Kiryuu’s out, or so he hopes.
Yakuza 3 HD came as part of the Remastered Collection featuring the HD rereleases of 3, 4, and 5, the games preceding Yakuza 0 and 6’s release. I adamantly stated that by starting with 0, I would set myself up for disappointment down the road and I tried to go by the games chronologically and try to understand that 0 has spoiled me in multiple ways. In some ways, I think I’m starting to see the cracks present in the series and why many would have had that sentiment as to why starting with 0 might devalue the rest of the series.
And honestly? It’s just the story that makes me feel this way.
Yakuza 3 has Kiryuu fully living the life outside of his affiliation with the Tojo Clan as he is now far and away in the beaches of Okinawa raising Haruka and running a small orphanage together. Everyday life has changed but Kiryuu’s past once again comes back when issues regarding his land ownership comes under jeopardy by the government wishing to establish either a new military base or spa resort there as well as some Tojo clan infighting trying to push that deal through.
Honestly, the plot of Yakuza 3 kind of goes bonkers around the middle with the appearance of a look-alike Kazama, Americans, and the Triads being a threat again. The villain line-up of 3 is nowhere near as charismatic or all that interesting, especially how the Nishikiyama family just keep descending into being worse villains, and one yakuza head gets eliminated before you even fight him and gets replaced with Lau Kai Long again. The two characters most heavily emphasized are Rikiya and Mine, the former being Kiryuu’s new willing lackey who you fight at the start of the game before he starts tagging alongside you and having a little arc for himself over the course of the game, especially when he follows you to Kamurocho. Mine is the big bad villain who is the most level-headed among the villain line-up, basically a Shibusawa before Yakuza 0 existed. He also serves as an expy to Nishiki as a warped view on how life worked shifted his perspectives and made him the rather overly business oriented person we fight against. He made quite a statement with how he presented the severed head of one of his associates for wronging Kiryuu and co. but the other act of villainy he does later is kind of silly. While Nishiki had the benefit of 0 giving his backstory and relationship to Kiryuu more meat and Ryuji had the benefit of being a very imposing villain from his multiple appearances throughout the story, Mine felt a lot less imposing. There was no reason to believe he could match Kiryuu’s already legendary status, even if his tattoo might suggest it, and his disillusion with Daigo almost feels silly and that’s supposed to be his primary reason for his villainy. There’s a non Tojo-clan villain that we fight with early and comes back later who isn’t all that worth mentioning as well. I can applaud Mine’s final boss sequence as the series’ first dynamic intro but I was just not feeling the flying shins. Look-alike Kazama is such a silly plot-device that I just couldn’t believe this was what we were dealing with. Americans also get involved and kudos to them for actually getting someone with good pronunciation on the one American guy who speaks but I could not take this seriously. Was it as egregious as the secret Koreans? Not really but I’m surprised as to why they wanted to go there between all of the other stuff going on.
Gameplay-wise this is the earliest Yakuza game I’ve experienced since 1 and 2 were the Kiwami versions but despite that, I didn’t find it bad. I’ve heard horror stories about how the enemies block a ton in this game and I mostly mitigated that with throws and the upgrade system being a linear path with EXP points with a preview to what ability you get next is definitely helpful. Extra-content wise, I’m more focused on the story than I was with the side activities but I did try and fit in as much time-sensitive orphanage kids and Rikiya sidequests as I could because time-sensitive stuff in a semi-open world game like this is hell if you’re particular about this stuff like me and don’t want to replay stuff just to see a moment or two that you could have gotten on a regular playthrough.
Once again, I didn’t spend too much time trying to explore too much of either areas aside from helping Rikiya experience city life and helping the kids out. I can’t believe running of all things was something that future games added to make exploration less of a hassle. The Chase segments seemed to embody this a bit but as its name suggests only exist for a couple segments. If nothing else I did go out of my way to learn all the Revelations with just how ridiculous they get.
So gameplay-wise it’s fine, story-wise it’s kind of all over the place. I wasn’t all too motivated to explore Okinawa as much as Kamurocho but that’s probably because I wasn’t exactly allowed to run outside of specific sections. The orphanage kids are an okay change of pace for Kiryuu making good on his commitment to get out of the life but, as mentioned before, the involved characters aren’t all too striking but someone does end up biting the dust that has Kiryuu sound really pained so I guess that moment was pretty decent in and of itself. Yakuza 3, despite the insane heights of the story’s development down the line, feels mostly like a spin-off episode of much grander things to come, kind of like Mass Effect 2 with how we ignore the Reapers and decided to deal with the Collectors. Feels important and heavy in the moment but light in the grand scheme of things. We’ll see if my hunch is right or not going forward.