Yakuza 4 was the biggest Like a Dragon game up to that point. Like its series placement, there were four playable characters. It manages to juggle the story of all the characters quite well. For the most part, the three new characters were well-written and fun to play as well.
The first playable character is Shun Akiyama, a money lender who grants loans interest-free if the lendee completes a test to prove that they would do anything for the loan. He is brought into the fray when a high-ranking yakuza is murdered on his doorstep. The second playable character is Goro Majima's oath brother, Taiga Saejima, a condemned who tries to escape a maximum-security prison. The third playable character is Masayoshi Tanimura, a police officer that takes bribes but gives them to poor immigrants. He discovers a conspiracy involving people higher up the chain in the Tokyo police department. The final protagonist is the primary Like a Dragon protagonist, the ex-yakuza Kazuma Kiryu, who is brought back into yakuza life when Saejima washes up on the beach in Okinawa that is part of the land of the orphanage run by Kiryu.
All of the characters have their own moveset. Akiyama has swift kicks, Saejima is strong but slow, Tanimura is a grappler, and Kiryu is an all-around fighter. Akiyama is my favorite as his kicks come fast and plentiful. Saejima is my least favorite. It is great that he is strong enough to lift even heavy motorcycles to use as weapons. It doesn't make up for his shortcomings because he is so slow. He is hard to play with many enemies at once, and that happens often.
The story is entertaining, both the police and the yakuza elements weave together nicely, and all four protagonists tie into the story in memorable ways. I enjoyed Akiyama, Tanimura, and Kiryu's stories a lot. These characters were written and acted well. Saejima, on the other hand, wasn't as enjoyable. He's one of the most popular characters of the series, and he does come into his own later on, to a point. But here, with the exception of an emotional moment at the coliseum, he has the personality of a dried turnip. His story is well-written, with the exception of his ending, which I didn't feel that he earned. It's a shame Ryu Ga Gotaku didn't have playable female characters at the time this game was created, as his sister had much more personality and her story was much more memorable.
Like all games in the series, the sidequests contained some of the most memorable parts of the game, because they can be really crazy. The hilarious revelations, which are moments where the characters take pictures of silly moments and use them as inspirations for their moves, return here. Saejima did get a memorable moment here, as he doesn't have a phone so he gets inspiration by quickly carving scenes out of blocks of wood.
The story of Yakuza 4 was a welcome rebound from the disappointment of Yakuza 3. The story of the four characters are woven into the story well. Three out of four of the characters are fun to play and their stories are satisfying. The game is let down by Saejima, whose chapters feel like a slog since he's slow and lacks personality. It's worth playing for the other three, but Saejima is just a drag on the otherwise brilliant game.
3½ out of 5
|Yakuza 3 review||Black Panther: Like a Dragon - New Chapter review coming soon|