Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Games of 2010: Number 1

The game I picked for 2010 has a long and storied past, not only with myself, but for every fan of the series it belongs to.  One of repeated gain after loss, of hope upon hope being crushed before being restored.  The game had been a long time coming for those of us outside of Japan, and it almost seemed that it would never come.  But not only did it, but it's release seems to have lit a fire under it's creator's company, who have already begun localizing the next installment, putting more effort into it than ever before.

By no means is the game perfect.  In fact, it's assuredly technically inferior to plenty of the other titles in my list.  But, quite frankly, no other game on my list is this game either. And this game makes me Squeeeee.

If you haven't guessed by now (Though you've probably already seen what it is below), then here it is:

1.  Yakuza 3

The tale of Yakuza 3's localization process is a difficult one to tell, as, for the longest time there was, in fact, no localization to be spoken of.  Sega was busy with other projects and given the series lackluster sales in previous incarnations (I believe 2 sold less than 1, but was assuredly more profitable thanks to the lack of American VAs), they didn't believe a localization was worthwhile.  (This was the impression given, of course, I don't believe there was ever a statement made regarding the necessity of a localization.)

"But Sega!" the fans cried, "We will buy it!".  Largely, it seemed their outcries went unnoticed as speculation after speculation was released and then quashed.  On no less than four occasions throughout 2009, the game was rumored to see a release in the States and Europe, only to quickly be debunked by the passing of time with no official word, or official word stating, matter-of-factly, that they had nothing to say on the matter.

Kazuma doesn't like being toyed with, Sega.

Then, a more promising beacon appeared.  A listing on Amazon Germany appeared and was eventually taken down.  Why was this more promising?  Because, by this point, Amazon Germany had gone 1/1 on outing things early and fans like myself would simply latch on to anything at this point.  Time went by, a week, in fact, with nothing really stated on the matter.

Then, on December 8th, it happened.  It was finally confirmed, and all was right with the world.  I remember the first time I saw that; I'd become accustomed to checking the Blog often, as I run the thread for the Playstation Store on Penny Arcade, so I finished whatever game I was playing at the time and decided I'd check it before getting on the computer for the night.  And when I saw that, the controller fell from my hand as I could say only, "What."

Getting the game eventually proved to be a chore in itself.  Sega's street date ended up being one of the misleading "This is the day we send them out" dates, so after two fruitless trips to Best Buy, I returned home empty-handed and re-learned the virtue in calling ahead.

But when I finally got it, it was glorious.

Thugs learn the hard way that taunting an Ex-Yakuza is a bad idea.
 I find that a lot of my gaming library involves combat of some sort (as will most people's, assuredly), and I will say, at the very least, the Combat system in the Yakuza series is one of the most, if not the most satisfying systems out there.  Intensely Brutal, the moves involved in about 70 or so percent of it would assuredly leave a person in need of a hospital at the very least, and it only expands in every game.

Haruka loves her semi-family thiiiiis much.
Of course, the game is not for everybody.  It isn't just about the fighting; you see, Kazuma Kiryu has tried to leave that life behind him.  Unfortunately, he keeps getting dragged back in, this time in an attempt to save his Orphanage from being destroyed by the Government to make way for....something.  At the surface, the idea that the land is going to be seized is a foregone conclusion, it's simply being argued by two prominent political figures what should go in its' place:  A Resort for greater income, or a Military Base for national security.  Given the chance, any chance, to keep his building intact, Kazuma must do whatever he can to prevent his land from being sold out from under him.

Honor isn't dead, merely harder to find.
This proves to bring about a rather strange start to the game; between the battles that are fairly sparse to start with, and the more subdued story than one might expect if they haven't played a Yakuza game before (The kids, for one.  And it starts out more a mystery than anything; which isn't exactly new for the series) it has the potential to push away people who might just want to get to the real meat of the game.  But rest assured, once the meat has presented itself, it doesn't go away.

Punch mans.  Enjoy punching mans.
Surprisingly (Or not, again depends on your exposure to the series) the story goes deep and gets quite powerful as more and more about this land deal is exposed and how it affects Kazuma's past and, of course, his future as well as the future for the children he's raising.  And, as always, through the power of punching people in the face, Kazuma makes new allies along the way, who grow as the story advances, showing real development and real maturity.

Though all my pictures are from the Japanese version, there's a specific reason why this one is.

It's not all good, of course.  A lot of content was left on the editing floor over at Sega before the game was released over here; most of it was inconsequential like some mini-games and hostess events (which I was initially annoyed about; Yakuza's 2 Hostess Bar management was rather enjoyable, but then I learned it wasn't in Yakuza 3 to begin with and the Hostess things were simply other things, so I didn't care).  But what stung was the fact that quite a few side-missions, I believe over or around two dozen, simply were not in the game at all.  Which might be fine, as it means less work, but that means less exposition and less Experience to make your Kazuma all the badass he can be.

The Golf Clubs are more fun when you're hitting people with them.

On top of that, there's a plethora of mini-games in Yakuza 3 (Some were actually cut from the localization, even) that range from Alright to Absolute Dick.  More often than not, I would pass by the bowling alley and tell myself, "I'm going to have to do the Bowling for 100% and the trophies", only to say, "Eh.  Later."  And in fact, I never completed them.  Which is for the best, really, as I would have nothing currently to show for it.  Yes, my Yakuza 3 save was a casualty of the oft-mentioned PS3 YLOD I had, and while I mourned it at first, I realized it meant I got to play the whole thing again fresh, rather than I had to and that made all the difference.

So how did Yakuza 3 end up being my game of the year when even I admit that it's far from perfect?  Is it because it potentially has a great story surrounding the many many trials of it's eventual release?  Is it because the fighting is so good it outshines it's flaws to make them seem miniscule?  Is it because Kazuma is just such a tiger-punching badass, I have to give the spot to him out of reverence?

No.  The reason Yakuza 3 ended up being my game of the year is because even when it was difficult, it was fun.  I bitch about the Bowling mini-game, the Darts mini-game, and this and that, but it doesn't really matter because even when I wasn't enjoying the game (thanks to the mini-games), I was still having fun because I was playing Yakuza 3 after believing for so long that I would never be able to without learning Japanese and stepping into the wide world of importing.  I wanted this game badly enough, I finally got it, and it was simply everything I could have hoped it to be.  And its release has even improved Sega at least somewhat; as I said before, Yakuza 4 is already being localized and in better fashion than any game in the series.  Hell, they're acting like they have a Marketing Department for once.

So that is why Yakuza 3 is my definitive game of 2010.


  1. I really don't need another game to want. Damn you, Mogs!

    I always wanted to like the Yakuza series, and you've given me reason to try it.

    Question, though: if I hated the demo, will I hate the game? 'Cause I hated the demo - but I also hated the Uncharted demo.

  2. I actually haven't tried the demo, but from what I remember, people were saying it wasn't exactly a good representation of the game as a whole.

    If you haven't played a game in the series to this point, it might be in your best interest to just look for those instead, provided they're less expensive. They might be hard to find, though.

    A lot of people will tell you to just find 2 if you're not interested in having the whole series; there's a story recap of 1 and people mostly found the battle mechanics were way better in 2 than 1. Having really no memories of 1 outside of the story, I can't exactly argue that, either.

    If nothing else, I won't hold it against you if you hold off until it's in your "Nothing to lose" price range.

  3. That's my favorite price to pay. Which reminds me, I really should give Splinter Cell Conviction a spin.