Yakuza: Dead Souls Review

by

Date Released: 13 March, 2012
Date Reviewed: 8 May, 2012
Players: 1 main game, 2 in select side games
Length: 40+ hours
Replayability: High

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Introduction

Yakuza: Dead Souls is the latest entry in the Yakuza franchise to be released outside of Japan. Rather than being a direct sequel to the last entry, Yakuza 4, it instead goes for a hypothetical story-line that acts as a non-canonical spin-off title, focusing on a zombie outbreak in the well known locality of Kamurocho, in Tokyo, Japan. Abandoning the beat em’ up style the franchise is known for, Dead Souls instead opts to create a 3D, third person action game focused on gun mechanics, akin to classic video games such as Zombies Ate My Neighbours, although with the aesthetics of the Yakuza franchise. The same game structure the series is known for is also present with its action story segments, its missions, and its open world full of shops and attractions. Created by the same developers in SEGA of Japan as always (ie: ‘Yakuza Team’), Yakuza: Dead Souls comes off as an experiment, seeking to provide a combination of horror comedy, zombies, and SEGA’s take on Yakuza in one title.

Concept

Dead Souls’ game structure can be divided up into four primary segments, with an over-arching Japanese RPG theme. These segments include: an open world based on shop, character, and mini-game interactions; an action game focused on arcade-like gun-play mechanics, destructible objects, and item collection; story segments based on set-pieces of the gun-play mechanics but with added cutscenes and boss-fights; and an underground labyrinth game with the same gun-play mechanics as prior but structured like a ‘rouge-like’ RPG. Each portion is like a game in itself, making for a rather large package, with total completion of the game easily reaching near or above 60 hours of gameplay.

Of these four segments, the arcade-like portion of the game has the most content, thus making it the bulk of the game. Players will explore and engage in combat in a gradually expanding city of destruction, complimented with mutants and zombies. As the story progresses to new characters, more of the city becomes available, expanding upon and easing the player into the urban world of Kamurocho. Certain buildings and sewers are available for exploration, although these areas add little to the game, with the main focus being on the streets. Item boxes are littered throughout to restock player ammo, and specialised weapons are scattered to engage the player in alternative gameplay styles, although this latter feature rarely works well. Items such as a mortar, a stationary tank, and a forklift are available, but the game’s cramped streets make these items near useless. Any excitement is exhausted once the player realises these weapons are useful for mere seconds to a minute, making one wonder why they were even included. Due to this the player must rely on the basic guns, ignoring these extras outside of initial curiosity. Beyond guns, grenades are also available, but like the specialised weapons these are also near useless, again being nothing more than a quick curiosity before the player uses their primary guns again. Street object weapons are available as well, from bikes to metal pipes, and these are more useful than the other alternatives, although still they lack the usefulness of guns. Using street objects to bash enemies is moderately effective, but is ultimately simply a distraction, making it a side feature to the main gun-play mechanics.

[Kamurocho, a fictional district of Tokyo.]

Concerning enemies, the player faces off against zombies and mutants, with the mutants being unique in their attacks and defences. This changes the game to a more tactical experience rather than simply being a ‘button masher’ when facing just waves of zombies. Considering the waves of zombies, they are quite numerous and fast, with sometimes up to over a hundred zombies running after the player at one time; this makes the game action-based at its core, not survivalist.

Various missions help pad-out the exploration and combat, giving the players sub-stories, spec-ops, and directives to complete. Sub-stories often involve generic gathering, speaking, and defending quests, dragging the game out in typical RPG-style while adding little substance. Some sub-stories are interesting, others boring, and a few outright frustrating. A number of them can be completed in a variety of ways, with failure still counting as ‘complete’, though this results fewer rewards. They are all doable, although the player is bound to become bored before finishing them all. Spec-ops are similar to the sub-stories but act more like arena challenges, having no story and little exploration in them. Directives are more ‘passive’ and act like background tasks, rewarding the player for generic actions. Directive examples include: playing the game for 5 hours, defeating 100 zombies, defeating 5 prototypes (bosses), and so on. They expand as they are completed, such as 5 hours of gameplay evolving to 10, then 15, then 20, then 25, with the others following this pattern. Overall there are 15 sub-stories per character, 3 spec-ops per character, and hundreds of directives shared by all characters.

[Kazuma, aiming his exclusive anti-armour sniper rifle]

On top of all this is the RPG system the franchise is known for. Players level up, collect items, craft and modify gear, learn new moves and passive traits, weapon armour and accessories, and so on in that fashion, like any typical Japanese, American, or European RPG. If a player is familiar with any type of inventory and level up system in an RPG, Yakuza: Dead Souls’ system should be typical and easily understandable. If understanding is an issue, tutorials guide the player, from the forced-tutorial nature of the first story segment (Akiyama’s) to the background tutorials resulting from speaking to NPCs (non-playable characters). The game attempts to please both new and old players, providing heavy information on the game’s mechanics, which may be somewhat annoying to veterans of the series, at least for the first few hours.

Looking to the other three segments (open world, story, and underground), brief descriptions can be provided. In the open-world segment the game focuses on Kamurocho (as usual for the series), allowing players to buy and sell items in dozens of shops, talk to pedestrians, and engage in mini-games. Bars offer the player information on alcoholic beverages, being quite informative, though also making the player’s character drunk in the process, changing combat to a more-frantic nature. This further changes some aspects of game, such as how NPCs view the character, or how well the player can play certain bar mini-games – making billiards easier but darts more difficult. Amusement centres offer bowling, batting, golf, slot machines, panchislots, shump arcade games, UFO toy-catchers machines, ping pong, karaoke, and many more mini-games. Even fishing is available at the dock, and the game has a number of casino games ranging from blackjack to mah-jong. Instructions are given to help players in the complex gambling games, but a vast knowledge of Japanese culture is required to understand about half of them, making them relatively useless for non-Japanese players. Roulette is easy to figure out, for instance, while shogi is a massive task and a whole new game itself for anyone unfamiliar. Dead Souls goes for half-and-half style of ‘please everyone’ and ‘please Japan’, so except to ignore many of the mini-games no matter who you are. Players should at least find some mini-games to enjoy, however, and others may be educational or fun to try just once. It is as if Dead Souls independently includes a casino game, a Japanese gambling game, Wii Sports, and a karaoke game as extras, each totally unrelated to the actual Yakuza game. None are fully fleshed-out, but they are all moderate experiences and quite lengthy. New players might feel overwhelmed by these mini-games, as there are so many, but long-time fans will be familiar with most as they have been being added and improved upon since the first Yakuza title.

[Tetsu, the main villain.]

The story segment differs little from the previous arcade and open world segments. Each story session often starts in the open world, giving the player a chance to prepare for it, then once initiated takes on the role of arcade combat. Cutscenes, special paths, direct missions, AI (artificial intelligence) partners, and vehicles will all be available per session, making each unique and fleshed-out. At the end of a session the player generally encounters a boss (known as ‘prototypes’), and at the end of a character story mode (of which there are four) a boss is always encountered. Once each of the four stories are completed from a specific character’s point of view (Akiyama -> Majima -> Goda -> Kazuma), the final story becomes available, which features just Kazuma along with Goda as an AI partner. Story segments are linear and offer no breaks, although they do feature check points if the player dies. Once done they can be completed again for better ranks, of which S is the best rank (it is worth noting that spec-ops are also ranked this way). When the game is completed the player is offered a chance to replay all missed ‘extras’ not related to the story, or to start a new game on any difficulty unlocked with all their current character stats (all characters share the same stats, as if only one character). At any time the ‘extra’ mode can be upgraded to ‘new game +’ mode, making the game’s completion ratio simple to achieve without the need for a fresh new game. Anyone suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder should appreciate how accessible and methodological all of the vast content is.

[DD, the secondary villain working with Tetsu.]

Last is the underground segment, which offers extended, optional play as a compliment to the other segments. These underground areas are entirely avoidable, although they offer experience, their own stories, and a variation on the arcade gameplay. Each character has their own underground area to visit, with 7 stories involved in all – two for each character and one for Kazuma. Players will navigate dark, randomly-generated halls, fighting enemies and trying to travel deeper into the labyrinth until they reach their goal, all while worrying about their flash light running out of batteries. If batteries do run out, the area becomes dark, making it harder to navigate and engage in combat, although it is still possible. Underground the combat is the same, and some stores are available to stock up when deep in the mazes. Players can also take their AI partners with them, which is the main purpose of the AI partners. AI partners act as side-kicks, aiding the player in their fight through the tunnels. Both story characters and hostesses can be used, the latter of which can be heavily customised. Hostesses are found in cabaret bars and must be befriended through dating, while AI partners are found in missions and during story sessions, with most AI partners available outside of the story segment. Kazuma also faces off against a special character boss, but this must be followed by the completion of all other characters’ underground areas first to initiate. It makes for an interesting side-story to complete post-game, adding to Dead Souls’ replayability and longevity.

Story

Yakuza: Dead Souls’ story follows the same progression as Yakuza 4. Story segments are divided up into 4 proper sections, followed by one final section. The game begins with Akiyama, just as Yakuza 4 did, with him and his reliable yet obese female assistant Hana being caught up in a sudden undead outbreak. The story then moves on to Majima, the shotgun wielding, half-insane rival to Kazuma with an eye patch. It reaches its apex with the third section, based on Goda, a main character from Yakuza 1 and 2 who now possesses a robotic gatling gun for an arm, before ending off with Kazuma himself (the series’ main protagonist) in section four. The final section has the player controlling Kazuma again, with Goda as an AI partner, with the two characters fighting their way to the Millennium Tower. Inside they battle multiple bosses before engaging in the final boss battle at the top, resulting in an explosion atop the tower as is traditional in every Yakuza game’s ending.

[Akiyama, has unique dual pistols.]

The main plot revolves around the zombie outbreak as it spreads throughout Kamurocho, Tokyo, with it being caused by a strange figure in a baseball hat with super-human strength and agility. The Japanese military attempts to block off sections of the city as the zombie infestation grows, resulting in the creation of quarantine zones filled with survivors. These zones grow over time as the zombies – aided by mutants – grow in number and strength. It is up to the main four cast of characters with their sidekicks to face off against the zombies and mutants, and to uncover the true source of the infestation, putting an end to it and ultimately saving all of Tokyo.

[Majima, shotgun specialist.]

Concerning individual stories, Akiyama’s story is perhaps the most generic, covering the same themes as Yakuza 4, although he mostly serves as a tutorial. Being a tutorial mainly makes him the least important of the four main characters. Majima’s segment takes things up a level. It shows progress on Kamurocho Hills, Majima’s tower he has been planning and building since the first title, with it essentially being completed only to be overrun by zombies. Despite this personal tragedy, Majima is far too excited to battle both the undead and their mutant allies, not showing any care at all for his life’s work being destroyed, or even that of the lives of his staff and the city’s populace. His insane and illogical behaviour is overbearingly apparent, but this is soon off-set mildly when he discovers a young girl stuck in the quarantine zone with her mother, which changes his tone to a more serious manner as he battles to save those who are stranded and helpless. This leads up to an alarming segment when Majima is bitten by an infectious zombie, making his fate unknown until the end of the game. When Goda arrives the game begins to pick up pace, focusing heavily on the main villain Tetsu. Goda battles to uncover why the zombie outbreak has occurred, confronting Tetsu as well as Akiyama and Majima, and ultimately having to battle his mentor Pops to the death when Pops becomes infected by the mutant virus. Goda’s encounter with Pops is perhaps the most memorable scene in the game prior to the last story segment, providing a serious tone which is mostly lacking in the comedy of Akiyama and Majima.

[Goda; his arm is a robotic Gatling gun.]

Kazuma’s story segments are divided up into three pieces. The first is the game’s introduction cutscene, featuring Kazuma receiving a call at the orphanage he owns, with Kazuma being told that his adopted daughter has been kidnapped. He quickly makes his way to Tokyo after crushing the phone in his grip and is not heard of again until all other three characters finish their story segments. When he arrives he makes for an interesting show, smashing through a quarantine wall with two industrial trucks while soldiers back off out of both fear and respect. He then proceeds to attempt punching and kicking the zombies down before a female soldier convinces him that zombies are not alive and must be shot. Kazuma’s tough but non-lethal nature makes him extremely hesitant to kill others and it takes quite some time before he is comfortable with shooting a zombie. He finally ends the entire game’s story in the final segment with Goda, defeating a surprise character from Yakuza 2 who has become a mutant and is responsible for being the vessel that spread the zombie outbreak throughout the city. After defeating the mutant the two discover that Tetsu has been working with another villain named DD. They then proceed to defeat Tetsu after taking out his powerful mutant body guards. The story ends with Kazuma saving his daughter and watching DD lead himself to destruction, with Kazuma not murdering either Tetsu or DD despite requests from both Goda and Tetsu himself.

Gameplay

Dead Souls controls exclusively with the Dual Shock 3/Sixaxis controller, not making use of the PlayStation Move. Aiming is largely auto-triggered with the triggers, although manual aiming is possible and needed in some instances, such as shooting at downed enemies. Players move in typical 3D fashion with the control sticks, and a variety of control options are available for combat: one being the Japanese standard for the series, the other being a method focused on American shooter controls. Long-time fans should choose ‘Option B’ to play with familiar controls, although new players might be fine with ‘Option A’. The setup mostly works, although auto-aiming can be clunky, as can movement at times, especially when the player is repeatedly knocked down, or when the camera is uncooperative. Being knocked down is especially a problem with hand-to-hand combat. Some mutants are fully focused on knocking the player down and have no ranged attacks, while the player barely has any way to combat – the only option being to run away and try to shoot back. It is not often difficult but it leads to frustration, especially when the player is knocked down a dozen or more times by just one foe. Levelling up only worsens the issue as it locks important close-combat moves away from he player early in the game, making the controls and mechanics needlessly limited for the sake of artificially extending gameplay.

Considering menus, the game has a habit of making them needlessly cumbersome. While many are well detailed and appropriate, there is often the case where one needs to select many different options to do a simple task, such as to modify an item, where it should just be one selection. There are also cases of having to ‘level up’ one’s inventory and equipment slots, which seems needless and tacked on to extend the game. Overall the menus are functional, but they could be made more efficient through simplified design and the removal of artificial RPG mechanics that are needless.

[Akiyama facing off against zombies.]

The weapons used in the game include various types of firearms, grenades, melee weapons, and specialised in-field weapons. The first type of gun is the pistol. Each character has one available, which can be upgraded like all weapons, and they are infinite in ammo. A special heavy pistol exists which causes significantly more damage, but its ammo capacity, firing rate, and reload time are inferior (ammo is still infinite). The character Akiyama receives a unique pistol which can be dual equipped, making him the best character for pistol gameplay. The second gun encountered is the sub-machine gun, which is only lightly upgradeable. No playable character specialises in this weapon, although AI characters can use unique sub-machine guns. These sorts of guns do low damage but have a high rate of automatic fire. The third type of gun is the shotgun, which is short ranged and does high damage. Majima specialises in this weapon type and has his own unique shotgun. A specialised shotgun also exists, which can be upgraded to fire smoke bombs and fireworks. This shotgun focuses on knocking enemies down and is mainly for entertainment value. The fourth type of weapon is the Gatling gun. It acts in a similar manner to the sub-machine gun, but is more bulky, has superior recoil, and consumes ammo quicker. Goda’s special firearm is the Gatling gun, and he takes this role quite seriously as one of his arms is a literal Gatling gun which can transform into a robotic hand when other weapons are being used. A secondary Gatling gun exists, which is a parody weapon that comes in effeminate colours and shoots sparkly bullets. Like the smoke/fireworks shotgun, this weapon is for entertainment value and serves no real combat role compared to the other Gatling guns. The final weapon is the rifle, which comes in three varieties: combat rifle, sniper rifle, and prototype rifle. Combat and sniper rifles can be used by all players and no player is proficient in them, although AI partners do make use of unique types of these weapons. These two use the same ammo, with the combat rifle being for high damage and quick mid-range combat, while the sniper rifle is for extreme damage and long-range combat (and suffers from poor reloading and a poor firing rate). The combat rifle effectively replaces the need for the sub-machine gun, the latter of which is accessible much earlier in the game. The prototype rifle is a stronger sniper rifle that uses specialised prototype ammo and can also be equipped by Kazuma. It has higher stats, especially damage, and can gun down waves of enemies in lines. It is also particularly useful for destroying armoured objects quickly.

[Shopping area; filled with stores, amusement centres, gambling, etc.]

Moving on to grenades, these include: normal, heavy, Molotov, fire, and stun. Normal grenades are explosive with low impact, while heavy grenades deal greater damage in a larger area. Molotov cocktails leave fire on the ground which can burn enemies if they step into it, and fire grenades do the same but with more damage and area of effect. Molotov/Fire grenades also counter the ‘hermit’ mutant. Stun grenades simply stun enemies for a short period of time. Normal, fire, and stun grenades can also be used in grenade launchers, making them easier to use but not changing their effects. Molotov cocktails and heavy grenades are not available in launcher format. Overall these grenades are largely useless outside of gaining a few directives, or being useful for some spec-op missions.

Next are melee weapons, which consist of street junk such as pipes and road signs. These are bashed onto enemies. Some break into different weapons as damaged or used, and some explode – with a few even leaving fire. These items are found in battle areas and are not equipped (they are simply picked up on-field), although accessories and abilities exist to make them more useful.

[Kazuma battling zombies and a stone giant mutant.]

Lastly are specialised weapons, which include: tanks, mortars, baseball launchers, forklifts, bulldozers, armoured machine guns, and energy beams. Tanks shoot a single explosive shot and must be reloaded through rapid ‘X’ QTE (quick-time event) manoeuvres. Mortars fire normal, fire, or stun grenades in an arch. Baseball launchers shoot curve or straight baseballs at enemies, or can be equipped with grenades. Forklifts and bulldozers are used to run enemies over and move objects. Armoured machine guns are used exclusively in story segments and act as typical stationary guns, although they can overheat if over used. And finally energy beams act similar to the armoured machine guns, but shoot high-powered, piercing laser blasts. This last weapon is rare and seen only in the last story section.

[A chase scene between Kazuma and one of the many Bob clowns.]

To compliment weapons are heat snipes. These are abilities which can only be used when the ‘heat bar’ is full at various levels, and they interact with objects to perform special attacks. These can be levelled up with abilities, or enhanced with items. Types include intercepting enemies, intercepting grenades (your own or an enemy’s, mid-flight), shooting enemy weak points, shooting explosive or fire-producing objects, opening gas valves to be set ablaze, releasing high pressure water, knocking down steel bars from atop buildings, and unleashing frozen nitrogen or electricity. There are many types but they all act in similar ways, destroying enemies in a close proximity. They are helpful for tactics, as enemies can be lured into traps, or they can be helpful when overrun by zombie hordes or tough mutants as a quick back-up attack. They all provide a unique show for entertainment, in addition to rewarding players with points and ranks. Heat snipes can best be compared to the magical attacks in SEGA’s Golden Axe, which work in similar fashion.

Sound

Music is a step down from both Yakuza 3 and 4. The game’s original sound track (51 new tracks in total, in addition to some older tracks) is questionably better than the first entry in the series, and easily more interesting than Yakuza 2, but it simply fails to compare to the great offerings of both Yakuza 3 and 4. This is not a serious fault, as there are a few remarkable tracks, and many tracks do fit their themes well enough. Each character has multiple battles themes, bosses generally feature their own music, and unique enemies sometimes offer their own encounter themes. The player will be able to predict events based entirely on which sort of music is playing, such as knowing to expect a horde of zombies when a mutant hostesses’ theme heard (soon followed by a screech), or to prepare for a tough and ruthless encounter when the rock music of a cloaked street warrior is heeded. Music even emulates the amount of zombies on field, becoming more action-based when massive amounts of zombies appear. Overall the music is very creative in its contextual usage, despite being less interesting than prior instalments in the Yakuza franchise.

Atmospheric examples also present the good use of music in the game. During the underground labyrinth segments the game’s music seems very similar to that of dungeon crawler games like Diablo, emulating the feel quite well for players experienced in this genre. Important boss battles, namely that of Mutant Pops (Goda’s mentor) and Tetsu (the main villain), feature appropriate tracks that make the battles memorable, adding to the game’s mood and providing an enhanced sense of emotion that greatly benefit the story.

Voice work and sound effects call for less mention. Voices sound adequate, using the familiar voice actors fans would expect, with all voices done professionally and exclusively in Japanese. Each character’s voice feels real and acting is superb. The game’s story does not necessarily put the voices to great use, save for a few exceptional moments, but the voices work in any situation. The only true complaint could be that there is an abundance of reading where no spoken dialogue is heard, although this sort of dialogue is generally uninteresting to the main story. Sound effects are similar in quality, being generally well done, although a few repetitive noises may cause annoyance. More variability could have been made for the sounds of menus and store-character interactions.

Visuals

Running on the same graphical engine as Yakuza 4, the game features mixed visuals. Immediately the game seems dated compared to previous entries, which were more graphically intensive at their release. The game still ends up looking acceptable, but flaws are sometimes noticed, or blurry textures appear. The game ultimately looks like what it is, a spinoff title produced in-between the development of a larger title that is based on newer graphical standards.

Glitches also worsen the visual experience. Sometimes items do not load in, such as ammo crates or exploding barrels, or animations suddenly stop or appear stiff/unnatural. These issues range from older issues present since Yakuza 3 – having not been fixed – to entirely new flaws. Also worth mentioning is the stability of the game, which sometimes dips heavily in frame rate. This does not affect gameplay but gives the game a sloppy look at times. Slow down is not common, but it is also not as rare as one would want it to be. It is generally the result of what appears to be large amounts of zombies near multiple fires.

[Wandering zombies.]

Concerning style, the game is also mixed. New characters seem as believable as ever, but fictional creatures lack the same realism. Mutants range from impressive looking rock monsters to midget ‘monkey boys’ in excessive skating gear. Other enemies just seem dull or uninspired, namely some of the ‘prototype’ bosses, 3 of which are edits of previous bosses.

The two new villain designs are variable in quality as well. Tetsu, the main villain, looks unremarkable and generic, and his hair gives off an odd visual effect that distracts the viewer. It comes off as problematic as no other character has strange hair visuals. For the role of main villain the character should have looked more interesting and threatening. The other villain, an international, biological weapons dealer transvestite named DD whom is also a scientist and terrorist, is a contrast to Tetsu. She (or he as Kazuma proclaims) adds to the growing cast of transgendered Yakuza characters. The transvestite cast now includes a street harlot, two bar owners, a buff hand-to-hand combat warrior, an elderly guardian of vulnerable young women who roams the streets, the chairman of the Tojo Clan (Daigo Dojima), and finally a mad scientist responsible for a zombie outbreak. Once again the Yakuza series breaks boundaries on the front of transgendered characters, providing audiences with an entirely fresh take on this rarely seriously-represented group of people. It is worth mentioning that this game features Daigo’s first attempt at cross-dressing and being a lady.

Special Notes

Yakuza: Dead Souls came with two DLC bonuses if purchased at the retailer GameStop or its subsidiary EB Games in North America; one available for pre-ordering the game online, the other available when the game was pre-ordered in-store or online. Various different offers for the same DLC bonuses were also available at other stores, such as GAME or TheHut in the UK. In some regions, such as Germany, a steel case was included in special editions of the game containing DLC codes. These DLC packs for all regions include the Densetsu Pack and the Hostess Pack. The first consists of weapons and status upgrades for both the playable characters and partner AI characters, as well as costumes for the hostess partners. The second DLC pack includes costumes for the playable characters, additional missions, an extra karaoke dance, and 3 additional CG short videos made to promote the game in Japan. It is worth noting that these DLC were all given away for free in the Japanese release eventually. As of this writing neither DLC bonus has been available for purchase or free download, although this may change in the future. Yakuza 4, for instance, had one of its pre-order DLC bonuses available for purchase several months after release.

[German Special Edition, comes with DLC codes and a special box.]

Another noteworthy mention is the game’s delayed release in Japan. In 2011, due to the earthquake disaster that caused destruction, flooding, and nuclear contamination in Japan, Yakuza: Dead Souls was postponed until months later after the country was restored. Many actors and promotional institutions featured in the game felt uncomfortable being in a game that seemed to depict the destruction of Japan that was presently occurring. SEGA respected everyone’s wishes by not only delaying the game, but also giving the game a subtitle similar to ‘Stay Strong Japan’. SEGA also led fund raising events to help families and vulnerable people in Japan due to the disaster, raising money all over the world through donation auctions of SEGA goods.

[SEGA’s logo for their Japanese relief fund raisers.]

Conclusion

Yakuza: Dead Souls can be summed up as both disappointing and engaging. It is disappointing on the prospect that many ideas are not fully fleshed out, seem too experimental, and seem unpolished. Some aspects simply do not work, while others appear downright bad in theory. More thought and preparation should have gone into the design process, and bad or flawed ideas should have been revised. Many ideas are also left-overs from Yakuza 4, making them dull and easily ignored by fans of the series. New players might appreciate them, but the game itself is not for new players – it is for long-time fans.

Some elements of the game do hold up and there is clear entertainment to be had in Dead Souls, it just requires sifting through the bad parts and putting up with both frustration and boredom at times. Many fundamental elements seem vastly improved over Yakuza 4, so perhaps Dead Souls can be seen as a sign that a new game (ie: Yakuza 5) will have many new improvements. But as it stands, Dead Souls is simply experimental, giving both an excess of good and bad in one package. It is enough to scare off casual fans, although its different structure may also attract non-fans who enjoy the elements of the game over the franchise’s main and long-term appeal.

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Format(s): PS3. originalreviews

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