode once you’ve beaten the game, although, I’m not sure this mode has any merit so I just started the New Game+ and now playing through it with my level 50+ character.
There’s plenty side missions to do and people to save which will land you a few nice trophies to add to that list we’re all working on.

In an attempt to make a ‘compliment sandwich’ kind of thing, with the last section hopefully sounding positive, I will say that the music didn’t really stand out to me. I can’t remember anything being particularly bad about it, I just can’t remember anything amazing about it. Maybe this time round, I’ll try pay more attention to it. Oh, the speech is in Japanese with English subtitles, just incase that bothers you.

The graphics are pretty impressive. Maybe they should be a little bit more advanced with it being released this late in the PS3s life but the character models are great. I remember older games (AND EVEN NEWER GAMES LIKE ACTIVISION’S THE WALKING DEAD) rehashing the NPC faces in situations where there’d be a lot of civilians or enemies. I can’t remember walking past any one of the civilians and thinking “Hey, there’s a person who looks just like him over there”. What I’m getting at is that it’s great that they took the time to design all these different character models.
When you get up close to people in cutscenes etc, you get a real sense of identity. Like you could easily distinguish them from another NPC later on in the game. The woman from the army, who later becomes a part of your team for a while, looked a lot like Chiaki Kuriyama (Battle Royale) to me. I think I might give that a watch once I’ve finished this review.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and wish I had played it a lot earlier. Better late than never though.
The game is dirt cheap now, being less than £10 second-hand and maybe even brand new if you’re lucky.
So if you’re here looking for some kind of recommendation before buying the game, I’d say go for it. It’s a great little zombie game that will take between 10 and 15 hours to complete if you don’t go for the side quests. Plenty replay value if you miss things though.

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