The Yakuza Remastered Collection: Yakuza 3 Review

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I’ve spent the last fourteen years looking down on the Yakuza series, as yet another Japanese oddity. But regardless of that fact, over the years I have managed to collect three of the series’ instalments, as Yakuza 4, 5, and Kiwami, were all a part of PlayStation Plus offerings at some point in time. But even with the half of the core instalments in my pocket, I have still avoided it like fire. That is until I have fired up Kiwami for the very first time, not more than a month ago and ever since then I have not looked back, and slowly the series at which I used to laugh at, became one of my favourites.

Having played all but one Yakuza games, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks searching for a deal on Yakuza 3 – the only one which I haven’t played, as it was until now the only Yakuza to not be released digitally. But seemingly out of nowhere, SEGA, has not only announced a remastered collection of all three core, last gen instalments, but have also released Yakuza 3 on the day and for the last couple of days I have blasted through it, just to fill in the gap, which was driving me crazy ever since I have finished Yakuza 0.

Yakuza 3, unlike Kiwami and Kiwami 2, is not a remake – but a basic remaster, meaning that it has been released as it was back on PlayStation 3, but with the resolution brought up to 1080p, and with the framerate increased to the solid 60. However, ‘as is’ only applies to the Japanese version, as the Western version has been released with some of its content cut, due to ‘time constraints’ – back on PlayStation 3. So while Yakuza 3 on PlayStation 4 might be nothing more than a remaster, then even those who have played it before on PlayStation 3, will find something new to dig their teeth in. In addition, some localization has been overhauled to match the modern standards, and the game begins with a warning message that Yakuza 3 is a product of its time, and that some of its portrayals of characters and social issues, do not match developer’s current ideology.

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Yakuza 3, might have been remastered, but even with the new resolution and framerate – it does look fairly dated. And this is most apparent during gameplay, as some of the more intricate textures, which are iron-clad during cutscenes, appear blurry and washed out during gameplay. This can be spotted from the very beginning as the pattern on Kiryu’s shirt, or the one on Majima’s jacket, look more like smudges of random colours, rather than intricate details. And while I would love to say that such graphical imperfections are limited to the more complex textures, then unfortunately I can’t, as washed-out and low-count textures can be spotted on the vast majority of in-game objects.

If you have ever played any Yakuza game, then you will know that some parts of it will always look better than the others and this is also the case with Yakuza 3, as faces of mainline characters are vastly superior to substory NPCs, and in particular the city crowds. This can be especially jarring when jumping between story content and side content, as one second you will be looking at highly detailed faces of characters such as Goro Majima, and the next you will have to stare at the rather sub par-mugs of both Kamurocho’s and Okniawa’s finest lowlifes. But as this collection is clearly marketed at fans of the series, then you shouldn’t have a problem with it, as all instalments, even the most recent Yakuza 6, suffer from it.

While releasing Yakuza 3 on PlayStation 4, SEGA has made a point of underlining all of the improvements, and new additions to the title. While such are all dearly welcome, then part of me wishes that the publisher should have spent some more money on dubbing some of the title’s cutscenes and conversations, instead of the overhaul of the title’s translation. The vast majority of the title’s conversations plays out in plain text, and if you are not big on reading, then you are more than likely to just skip large portions of Yakuza 3’s content, as one can only read so much auxiliary text, before he or she is tired of it.

As we all know, nearly all instalments of the Yakuza series – with exception of the 2005 original – only feature Japanese voice acting. So one could argue that there is no need to dub the title’s cutscenes, as most will have to read all the subtitles anyway. But the fact of the matter is that without voices behind the text, the title’s narrative loses a lot of its appeal and splendor, as plain text fails to convey the characters’ emotions, as well as voice acting can. So while playing Yakuza 3, more often than not, you will find yourself sitting there with a deadpan expression on your face, spamming X, with complete disregard for the characters and the development of the narrative.

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As I wanted to take it all in, I’ve played through Yakuza 3, reading every single line of text – as far as the main story goes and in all honesty, Yakuza 3’s story might not be the greatest that the studio behind the series has ever told, but it is vastly superior to the rather convoluted Yakuza 5. However, it is also nowhere near as intriguing as the tale of two dragons from Kiwami 2, nor is it anywhere near as intimate and personal as the one of Yakuza 0. It’s still enjoyable, it’s good as far as writing goes – but it is simply doesn’t raise the bar which other instalments of the series have risen so far.

While reviewing Judgment, no more than a week ago, I’ve complained a lot about its flashy combat which simply lacked the kick of the Yakuza series and after playing Yakuza 3, I’m happy to confirm that the kick which Judgment has been unfortunately missing, is back with Yakuza 3. Yakuza 3’s combat feels meaty and impactful, and while the heat actions may not be as acrobatic as the ones of Judgment, then they are ultimately much more violent, and pack a proverbial punch, which subsequently does a great job of portraying the damage the player is causing with each and every press of a button.

All that really has to be said about the remaster of Yakuza 3, is that it is dearly welcome, even if it is showing its age more than some would like. Its story is adequate, but not ground breaking. The combat is satisfying, but not over-choreographed and the only aspect of it which is up for a debate is its price. Because as things stand, the collection, which for now only features Yakuza 3, will run you £50. So if you are not like me, and haven’t spent weeks trying to get your hands on it, then you should probably give it some time, and wait for it to go down in price. Sure, if you’ll buy it now, you will get Yakuza 4 in October of this year, and Yakuza 5 in February of 2020. But by the time Yakuza 4 will hit the PSN, this collection will be selling for less than £40, and will probably be no more than £30 when Yakuza 5 launches early next year. So in short, it is not worth breaking the bank for just this single instalment of the remastered collection – at this point in time.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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The Yakuza Remastered Collection Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
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  • Graphics - 8/10
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  • Sound - 8/10
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  • Replay Value - 8/10
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Overall
8/10

Summary

In short, it is not worth breaking the bank for just this single instalment of the remastered collection – at this point in time.