Remaster of the original Yakuza on the PS2. Follows the original game to the letter when it comes to story and side missions while giving the combat a fresh coat of paint. Also got a JP dub which means no Mark Hamill. Not as content packed as some of the other installments but it is an enjoyable Yakuza experience nonetheless. Playing Yakuza 0 first isn't needed, yet highly advised.
In it's attempts to combine the lengthy story and battle system of Final Fantasy VII with the fully real-time movement and exploration of Super Mario 64, Kingdom Hearts is a slam dunk. Everything from the subtleties in Sora's movement to the smooth integration of context-sensative actions in the game world is handled with a level of care and precision that you wouldn't expect from a game that's seemingly being pulled in so many different directions. It's not necessarily the best at the many things it attempts, even at release, but it's admirable just how cohesive the entire package feels. Kingdom Hearts has a lot of meat on it's bones, and it feels pretty evenly-spread across the whole game.
In much the same way that it's gameplay derivatives form something greater than the sum of their parts, the story utilizes it's oddball premise and several disparate IPs to create an unforgettable atmosphere and tone. The nostalgic whimsy combined with somber melancholy and an abstract presentation lend the game a distinct, bittersweet feel. If you played this game at the right time in your life, you know what I felt.
Kingdom Hearts II is an outstanding action game and a great sequel, but outside of that I feel completely indifferent towards all the sequels and spin-off games. Putting aside the fact that I think a couple of them are just straight up bad, they generally just don't understand what made the series special in the first place. Somewhere in it's quest to become... whatever the hell it is now, it lost much of it's identity in the first place. I won't hammer on about this since there are people who enjoy these other games, but frankly they are the furthest thing from what Kingdom Hearts represents to me and their existence cheapens the original game.
So, ahem, this is when I give a whole-hearted recommendation to this game and say that it's a great and awesome and super fun and unique and every other positive descriptor. If you'll forgive me for going for such low-hanging fruit, this game has a whole lot of heart.
I always think a little bit of the magic will be gone when I replay this, especially this time, my first time playing since rather disliking Dread, but nope. Still strange and tense and dense and lonely, even when I know where everything is. The greatest game yet made
Yakuza 3 is somewhat of a controversial title in the community, I’ve found. Very few argue it’s a truly bad game, but I’ve seen plenty of fans rank it at the bottom of their series rankings. I was aware of this bias as I got into the game, but I didn’t let it cloud my judgment.
Now, Yakuza 3 Remastered, is, rather obviously, a remaster, not a remake in the same vein as the Kiwami titles. As such, I’ll try not to compare it to those titles in this review, as they’re several years older — I figure the harsh jump from Kiwami 2’s smooth combat and HD graphics into a PS3-era game is part of why this is the game looked least-favorably upon in the franchise by a good chunk of the fanbase.
(Forewarning: I’ll not be reviewing the side content. Yakuza 3 Remastered is admittedly the game I spent the least amount of time on in this franchise.)
With that out of the way, I’ll start with by far my favorite part of this game: the story and its themes. People often complain about Y3’s start being really slow for a Yakuza game, but I’ll get to that in a second.
The important part is; Kiryu has an orphanage now! He moved away from the busy life of Kamurocho into the calm, breezy relaxation of Okinawa, where he leads the Morning Glory Orphanage with Haruka, taking care of 8 kids.
The game opens up with Kiryu taking care of the orphanage, helping the kids do their chores and making sure everything’s okay with them. It’s a very slow start, especially compared to the rest of the franchise, but honestly? I don’t mind it. Kiryu is legitimately happy, and it felt earned — after 0, K1, and K2, he deserves this. It’s heartwarming!
Anyways, I won’t summarize the rest of the story here, but I’ll just say that most of the characters are fun and enjoyable to follow as always (shoutouts to Rikiya and Shigeru in particular), although I’m still very annoyed at Sayama being written out at the start. She could’ve been such a cool character to have by Kiryu’s side, but I suppose virginity wins in this franchise.
Instead, I’d like to talk about this series’ main theming/message, which is expressed through the game’s main antagonist, Yoshitaka Mine. Mine had a very similar childhood to Kiryu, with one exception: unlike Kiryu, he did not have anyone to rely on, whereas our protagonist had the orphanage and Kazama.
Mine appears polite, yet cold at the start, seeking to repair the Tojo Clan alongside the chairman after the events of Yakuza 2. Later on, it’s revealed he’s desperately attempting to fill the hole in his heart growing alone created, and the fact he had a similar background to Kiryu made something very clear - Mine is what Kiryu could’ve become, and I love when antagonists are related to a protagonist in that sort of way.
Mine chased after wealth, but it was the underworld’s reliance on human trust that caused him to turn to it, and it finally gave him a taste of what it meant to be truly trusted. Before that, people only began to come close to him after he was already rich, and he saw through them. They were never real connections.
People make fun of Mine for what his plan ultimately becomes - passionately killing the comatose chairman (Daigo, the one person who immediately trusted without doing so for money) and taking over the clan. Many see it as nonsensical, and I think that’s a fair initial assumption, as Kiryu cuts him off before he can explain what he believes it’d achieve.
However, I think it makes perfect sense for Mine. The only person who trusted him without an ulterior motive was suddenly at the verge of death. He truly believes passionately killing the one man he loved and carrying his mission on will fill the hole in his soul. Is it irrational? Perhaps, but Mine is irrational, despite his calculating exterior.
In short - yeah, I like Mine. A lot. He’s easily my favorite villain in this franchise, because of how he serves as an other side of the coin to Kiryu. While Ryuji sort of attempted that, this feels more personal, and my only complaint with it is that Mine just sort of explains everything in the climax while he has a gun pointed to Kiryu’s head, but hey, he’s a good character.
Onto combat. This is where the game gets a bit rough. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of it though, I have to point out the remaster runs at 60 FPS, whereas the original game runs at 30. This wouldn’t be a huge deal, except for the fact the higher framerate halved the quickstep distance (except on the PS4 version, where it’s doubled). I installed a mod to restore the quickstep, but I find it weird that’s even in the game to begin with.
Anyways, Yakuza 3 Remastered’s combat is considerably clunkier than YK1 and YK2, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s very crunchy and pretty satisfying, but it does have its fair share of issues:
- The most common complaint with Yakuza 3 in general is the amount of times enemies block. I didn’t really have much trouble with blocking enemies (really, it was some bosses that gave me trouble more than anything), but I can see how it can become infurating fast.
- Bosses take way less damage than enemies, including from heat actions. This means that some slower boss fights (looking at Lau Ka Long in particular) can easily overstay their welcome, especially as heat actions do not do much damage to them either.
- Heat drains fast, and it’s hard to get much of it aside from double finishers. Unless you’re chaining long strings of wallbounces and quickstep attacks together (which is the primary strategy used by more veteran players), you’re not getting much of any heat from bosses.
- Yakuza 3 Remastered has the Feel the Heat! sequences introduced earlier in the franchise. However, instead of mashing square, you have to mash R2 - quite possibly the worst button in the entire controller they could’ve chosen to assign it to. In addition, none of the finishers are even guaranteed to properly finish a fight (aside from maybe Hell’s Gauntlet), so they come across as a waste of time more than anything else.
That’s not to say the combat isn’t fun, though. When this game rocks, it rocks. For instance, Touto Hospital long battle is my favorite long battle in the series currently — it has the right amount of length and three great bossfights back to back to back. The Richardson and Mine fights are incredibly fun, and the standouts when it comes to this game’s bosses, alongside the Joji fight.
But there are a few… unsufferable spots. In particular, the Lau Ka Long fight, which is easily one of the the least fun fights in the series, solely because of how slow it is and how punishing he can be if he decides to do so.
Overall though? Combat’s alright. It’s clunky but still fun, and most of the issues I have with it have been polished in Yakuza 4. If anything, it’s a peak example of “new engine syndrome.”
I don’t have much to talk about on the music front, but it’s cool as always. It’s one of the shorter soundtracks in the series, and it’s aggressively PS3.
Before I wrap this up, I’d like to commend Yakuza 3’s very positive depiction of a transgender woman, Ayaka, especially for a mid 2000s game. Her identity is not treated as a joke, and she’s even voiced by a trans celebrity the series’ creator is friends with. It’s incredibly heartwarming to see Kiryu learn about Ayaka’s insecurities and reassure her she just has bigger obstacles in life, and that she’s not at fault for being herself.
Overall, Yakuza 3 is a very fun game, even if it has its faults. Sandwiched between clunky-but-satisfying combat and some particularly unfun segments lies an excellent story about trust, with one of the best antagonists Sega has ever created. It’s definitely worth checking out, and honestly? I think Y4 is the worse game, but I’ll get to that one later.
I started my playthrough of this game at the start July in the hopes of finally seeing what the fuss is about. We are now in the middle of August and I still haven't reached the end. Why? Because this game is an absolute slog and a failure in pacing. The gameplay ranges between underwhelming to downright badly designed, the enemy AI is annoying, and its influence from Half-Life is a disadvantage more than anything because half the time the game expects you to shoot enemies while important plot information is given. There are so many great ideas and such a phenomenal art style as a cherry on top of the sundae, but its gameplay is so aggressively not fun that I can't bring myself to even try anymore. Every time I boot it up, I turn it back off after 20 minutes because I'm tired of dying all the time.
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs The Soulless Army is a very long title, so for levity's sake, I'll refer to it as "Raidou 1" from here on out.
Taking place in the Taisho Era (that's the "Roaring 20's" for us American dogs), you play as the 14th designated inheritor of the title of "Raidou Kuzunoha". As part of the Narumi Detective Agency, you take on the stranger, more demonic cases brought to your attention. You go around town, talking to people, using your demons' powers to get further reactions out of the populace. You can also send your demons out solo, to get past the unaware humans or reach areas that Raidou can't get to. Some of the more innocent demons refer to this as "playing detective", which is the cutest thing ever.
The world is presented via pre-rendered backdrops with fixed camera angles. The Taisho era definitely gives this game an atmosphere that no other Megaten game has. This game has my favorite "Cathedral of Shadows/Goumaden" of the whole franchise, literally a mad scientist's laboratory. I really like how expressive Kazuma Kaneko's character designs get to be in this game. Shoji Meguro accompanies this world with one of his funkiest, jazziest soundtracks ever. It kinda feels like he brought his signature Persona vibes over to this title, giving us some perfect tunes for a detective on the beat, or a summoner in battle.
Of all the SMT games out there, one mostly universal constant is the demons providing quirky dialogue to offset the dark tones that the games typically thrive on. Raidou 1 stands out from the crowd by having a fairly quirky tone all throughout, and in turn is one of the most amusing SMT games I've ever played. When investigating, NPCs have consistently enjoyable dialogue, and you can draw even funnier dialogue out by using a demon's skills on them. There are moments where the game has you do "demon negotiation" as a gag, seeing as Raidou's typical way of making friends is confining them into test tubes. The tone is a lot more lighthearted than most SMT titles, but it does know when and how to reel things back in, get serious, and keep you invested.
Also unlike most SMT games, Raidou 1 is a real-time action game. Raidou wields a blade and a gun, but unfortunately, this is no Devil May Cry. All you get is a three-hit combo, a lunge attack, and a spin attack. None of it really chains together, and combat feels really stiff overall. The bullets you can shoot come in many different elemental varieties, and are mostly used to hit an enemy's weakness, opening them up for more damage via your sword strikes. Raidou can also guard with his blade, integral to survival. Being a Devil Summoner(TM), Raidou can summon one of his demons to fight by his side in battle. Their helpfulness can go either way, if I'm being honest. If you're attacking efficiently as Raidou, you'll often end up pushing your demon's targeted enemy juuuust out of the range of their attack, due to long windup animations. There were times where I tried to attack the enemy in a way that wouldn't squander my demon's attacks, but that felt like a makeshift solution to a problem that shouldn't have been there to begin with. I also found that giving a demon a healing skill activates a very dominant strategy: tanking all damage and letting your demon heal you. To be fair, if your demons aren't attacking effectively, putting them on eternal support mode isn't the worst idea, but it kinda locks off gameplay potential. Lastly, when a demon is sent out on a solo investigation, you actually have full control over that demon during random encounters, which is pretty novel for an SMT game, spinoff or otherwise.
I think the big hangup with the combat comes from the pacing. If this were a turn-based SMT, I would likely be at the edge of my fucking seat for every turn of battle, even if the fight took upwards of 20-30 minutes. When you shift to real-time action, you shouldn't keep enemy health pools that large. Repetition and tedium set in really fast when you're required to be directly involved in combat at all times. Several bosses feel like they go on for far too long, really just boiling down to becoming a war of attrition. I admit that it's entirely possible that I just wasn't playing the game right, and didn't fuse the powerful demons I should've had at that point. One problem with that: You can only fuse demons that you have max loyalty with. This feels like a pointless extra step that only serves to enable more grinding. Furthermore, I tried to keep a party of demons that would allow me access to as many field skills as possible at any time, partly because I enjoy all the flavor text, but also because you never know when a field skill will be mandatory for progression. Fusing demons did in fact lead me to hit a roadblock like that on more than one occasion. I may also just be directionally challenged, but I found the overworld map very confusing. A lot of train fares were wasted on me not remembering which area was called what, and not knowing where to go next.
Raidou Kuzunoha VS. The Soulless Army is definitely a game of ups and downs, but for the most part, I was delighted by this title every step of the way. It's just unfortunate that its roughest spots are kind of the most critical ones. This game has been mentioned quite a bit in Atlus's customer surveys as of late, possibly testing the waters for a potential remake. Raidou 1's rough spots could probably be ironed out with a good remake, or perhaps......a sequel.
Gameplay-wise, easily one of the best Metroid games. It's surprising how this hadn't been done earlier by Nintendo, this really is just a 'greatest hits' type of game where they pull together all of the cool abilities and weapons to make the best-controlling Samus yet.
The graphics/sound look good especially considering what resources they had to work with but something feels a little off, I can't quite put my finger on it. My gut tells me there are a lot of minor art style inconsistencies and pixel art errors that stop things looking as smooth as they should be. The soundtrack and general atmosphere also didn't really inspire any sense of exploration to me and I wish there were some more horror-inspired moments. Super Metroid is kind of a scary game when you go back to it, but this takes more cues from Zero Mission which felt more like an action-adventure. I think SM's atmosphere suits the large map and focus on exploration a lot better.
None of the above took away from just how fucking good it feels to control Samus this time. The challenge level here is higher than most Metroid games so it's great that the controls are up there to match.
This game is extremely impressive on a technical level for a GBA title, it contains a ridiculous amount of cards, lots of AI opponents, puzzles, challenges, etc. I also like how you can pick a structure deck at the beginning instead of being handed a bunch of garbage like in most Yu-Gi-Oh! games.
However, this is still a GBA game so it's still very limited in some aspects. I'm of the opinion that a simulator like this needs a campaign of sorts because otherwise it's better to simply play with other people. Also, the low resolution means most cards look awful.
Old games like this always have some value because they help preserve a time in the game's history, but I would probably recommend a different one for 2006.
I am so biased but god I can never ever get tired of this game, i've played through it at least 3 times and it was the perfect comfort game to just swing around the city (until the sequel came along and somehow made it even better).