I’m playing through the Yakuza series at a rate of about once a year; so now I’m up to Yakuza 3.

Which is the first entry in the series that I’ve played in over a decade that’s not either a prequel or a from-the-ground remake. It’s a port of a PS3 game, so it looks fine; it’s just maybe not quite as over the top as Yakuza 0 and the Kiwami games in terms of all the things you can do other than the main plot? Don’t get me wrong, there are still tons of side missions, plenty of restaurants to go to, and what not; just not the same sort of elaborate minigames to go along with that.

There is a cabaret to run, but it was hard to figure out and didn’t seem like it was nearly as extensive as what I’d gotten used to from Yakuza 0, so I didn’t explore it much. And the leveling up system was pretty bare bones: you have a bit of choice as to the order in which you perform your upgrades, but in practice they show up in groups of four where you have a pretty strong motivation to finish that group before moving to the next group. So there’s really not much of a skill tree here, it feels a lot more like static unlocks based on a global character level.

Still: very much what I expect a Yakuza game to be. With the twist that, while you do of course spend lots of time in Kamurocho, in Yakuza 3 your second location is Okinawa rather then Sotenbori.


And that’s not just a change in location: it’s a change in tone. Kiryu is trying to get out of the Yakuza life, so he’s running an orphanage; he does, of course, end up running into local Yakuza groups, but the first one he runs into is so hapless that he ends up getting dragged into them as a sort of father / big brother figure, instead of the grittiness that we expect from Yakuza plots.

A much more traditional Yakuza plot does surface, of course. And, for that matter, the Yakuza games have always had a family aspect to them: we met Haruka in the original game in the series, and Kiryu’s been acting as a father to her ever since. (And I like how Yakuza 3 treats her!) So I don’t want to present Yakuza 3 as a break from the rest of the series; but the weighting of the various aspects are different. And the increased weighting of Kiryu-as-dad is something I appreciate.


Glad I played it, I’m definitely going to keep on chipping away at the series. It does feel a little odd jumping back in time from a game design point of view while moving ahead along other dimensions of the series; I won’t say that I think the Kiwami games were a mistake, but there are downsides to that approach as well? But Yakuza 3 is very solid in its own right.

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.