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Yakuza: Of the End Preview

Chris_Hudak By:
GENRE Action 
RP What do these ratings mean?

Because Asian brains make zombies smarter.

Okay: Yakuza games come and go and, alas, zombie games even more so—but this is just brilliant. I hereby officially take back (at least tactically and temporarily) any of the shitty stuff I've had to say about Sega lately.

click to enlargeTo wit: Take the neon-clustered, gleefully-seedy environmental detail of Tokyo's red-light Kabukicho district as presented in Sega's Yakuza games. They call the neighborhood something else in the game, but once you see it, you know what it is. And then turn the whole damned neighborhood into center-stage for Tokyo, Japan's own Zombie Apocalypse.

Yakuza: Of the End—as in, presumably, “The Beginning”—puts aside the purely brawler/light-RPG approach of the Yakuza franchise, and instead fully commits to the third-person action-shooter treatment. The setup: The Japan Self-Defense Forces and Tokyo Police Department have simply thrown up their collective hands, said “fuck it” in polite Japanese, and walled off the entire red-light district with massive, high metallic barriers, perhaps to just wait for the apocalyptic affliction to burn itself out, or whatever it's gonna do. In the meantime, the only ones with clankers big and brassy enough to cope with The End are the Yakuza themselves.

Characters Kazuma, Ryuji, Goro and Shun are packing grenades, M16s, sniper rifles, and other guns (technically, Ryuji's scary, cybernetic arm is a gun), and they're going all Edo-era on hoards of the ambulatory dead, with most of them still tottering around the sex-and-videotape neon streets in their tattered, salaryman-suits and/or gaudy gangster-garb. When the need arises, they're even taking control of some of the armored vehicles that have been left behind by the long-gone military. We also saw strong evidence of four-way local multiplayer.

click to enlargeThe Zombie/Yakuza mix is already weirdly inspired, but the the real star in Of The End is, well, the neighborhood itself. Jam-packed with actual, real-world Japanese businesses, chain franchises, and brand-names, the barely-concealed, virtual red-light district (and Yakuza stomping-ground) is bursting at its narrow-alley seams with mini-games, bonus activities, distractions, and general extracurricular goodies that would do a GTA game proud. Target-practice, babes, pachinko, slots, darts, 'hostess clubs', billiards - even golfing and fishing - I've spent more than a few nights in the real-world Kabukicho, and one thing I don't remember seeing is fishing (of course, in the interest of full disclosure, there is an awful lot I don't remember). Even with its Apocalyptic spin, Of the End wants to have a little fun.

Super extra joy-luck-happy-fun bonus: The video running on the TGS show floor, from in-game voice-over sessions was none other than actress Chiaki Kuriyama (she was 'Gogo Yubari' from Kill Bill, as well as one of the luckless Japanese high-schoolers turned against her classmates in the cult-classic movie Battle Royale).

Zombies, bars, guns, gangsters, girls, and neon; if there were only pirates, they'd have to call it 'Of the Game Revolution'. You bet your ass you're gonna hear more about this one.

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