It’s interesting to revisit Yakuza 3 after the release of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life as the two titles share a lot of in common. They’re the last two Yakuza games to focus solely on Kiryu as the main character and a lot of time is spent taking care of children in a smaller town rather than getting involved with gang politics within Tokyo. Because of this, the third entry in the series has always been more divisive in nature as not everybody wants to be a digital father learning of buckwheat allergies and helping an orphan impress the girl they like. However, with Kiryu’s story now over, YAKUZA 3 REMASTERED shows an important side of one of gaming’s greatest characters.
While Yakuza 3 didn’t get the full-on remake treatment like the first two titles did, this is a far from a basic upscale (at least for American audiences). When the PlayStation 3 original came West, it was marred by a rushed localization effort that featured several errors and cut a bunch of side content ranging from hostess clubs to side stories and trophies. In addition to boasting a constant 60 fps frame rate at 1080p, Sega has totally redone the localization to fix its previous mistakes and all the content is intact. The fantastic translation is just as funny as recent titles and it fixes some major gaffes such as screwing up the name of Kiryu’s orphanage and calling Joji Kazama by the last name of “Fuma.”
The downside of the third entry not getting the remake treatment is that players experiencing the game for the first time will be in for quite the shock coming in from Yakuza Kiwami 2. While the Yakuza titles have never been technical marvels or the best playing games, Yakuza 3 Remastered shows its 2009 roots. Everything from the combat — which feels comparatively stiff and lacks nuance — to the antiquated upgrade system, there are a lot of elements that are rough around the edges and keep it from being the best in the series.
Yakuza 3 Remastered Review | An emotional trip
While the gameplay aspects of Yakuza 3 show its age, the same can’t be said for its story, which is up there with The Song of Life and 0 as the series’ best. While both 4 and 5 focused on a bunch of moving parts that eventually intertwined, 3 is much more straightforward as Kiryu is focusing on taking care of all of the children at the Morning Glory Orphanage. Yes, he travels back to Kamurocho and gets caught up with a Tojo Clan in disarray, but his reasoning for being there is always straightforward: it’s to keep his kids safe. This thematic consistency provides a lot of the strongest elements as his children, and many of the other characters in the story, all struggle with what it means to be family.
Similar to 6, a lot of the best scenes deal with Kiryu being out of his typical element. Here’s this brutish ex-mafia boss that is now wearing Hawaiian shirts and enjoying life on the island of Okinawa. While nearly all of his problem solving in past games revolved around getting into a fist fight (and that’s still the case here to an extent), he has to do his best to relate to all of his kids, who each are dealing with their own trauma and insecurities. He might not always have the perfect answer, but his pure love for his family is enough to overcome every obstacle they encounter together.
Despite Kiryu getting dragged back into the underworld’s mess, it’s clear that he is a changed man in many ways. All he wants to do is put his past behind him and he’s doing his best to adapt. This all comes into play in Yakuza 3‘s phenomenal ending, which sees Kiryu preach about second chances in life and how nobody has to be locked into the role they were originally cast in. While this touching moment is met with nothing other than a sharp blade, it showcases the true character of the “Dragon of Dojima” better than any other moment in the entire series.
Yakuza 3 Remastered Review | A classic properly restored
If there is one major disappointment with the overall game, it’s that there the mini-games aren’t quite as compelling here as in recent installments. As someone that spent hours doing clan battles, racing remote control cars, managing a hostess club, and becoming a real estate agent, there’s nothing real meaty to sink your teeth into here. Instead you’ve got some basic karaoke singing, some rough golfing, and then other returning staples to round out the package. In a 2019 perspective, it just doesn’t reach the bar that the series has set.
That being said, there’s still a lot of great stuff to do beyond the main story. This has some of the best substories in the entire series, including one that sees Kiryu investigating a murder case from several years ago that saw an innocent man get sent behind bars. It’s not quite Ace Attorney, but players do have to track down witnesses, gather evidence, and eventually give a great deduction to put the whodunnit mystery to rest. Not everything is on that level, of course, as there are plenty of gag scenarios to encounter, but there is no denying that Yakuza 3 reaches some incredible high points.
While Yakuza 3 definitely feels a bit dated from a gameplay perspective, its storytelling has stood the test of time. This is a remastered title done the right way, as it performs perfectly and the revamped localization gives even veteran players a great reason to play it again. This is a pivotal part in Kiryu’s maturation prospect and a must-play for fans of the series as a result. It might not be as filled with as many systems as its sequels, but it makes up for it with an emotional story that overcomes its occasionally dated mechanical roots.
GameRevolution reviewed Yakuza 3 Remastered on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.